Archive for the ‘Anabaptist and Baptist (General)’ Category

Advent and Christmas Message   3 comments

Advent and Christmas Message

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

–Luke 1:46-47, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

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One of the great virtues of High Churchmanship is having a well-developed sense of sacred time.  So, for example, the church calendars, with their cycles, tell us of salvation history.  We focus on one part of the narrative at a time.  Much of Protestantism, formed in rebellion against Medieval Roman Catholic excesses and errors, has thrown the proverbial baby out with the equally proverbial bath water, rejecting or minimizing improperly the sacred power of rituals and holy days.

Consider, O reader, the case of Christmas–not in the present tense, but through the late 1800s.  Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas when they governed England in the 1650s.  Their jure divino theology told them that since there was no biblical sanction for keeping Christmas, they ought not to do it–nor should anyone else.  On the other hand, the jure divino theology of other Calvinists allowed for keeping Christmas.  Jure divino was–and is–a matter of interpretation.  Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians kept Christmas.  Many Methodists on the U.S. frontier tried yet found that drunken revelry disrupted services.  Despite this Methodist pro-Christmas opinion, many members of the Free Methodist denomination persisted in anti-Christmas sentiment.  The holiday was too Roman Catholic, they said and existed without

the authority of God’s word.

Thus, as the December 19, 1888 issue of Free Methodist concluded,

We attach no holy significance to the day.

–Quoted in Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites:  The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1995), page 180.  (The previous quote also comes from that magazine, quoted in the same book.)

Many Baptists also rejected the religious celebration of Christmas.  An 1875 issue of Baptist Teacher, a publication for Sunday School educators, contained the following editorial:

We believe in Christmas–not as a holy day but as a holiday and so we join with our juveniles with utmost heartiness of festal celebration….Stripped as it ought to be, of all pretensions of religious sanctity and simply regarded as a social and domestic institution–an occasion of housewarming, and heart-warming and innocent festivity–we welcome its coming with a hearty “All Hail.”

–Quoted in Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pages 179 and 180

Presbyterians, with their Puritan heritage, resisted celebrating Christmas for a long time.  In fact, some very strict Presbyterians still refuse to keep Christmas, citing their interpretation of jure divino theology.  (I have found some of their writings online.)  That attitude was more commonplace in the 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, passed the following resolution at its 1899 General Assembly:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

–Page 430 of the Journal of the General Assembly, 1899  (I copied the text of the resolution verbatim from an original copy of the Journal.)

I agree with Leigh Eric Schmidt:

It is not hard to see in this radical Protestant perspective a religious source for the very secularization of the holiday  that would eventually be so widely decried.  With the often jostling secularism of the Christmas bazaar, Protestant rigorists simply got what they had long wished for–Christmas as one more market day, a profane time or work and trade.

Consumer Rites, page 180

I affirm the power of rituals and church calendars.  And I have no fear of keeping a Roman Catholic holy day and season.  Thus I keep Advent (December 1-24) and Christmas (December 25-January 5).  I hold off on wishing people

Merry Christmas

often until close to Christmas Eve, for I value the time of preparation.  And I have no hostility or mere opposition to wishing anyone

Happy Holidays,

due to the concentrated holiday season in December.  This is about succinctness and respect in my mind; I am not a culture warrior.

Yet I cannot help but notice with dismay the increasingly early start of the end-of-year shopping season.  More retailers will open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year.  Many stores display Christmas decorations before Halloween.  These are examples of worshiping at the high altar of the Almighty Dollar.

I refuse to participate in this.  In fact, I have completed my Christmas shopping–such as it was–mostly at thrift stores.  One problem with materialism is that it ignores a basic fact:  If I acquire an item, I must put it somewhere.  But what if I enjoy open space?

I encourage a different approach to the end of the year:  drop out quietly (or never opt in) and keep nearly four weeks of Advent and all twelve days of Christmas.  I invite you, O reader, to observe these holy seasons and to discover riches and treasures better than anything on sale on Black Friday.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/nineteenth-century-evangelical-support-for-a-secular-christmas/

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/advent-and-christmas-message/

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Agents of Divine Healing   2 comments

lamb-of-god-crozier

Above:  Lamb of God Crozier

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Acts 9:36-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request,

Please come to us without delay.

