Archive for the ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ Category

Trust in God, Part III   3 comments

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Saint Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 1:1-25

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As Karl Barth pointed out, God, not human beings, properly occupies the center of Christian theology.  The overabundance of human-centered language in hymnals and in lyrics to music in church is never a good sign.

God is at the center in the readings for this Sunday.  God occupies the center of Jeremiah 33, with its prophecy of a restored Davidic monarchy and levitical priesthood.  God occupies the center in the prediction of redemption while all around looks dire.  God guides people spiritually and forgives sins.  God helps us empathize and rejoice with each other as we serve God.  God offers good news that seems unbelievable.

A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry sends people to stand in the quadrangle at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia a few times each semester.  Sometimes someone stops me to ask me a few questions.  One of those questions is,

Do you believe in God?

My answer is always the same:

What do you mean?

I ask because my answer depends on the intent of the questioner.  A common understanding of belief in God is intellectual acceptance of the existence of God.  In the creeds and in many Biblical passages, though, belief in God indicates trust in God.  I always affirm the existence of God, whom I usually trust.

Trust is of the essence of in Luke 1:1-25.  In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the lack of trust is a problem for Zechariah.  I do not condemn, though, for my response would also be in so many words,

Yeah, right.

We readers, if we know the Bible well, should think immediately of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15:1-20 and 17:1f).  We ought also to remember Genesis 16, the beginning of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, as well as the faithlessness of Abram and Sarai.

Returning to Luke 1:1-25, if we continue reading that chapter, we find next week’s Gospel reading, which I mention here only in passing.  The contrast between Zechariah and Mary is multifaceted.  Trust (or lack thereof) in God is one of those facets.

I do not condemn Zechariah caution and skepticism.  I also rejoice that God does not asks us to cease to transform into gullible people.  Furthermore, divine grace continues to shower upon those who respond to seemingly unbelievable truths with

Yeah, right.

My favorite Biblical character is St. Thomas the Apostle; I affirm honest doubt.  It keeps one from falling for scams and joining cults.

Yeah, right

is frequently the correct reply.

When, however, the seemingly unbelievable is true and of God, we can turn to God and admit that our initial skepticism was wrong, even if it was understandable.  Sometimes we need hindsight to see more clearly.  And grace continues to abound.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Prelude to the Passion, Part IV   1 comment

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Above:  Absalom Conspires Against David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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 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:

Exodus 28:15-30 or 2 Samuel 15:30-37; 16:15-19, 23; 17:1-23 or 2 Chronicles 30:1-27

Psalm 141

John 11:(45) 46-57

1 Corinthians 16:1-24

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The tone of the readings, taken together, darkens.  However, the lesson from 1 Corinthians, part of the continuous reading of that epistle, stands apart from the other readings.  Exodus 28:15-30, a description of Aaron’s priestly vestments, makes sense in the context of 28:2, which specifies that the purpose of vestments is “for glory and beauty,” as Richard Elliott Friedman translates in Commentary on the Torah (2001).  As Dr. Friedman writes:

Beauty inspires.  Building beautiful places for the practice of religion is a valuable thing.  Of course this does not mean building great edifices at the expense of the starving masses, nor does it mean focusing on the outer trappings and missing the content and spirit that they serve.  There must be balance–wisdom.  But we must recognize the value of art and beauty:  the building, the priests’ clothing, the music, the smells, the tastes.  Religion is not the enemy of the senses.

–Page 266

At least religion should not be the enemy of the senses.  I have had some unfortunate discussions with Southern Baptists who have disagreed with Dr. Friedman and me.

Part of the beauty of ritual played out at the Temple at Jerusalem during Passover each year.  Passover was the annual celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  At the time of Jesus this commemoration took place under the observant eyes of agents of the occupying Roman Empire, with Temple officials in cohorts with the Romans.  Something was out of balance.

The desperate tone of Psalm 141 fits the Passion narrative well.  It also suits the plight of King David, on the run from Absalom, his son.  David won that conflict and mourned his son, who died when his hair became caught in a tree.  Absalom was not innocent, but Jesus was.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/devotion-for-proper-18-year-d/

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Nobility of Character   1 comment

Atlas Scan

Above:  Dougherty, Baker, and Mitchell Counties, Georgia

Image Source = Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:27-33 (Thursday)

Isaiah 32:1-18 (Friday)

Isaiah 33:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Friday)

Matthew 15:21-31 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help:

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and cares for the stranger;

the LORD sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

The LORD shall reign forever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 146, The Book of Common Worship (1993)

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When I was a graduate student in history at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, my thesis director asked me one day to help a friend and colleague of his who lived on the West Coast.  I was glad to do so.  The simple task entailed conducting some research there in town.  I learned what I could about a notorious law enforcement official (John Doe, for the purpose of this post) in an equally notorious county immediately south of Albany, Georgia, from the 1940s through the 1960s.  My answers came quickly.  Doe, whom his white-washed profile in the county history described as a devoted family man, a faithful Christian, and a deacon of the First Baptist Church in the county seat, was the sort of police officer who gave Southern law enforcement a bad name, especially among African Americans.  The federal government investigated him after he threw acid into the face of an African-American man, in fact.  No charges or disciplinary actions resulted, however, and Doe served locally until he retired and won a seat in the state General Assembly.  His offenses never caught up with him in this life.

A few years ago a student told a story in class.  He had been opening doors at his family’s church.  In the process he opened a closet door and found Ku Klux Klan robes.  Older members of the congregation preferred not to discuss why the robes were there.  I know, however, that the Klan had much support from many churchgoers a century ago and more recently than that.

A composite of the readings from Isaiah and Romans says that, among other things, character matters and becomes evident in one’s actions and inactions.  As we think, so we are and behave.  For example, do we really care for the vulnerable people around us, or do we just claim to do so?  To use other examples, do we profess “family values” while practicing serial infidelity or condemn gambling while playing slot machines?  Few offenses are more objectionable than hypocrisy.

Among my complaints about the Bible is the fact that it almost never mentions one’s tone of voice, a detail which can change the meaning of a statement.  Consider, O reader, the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-27.  Was he being dismissive of her?  I think not.  The text provides some clues to support my conclusion:

  1. Jesus had entered the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory, voluntarily.
  2. Later our Lord and Savior expressed his compassion for people outside that region via words and deeds.  Surely his compassion knew no ethnic or geographic bounds.

No, I propose that Jesus responded to the Canaanite woman to prompt her to say what she did, and that he found her rebuttal satisfactory.  Then he did as she requested.

Jesus acted compassionately and effectively.  Hebrew prophets condemned judicial corruption and the exploitation of the poor.  One function of the language of the Kingdom of God (in both Testaments) was to call the attention of people to the failings of human economic and political systems.  That function applies to the world today, sadly.

What does it say about your life, O reader?  In Isaiah 32 the standard of nobility is character, especially in the context of helping the poor, the hungry, and the thirsty–the vulnerable in society, more broadly.  Are you noble by that standard?  Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-18-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Stingy, Mean-Spirited Orthodoxy   3 comments

Books with Menorah

Above:  Two Books and a Menorah, January 16, 2015

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I am quite fond of Judaism, from which my religion, Christianity (yes, a generally liberal version thereof) flows, and which many conservative Christians seem to consider severely lacking.

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Purity codes and tests disturb me.  Jesus violated them, and I have almost always been allegedly impure, according to them.  My context is the Bible Belt, in which I have always been a relative heretic, although I am actually fairly orthodox in the context of Christianity as a whole–the one in which Protestantism constitutes a minority.

A recent news story reminded me of J. Gresham Machen, who broke with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1936 to found the Presbyterian Church of America, which as called itself the Orthodox Presbyterian Church since 1940.  He published Christianity and Liberalism in 1923.  In that volume he argued that he and people who thought like him were Christians and that liberal Christians belonged to a religion other than Christianity.  Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, made the same claim recently.

I have no use for the Holier-Than-Thou Club, members of which define me as hell-bound infidel.  Their orthodoxy is narrow-minded, stingy, and mean-spirited.  It functions to define them as the “in” crowd and people like me as the outsiders relative to true religion.  These self-righteous people and I reside in parallel theological realms.  I want nothing to do with their dimension.  No, I prefer a kind, humble orthodoxy–one which acknowledges that it might be mistaken on some points.

Father Anthony de Mello, S.J., related a wonderful story in The Song of the Bird (1982):

The disciples were full of questions about God.