So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said,

Tabitha, get up.

Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and my staff–

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

my whole life long.

Revelation 7:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,

 Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honor

and power and might

be to our God forever and ever!  Amen.

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying,

Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?

I said to him,

Sir, you are the one that knows.

Then he said to me,

These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God

and worship him day and night within his temple,

and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;

the sun will not strike them,

nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

John 10:22-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,

How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

Jesus answered,

I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

The Collect:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Twenty-Second Day of Easter:  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Twenty-Second Day of Easter:  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Acts 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-first-day-of-easter/

Revelation 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/all-hallows-eve-a-k-a-the-vigil-of-the-eve-of-all-saints-day-october-31/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/feast-of-all-saints-november-1/

John 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-29-and-march-1-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Feast of Saints Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Holy Women (January 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/feast-of-sts-lydia-dorcas-and-phoebe-holy-wome-january-29/

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Last Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, Jesus gave Simon Peter a commission to feed his (our Lord’s) lambs and tend his sheep.  This Sunday we see the empowered Apostle at work, raising from the dead one Tabitha/Dorcas of Joppa, a woman deemed essential in her community.  Restored to life, she could resume her

…good works and acts of charity.

–Acts 9:36b, New Revised Standard Version

The theme of shepherding also carries over from last week.  Tabitha/Dorcas was a shepherd to vulnerable people in Joppa.  Psalm 23, of course, depicts God as a shepherd.  The assigned reading from John 10 follows the Good Shepherd monologue immediately.  In John 10:22-30 Jesus, whose life is in danger, accuses the critics in front of him of not being among his sheep.  (They did want to stone him in John 10:31.)  And martyrs with robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb of God feature prominently in Revelation 7.  Those sheep have found their safe pasture posthumously.

Violence occupies a prominent place in two of the New Testament readings.  Unfortunately, many people over time have acted on their desires to commit violence against those who merely disagree with them.  New England Puritans, in colonial times, executed Quakers, who were, of course, nonviolent.  Anabaptists have faced persecution and/or martyrdom in the Old World since the 1500s.  Persecution has continued in the New World.  I regret that some of this has occurred in the United States, especially during times of war, when the U.S. Government had no patience with conscientious objectors.  Many of my fellow human beings cannot or chose not to abide differences, hence much violence.  Thus others become martyrs, often by the hands of professing Christians.  It was wrong.  It is wrong.

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight….

–James 4:1-2a, Revised English Bible

Many of us want conformity, so we despise the nonconformists among us.  We do not understand them, so we hate them. We hate them, so we commit or condone violence against them.  As a lifelong nonconformist (often by default, for peer pressure has less influence on me than on many others), I have suffered emotionally from the taunts of others.  So I identify naturally with the picked-on, the despised, the misunderstood, and the oppressed.  They are of my tribe, whether or not I understand them.  So I attend church happily with heretics, homosexuals, and others who have incurred spiritual wounds in other Christian traditions.

May we–you, O reader, and I–be, by grace, agents of divine healing, not of spiritual harm or even of physical martyrdom.  May we love others, not seek their harm.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

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Job and John, Part XIX: Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy   2 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

John 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (at http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/).  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Rejecting Agape   4 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  ”who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thus agape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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When God Comes Knocking   1 comment

Above:  The Reverend Will Dexter, from Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996)

Image Source = A Screen Capture Via PowerDVD and a Legal DVD

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:15-30:14

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalm 126 and 62 (Evening)

Revelation 1:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 29-30:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/sixth-day-of-advent/

Revelation 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/proper-29-year-b/

Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/babylon-5-and-the-rock-cried-out-no-hiding-place-1996/

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The reading from Isaiah condemns haughtiness before God, the commission of evil and exploitative deeds, the quest for a diplomatic agreement with an ancient foe (who once enslaved the Israelites), and the preference for comforting words over true ones.  Judah was rife with legal and economic exploitation.  Judah also made diplomatic overtures to Egypt.  Many workers of malicious deeds acted as if God were not watching them.  They were mistaken.  Isaiah and John of Patmos said that there would be a reckoning, that God will mete out justice.  Those who destroy will face destruction; those suffering from injustice will exult.

I remember an episode of one of my favorite science fiction series, Babylon 5.  Our hero, the stressed-out Captain John Sheridan, had a conversation with a visiting Baptist minister, the Reverend Will Dexter.  Sheridan, not in the mood for spiritual counsel, asked mockingly if he should take all his problems to God.  Dexter replied that Sheridan would not need anyone to tell him when God comes knocking.

When God comes knocking the meek will triumph and the haughty will stumble.  When God comes knocking there will be good news and there will be bad news.  It will be the same news.  Whether it will be good or bad depends on us, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Of God, Banquets, and Guests   1 comment

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 32:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him,

Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.

Aaron said to them,

Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.

So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said,

These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said,

Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.

They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The LORD said to Moses,

Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

The LORD said to Moses,

I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.

But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said,

O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”

And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Halelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2  Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise>

3  Happy are those who act with justice

and always do what is right?

4  Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

5  That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

6  We have sinned as our forebears did;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

19  Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20  And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21  They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22  Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23  So he would have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 25:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you are my God;

I will exalt you, I will praise your name;

for you have done wonderful things,

plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

For you have made the city a heap,

the fortified city a ruin;

the palace of aliens is a city no more,

it will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;

cities of ruthless nations will fear you.

For you have been a refuge to the poor,

a refuge to the needy in their distress,

a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.

When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,

the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,

you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;

the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,

of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain

the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

the sheet that is spread over all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,

and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the LORD has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

Lo, this is our God; we have waited on him, so that he might save us.

This is the LORD for whom we have waited;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

SECOND READING

Philippians 4:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 22:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.

The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Exodus 32:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-sixth-day-of-lent/

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

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Canaanite mythology held that, after the apocalypse, the storm god Baal will become king of the pantheon after defeating Yamm, the god of chaos waters.  So Baal will hold a great banquet on a mountain, but the forces of chaos will reassert themselves and Mot, the god of death, will swallow up Baal and take him to the underworld.

I repeat this story because it is the foundation upon which our reading from Isaiah 25 is based.  One of the strategies of Biblical authors was to rewrite the mythology of others.  We see it in the first creation story and in the Noah’s ark saga, for example.  In this case, YHWH hosts the banquet and destroys death on the mountain.  One way of making the case of YHWH’s supremacy and greatness was to contrast YHWH with weaker deities from the pantheons of the competition.

Paul and the author of Psalm 23 remind us that we have no reason to fear if we are on God’s side, for, as Paul writes, “God is near.”  The nearness of God can be frightening, too, depending on one’s self and one’s circumstances, but Paul, in this case at least, finds it ennobling.  Since God is near, we ought to trust in God, be gentle, and pursue noble enterprises.  We need not react defensively because God is our defender.  Often we commit our worst deeds out of anger and defensiveness.  In these circumstances we lash out against and insult each other.  We might even use violence against each other.  These are not loving and noble ways of acting.

I have been reading and struggling with Anabaptist Biblical ethics.  The Anabaptists are pacifists, of course.  My inner Menno Simons is a pacifist, but my inner Reinhold Niebuhr is a realist with an uneasy conscience.  Can I love my neighbor and rejoice in his execution or the bombing of his village or city?  No, of course not.  The late Robert S. McNamara, in The Fog of War, a brilliant documentary, says that we humans need to think seriously about how much evil we must do in order to do good.  Yet, I wonder, how much evil does one commit before one has condemned one’s self to Hell?  And what would Jesus do?  What would Jesus say about any given situation, based on what we have in the canonical gospels?  I leave myself and you, O reader, with questions, not answers, in these matters.  I intend to continue to struggle with these matters, and I invite you to do likewise.

The original audience of the Gospel of Matthew consisted of Jewish Christians (in the 80s C.E.) living at the margins of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  These were involuntarily marginal people, and the parable reflects their displeasure with their circumstances.  The social custom was to issue two invitations, the second of which consisted of, “We are ready now, so come now.”  Know then, that everybody who refused to attend the wedding banquet had previously announced his or her intention to attend.  These are stand-ins for the Jews who have not become Christians.  The servants who round up people on the streets are missionaries and the replacement guests are Christians.  But some of these servants meet with martyrdom and murder.  Finally, at the banquet itself, one man has not attended in the proper attire.  This was a sign of disrespect, so the king had him removed.