Said the master, “God is the Unknown and the Unknowable.  Every statement about him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the truth.”

The disciples were bewildered.  “Then why do you speak about him at all?”

“Why does the bird sing?” said the master.

De Mello continued:

Not because it has a statement, but because it has a song.

(The Song of the Bird, pages 3 and 4)

God exists beyond the realm of complete human comprehension.  The best we mere mortals can do is to grasp part of the truth of God.  I am certain, therefore, that I am both correct and incorrect about a great deal, and that much of what I assume to be right is really wrong.  I sing my theological song anyway and leave the particulars to God and grace.  I strive for a generous orthodoxy, not a stingy and mean-spirited one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AND LILLIAN WILLOUGHBY, QUAKER PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Renouncing Hatred   2 comments

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Above:  F. W.  de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16052

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The Collect:

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life,

and you adopt us to be your children.

Fill us with your words of life,

that we may live as witnesses of the resurrection of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 30:1-11a (Monday)

Hosea 5:15-6:6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 150 (Both Days)

1 John 3:10-16 (Monday)

2 John 1-6 (Tuesday)

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For this is the message we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another….Whoever does not love abides in death.  All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.

–1 John 3:11, 15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning–you must walk in it.

–2 John 5-6, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If one is truly as one thinks, the logic of 1 John 3 (as well as Jesus in Matthew 5:21 forward) is impeccable.  Actions flow flow from attitudes, after all.  The call from 1 John 3 and 2 John is for Christians to build up each other and to seek the best for each other–to love one another actively.  Such love often entails doing that which the other person needs but does not desire, but the commandment is love one another, not to please one another.

The pericopes from Hosea 5 and Jeremiah 30, taken together, point toward the familiar theological formulation of the failure to keep the covenant as the root cause for the demise of the Kingdoms of Israel (northern) and Judah (southern).  Ritual actions are wonderful when people perform them properly, not as talismans meant to protect them from the consequences of their sinful actions for which they are not repentant.  Idolatry, judicial corruption, and economic exploitation were ubiquitous.  People needed to address those problems first, not attempt to hide behind sacred rituals, which they profaned with their lack of sincerity.

The commandment to love one another–a core component of the Law of Moses–is difficult to keep.  It tells us to lay selfishness aside and to sacrifice ourselves for others.  It stands on the bedrock of complete dependence on God and of mutual dependence among human beings.  There are no self-made people in the Kingdom of God.  The rule of the Kingdom of God is not to tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  No, in the Kingdom of God we pull each other up and tend to our own responsibilities, for whatever we do, even in private, affects others for good or for ill.

The difficult commandment to love one another also requires us to cease nursing grudges.  If we cannot forgive someone just yet and know that we should do so, we can rely rely on grace to help us to do that in God’s time.  We are flawed creatures, something God knows well, so moral perfectionism makes no sense to me.  The best good deeds we can muster by our own power call into the Lutheran category of civil righteousness–laudable yet insufficient to save us from our sins.  We ought, therefore, to forgive ourselves for being mere mortals; God has.

I ponder the statement that those who hate are not of God.  Then I consider the numerous incidents of hatred (from ancient times to current events) among people who have claimed to be of God.  In particular I recall the narrative of an African-American slave who escaped (with help from conductors of the Underground Railroad) to freedom in Canada, then British North America.  One of his owners had been a Southern Baptist deacon and a brutal man.  The former slave recalled the fact that this master had died.  Then the free man, a professing Christian, wrote that he did not know whether the deacon had gone to Heaven or to Hell, but that he did not want to share the same destination with this former master.  That sentiment makes sense to me, for the deacon’s actions belied his profession of Christian faith.

A good spiritual practice is to, by grace, seek to identify all hatred one has and to renounce it–give it up, stop feeding it.  If all of it will not depart immediately, at least the process has begun.  In such a case, one should trust God to deal with that which is too great a matter for one.

May more people renounce hatred and its vile fruits then glorify God together.

Let everything that has breath

praise the Lord.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Stumbling Blocks   4 comments

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Above:  Couples Dancing the Jitterbug, 1938

Photographer = Alan Fisher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-134893

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 28:1-4

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Luke 17:1-4

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Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph;

they walk, O Lord, in the light of your contenance.

In your name they rejoice all day long

and are exalted in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength,

and in your favour you lift up our heads.