This is a difficult story, but understanding the post-Jewish War context of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew helps explain much about it.  How much of the story comes from Jesus and how much comes from Matthew?  The scholars can sort out that question to their hearts’ content.  I, meanwhile, care about the devotional side of the text.

In Luke 9:51 Jesus “sets his face toward Jerusalem.”  Shortly afterward, in 9:57-62, unnamed people offer excuses why they will not follow him.  So, in 9:62, Jesus says,

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

That was what the originally invited wedding guests did.  They said “yes” the first time but “no” the second.  They put their hands to the plow then looked back.  But the banquet would be full one way or another.

Here we have the intersection of judgment and mercy once again.  May we be on God’s side, by grace, without excuses, and lacking undue defensiveness which detracts from the love of Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MERCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

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National Holiness   2 comments

Above:  Nablus, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1898 (Built on the Site of Shechem)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Joshua 24:14-29 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joshua said,

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  Or, if you are loath to serve the LORD, choose this day which ones you are going to serve–the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates, or those of the Amorites in whose land you are settled; but I and my household will serve the LORD.

In reply, the people declared,

Far be it from us to forsake the LORD and serve other gods!  For it was the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage, and who wrought those wondrous signs before our very eyes, and guarded us all along the way we traveled and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.  And then the LORD drove out before us all the peoples–the Amorites–that inhabited the country.  We too will serve the LORD, for He is our God.

Joshua, however, said to the people,

You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God.  He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions and your sins.  If you forsake the LORD and serve alien gods, He will turn and deal harshly with you and make an end of you, after having been gracious to you.

But the people replied to Joshua,

No, we will serve the LORD!

Thereupon Joshua said to the people,

You are witnesses against yourselves that you have left your own act chosen to serve the LORD.

They responded,

Yes, we are!

Joshua replied,

Then put away the alien gods that you have among you and direct your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.

And the people declared to Joshua,

We will serve none but the LORD our God, and we will obey none but Him.

On that day at Shechem, Joshua made a covenant for the people and he made a fixed rule for them.  Joshua recorded all this in a book of divine instruction.  He took a great stone and set it at the foot of the oak in the sacred precinct of the LORD; and Joshua said to all the people,

See, this very stone shall be a witness against us, for it heard all the words that the LORD spoke to us; it shall be a witness against you, lest you break faith with your God.

Joshua then dismissed the people to their allotted portions.

After these events, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred and ten years.

Psalm 16:1, 5-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

5 O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives my counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Matthew 19:13-15 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then some little children were brought to him, so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them.  The disciples strongly disapproved of this but Jesus said,

You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them.  The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!

Then he laid his hands on them and walked away.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Links to posts covering Jesus and children:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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The Hebrew Bible assumed its current form in stages.  Among these was the editing together of documents (among them J, E, P, and D) into various books, including Joshua.  This process reached completion after the return from the Babylonian Exile, hence the strong foreshadowing in certain books, such as Joshua.  Those who came out of exile and relocated to an ancestral homeland in which they had not lived understood that national apostasy had led to the decline and fall of the Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The Enlightenment and U.S. history inform my views on the proper relationship between religion and state.  I know that colonial New England Puritans did not tolerate religious dissent, for the exiled Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.  They also expelled the Quakers they did not execute.  The Enlightenment value of the separation of church and state is wise.  It also protects the church from state interference and religious dissidents from execution as alleged traitors.

So national holiness is not a matter of theocracy.  It is not so much an issue of policy as it is of personal behavior fostered in community.  The main principle of holiness in a social context is the Golden Rule.  How we treat others reveals much about how we value God and ourselves.  This is an affirmative statement, one intended only to point to the light.  There is no wrong in acting according to the Golden Rule, although obeying it constitutes at least what the Lutheran confessions of faith call civic righteousness, which is good yet cannot save us from ourselves.  Only God can do that, but we have an abiding obligation to serve this deity with undivided loyalty.  May we do so, by grace.

By doing this we will improve our communities, societies, and nations.  National holiness is a matter of attitudes, which translate into actions.  By reforming the way we act toward one another we can change society.  May we do so for the better.  This is what God commands us to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF ARIANE, RESTORER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM, AND SAINT ARDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS BAKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF RENE DESCARTES, PHILOSOPHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-1/

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