Truly the Lord is our shield;

the Holy One of Israel is our king.

–Psalm 89:15-18, Common Worship (2000)

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[Jesus] said to his disciples, “There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones. So be on your guard. If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you are to forgive him.”

–Luke 17:1-4, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Years ago I saw a cartoon on a church office door. A man was standing at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. St. Peter said to him,

No, that’s not a sin either. You must have worried yourself to death.

There are varieties of stumbling blocks.

One type is obsessing over activities which are not sinful. I have read of congregational leaders calling members to account for playing Bridge or hosting a dance at home in the 1800s. In the early 1990s a United Methodist minister told me about an experience he had had in the 1960s, when he was a pastor in rural Houston County, Georgia. Parents in the community, in an effort to provide safe activities for their children, had organized a series of Saturday night chaperoned dances at the fellowship hall of the local Methodist Church. One night a local Southern Baptist pastor made a scene outside as he complained loudly about the sinful dancing going on indoors. I suppose that he thought he was reproving people in the spirit of Luke 17, but his congregation fired him shortly thereafter. Many of the people in the Methodist fellowship hall that night, O reader, were his parishioners.

Obsessing over small fries which are not even sinful as if they are detracts one from actual sins.

Many people have long mistaken medical problems, such as addictions and dependencies, as moral failings, and therefore sins. Yet having a medical condition—a physical illness (including mental illness, which has organic causes)–is no sin. One should strive to fulfill one’s responsibility to be a better person—including not caving into certain cravings—of course, but having a problem of that sort is no sin.

Neither is acting according to or having a characteristic with which one is born and over which one has no control sinful. The option to do one thing or another is part of what makes some deeds sinful. Where there is option there is no sin, which is doing the wrong thing when one can do the right thing.

False prophecy is a sin. The Bible names many prophets who said that which was convenient and politically expedient and who led people astray. And I can think of some false prophets with ministerial titles and television shows in my own time. Many of the broadcast of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), where the hair is big and much of the furniture, in the words of someone I heard speak in the late 1990s, would fit in at a New Orleans bordello. (I assume that the metaphor had mostly to do with furniture in pre-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.)

One can also erect stumbling blocks of the excessively permissive variety. I refer not so much to peccadilloes (not that they do not matter) as to patterns and structures in society. Peccadilloes, which are bad and therefore require correction, constitute low-hanging fruit. The real challenge is to climb the tree. The Bible contains more material about money, the uses of it, and economic injustice (including the exploitation of people) than it does about sexual practices and proclivities. One should, then, hear more about economics than sexuality from the pulpit, but often reality is the other way around. Not reproving people complicit in economic exploitation constitutes a failure on one’s part. Allegations of engaging in class warfare aside, engaging in such reproof is the right thing to do.

We humans exist chiefly to glorify and enjoy God forever. The Psalm speaks to that point from the Westminster Catechism. Forgiveness—something frequently difficult—is a vital part of approaching that goal—for both the one who pardons and he or she who receives the forgiveness. And so is appropriate reproof. Inappropriate reproof, however, does not help. May we, by grace, see through our blind spots and bad cultural programming to recognize that which is proper. Then may we affirm it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-8-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Excesses and Errors of Pietism   49 comments

Excesses and Errors of Pietism

Above:  The Last Page of My Draft of This Post

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I am an Episcopalian.  I used to identify more as an Anglican, but many Donatists in North America have taken that label for themselves.  So now I identify primarily as an Episcopalian and secondarily as an Anglican.  Yet I embrace the broad, inclusive meaning of Anglicanism, with its acceptance, tolerance, and collegiality.  And I like the Anglican spirit of unity in worship, not theological orthodoxy–whichever version of it a specific church party might seek to define as normative.  So my religion is sacramental, ritualistic, and warm-hearted, given to good works.  And my religion is quite intellectual, for the human brain is a great gift from God.

Given my spiritual and theological predilections, I bristle against the excesses and errors of Pietism.  On occasion my expressions of this sentiment have caused offense to some in my family and beyond it.  Sometimes people have accused me of judging.  No, my offense (not sin) was to hold and state a contrary opinion.  For that I offer no apology.  As I sign I have says,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

I do not apologize for the fact of another person’s thin skin.

Yet Pietism is not all bad.  It emerged in European Lutheranism shortly after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  One Jakob Spener (1635-1705), responding to stale confessional orthodoxy, proposed six goals for Christian living:

  1. Individual Bible study;
  2. The practice of the priesthood of all believers;
  3. The priority of good works;
  4. The maintenance of charity amid theological controversy;
  5. The improved education and training of clergy; and
  6. The reform of preaching to fit the previous five goals.

Many Pietists, using slogans such as

LIFE VERSUS DOCTRINE

and

REALITY VERSUS THE APPEARANCE OF GODLINESS,

focused on a living faith–an excellent ideal.  And they engaged in many great charitable works which improved societies–also consistent with the best aspects of Christianity.

But excesses and errors developed early and spread abroad quickly.  They live today.

  1. Sometimes the focus on holy living has devolved into persnickety rules, such as prohibitions against playing cards or dancing.  The rejection of one form of stale orthodoxy–abstract theology–has led to another form of stale orthodoxy–legalism–really a heresy.  This also constitutes a purity code.  Jesus rejected purity codes of his day.
  2. The emphasis on regeneration (a term I have seen used so many ways that I have ceased to know what it means when someone uses it) reflects a basic flaw in Protestantism–too much emphasis on the individual and not enough on the faith community.
  3. This obsession with regeneration has led to a rejection of good liturgy, such as the church year, service books, and “smells and bells.”  I, as a ritualist, object to this error.  A stunted sacramental theology has hindered much of Protestantism, denying it the fullness it might have enjoyed and shared otherwise.
  4. The undervaluing of objective truth in favor of subjective experience has been unfortunate.  I, as one who values objective reality highly, take issue with excessive subjectivity.  In fact, I, as a history buff, like to apply universal, timeless ethical standards to historical figures.  Some tell me that I ought not to do this, but they are displaying excessive subjectivity.

Despite the historical origins of Pietism in late seventeenth-century European Lutheranism, I recognize a related mentality in the Puritanism (which rejected the priesthood of the believer in favor of a high view of the pastor as interpreter of the Bible) of the early-to-late 1600s.  As Professor Edmund S. Morgan wrote in The Puritan Family, Puritans emphasized rules of civil living

in order to convince themselves that they were sanctified.

–page 5

Unfortunately, some of these rules were quite strict–down to punishing people for humming or singing to themselves in public on Sunday and making church attendance mandatory.  But, as Roger Williams observed correctly, the only sincere prayer is the one a person offers sincerely.

I recognize excesses of Pietism in wrong-headed obsessions with “worldliness” and “worldly amusements.”  Some examples follow:

  1. In the 1870s the pastor and Session of Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia, carried out a “reign of terror” (a term from page 18 of the 1979 church history), excommunicating about half of the congregation.   The excommunicated had danced or played bridge or hosted a dance at home.  Deacon Frank Block, who published an eighteen-page defense of himself, had done the latter.  The pastor left under a cloud of controversy in December 1878 and the congregation took years to heal.
  2. Over a decade ago I heard a history professor at Georgia Southern University–a good liberal Episcopalian forced into home schooling by the local school system’s problems–speak of awkward moments at gatherings of the local home schooling association.  One other parent, for example, forbade her child(ren) to play soccer because the sport was “too worldly.”  The professor shook his head in dismay.
  3. The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), founded in 1880, had liberalized by 1910.  Finally it resolved officially that any man who wore a necktie to church was not violating Biblical standards.  So, in 1910 and 1911, the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma) separated.  Its leaders cited doctrinal drift and church “worldliness” as justifications for the schism.
  4. Gene Pollett (who told me the following story in the 1990s) served as the pastor of Andrew Chapel Methodist Church, Kathleen, Georgia, in the 1960s.  There was little for the youth of the community to do on Saturday nights, so parents from various churches agreed to chaperone a weekly dance held at the fellowship hall of Andrew Chapel.  One Saturday night a local Southern Baptist minister made a scene, confronting Gene and complaining about the sinful dancing taking place inside.  Unfortunately for that preacher, some portion of his congregation was present at the dance and heard his rant.  That Baptist congregation was seeking a new pastor shortly thereafter.

I know that some might beat me about the theological head and neck with Romans 14 and that others might merely suggest that I read it.  I have read it–many times, in fact.  And I have read other Pauline passages regarding one’s activities in relation to “weaker members,” as the texts refer to them.  My lifestyle is quiet and basic.  It is free of scandalous behaviors.  Yet I know that some “weaker members” might not understand even my simple lifestyle as I do.  I have decided, however, that I will try to live a good life because that is the right thing to do.  I have vowed to leave my corner of the world better than I found it because that is what I ought to do.  And I will not permit the potential confusion on the part of others to limit my choices.  If I were to do so, I would do little or nothing.  And then what good would I be in this world?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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Amended on September 5, 2013

Amended on October 18, 2013

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ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bowker, John, ed.  The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1997.  I find this volume quite useful during my ongoing quest to understand the content of religious claims objectively.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Detroit, MI:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.  This is a crucial reference work in my library.

Morgan, Edmund S.  The Puritan Family:  Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England.  2d.  Ed.  New York, NY:  Harper & Row, 1966.  Morgan was an expert of Puritanism.

Precht, Fred L., ed.  Lutheran Worship:  History and Practice.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1993.  This work includes a strong Confessional Lutheran (Missouri Synod) critique of Pietism.  I agree with parts of that critique and disagree with others, for I am not a Confessional Lutheran–or even a Lutheran, although I could be a Lutheran under certain circumstances.

Smith, John Robert.  The Church That Stayed:  The Life and Times of Central Presbyterian Church in the Heart of Atlanta, 1858-1978.  Atlanta, GA:  The Atlanta Historical Society, 1979.  O, the treasures one finds at thrift stores!

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Ventures of Which We Cannot See the Ending: Reflections on U.S. Lutheran Liturgy   5 comments

Books about Worship

Above:  Six of My Books about Liturgy, July 27, 2013

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U.S. LUTHERAN LITURGY, PART XXI

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O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 304

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Father Peter C. Ingeman, the recently-retired Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, has said that anyone who worships regularly at a church with predictable order of worship attends a liturgical church.  Some orders of worship are more intricate than others, but they are inherently liturgical, even if, as in some especially bad U.S. Lutheran services from the 1800s, the primary or only role for the congregation is to sing hymns.

I have had some unfortunate and unpleasant encounters with people who have mistaken the simplicity of worship for the purity thereof.  Most of these have been Southern Baptists, actually.  So I am glad to read in Christian Worship:  Its Theology and Practice, by Franklin M. Segler (1967), that the author, a Southern Baptist minister (deceased now) does not fall into the false dichotomy of simple worship vs. insincere ritualism.  Yet I recognize that he, especially in his last chapter, dismisses ritualism.

I am, however, an unapologetic ritualist.  Ritualism creates the worship environment in which I feel in my soul most deeply and ineffably the words of Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints

for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and flesh sing for joy

to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may lay her young,

at your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,

ever singing your praise!

Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Good ritual–especially in the context of ritualism–is a lovely spiritual practice.  This is especially true when the congregation has much to do, as in most rewritten U.S. Lutheran liturgies from about 1860 forward.  So most U.S. Lutheran denominations deserve much credit for this reality of their service books.

Uniformity need not be a goal of service books, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg’s dream of one church and one book not withstanding.  The Common Service, in its variations, one far superior to most of what preceded it.  But there is also much worth in other Lutheran liturgies old and new.  Perhaps it is time for U.S. Lutheran scholars to begin to develop a Revised Common Service to take its place beside the 1888 liturgies and their variations.  There are certainly many meritorious rituals from which to draw inspiration and texts.

Liturgy is a product of theology, hence arguments about the contents of Creeds, for example.  Did Jesus descend into hell or merely to the dead?  Is the Church “Christian,” “Catholic,” or “catholic” in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds?  And how often should the congregation take Communion?  Also germane to these matters are folkways, which influence opinions regarding the language of worship and order of its elements.

Thus much arguing over words and orders of worship ensues.  A tradition is neither inherently good nor bad because it is old, just as innovation is neither inherently good nor bad because it is new.  Elements of liturgy now quite old used to be new.  Faddish language in late 1960s and early 1970s liturgies did not age well, but addressing God with the familiar “you” instead of “Thee” is consistent with the spirit of the development of language.  In English, for example, everybody used to be “Thee,” so to address God as “you” these days constitutes a return to previous practice.  And, as Philip H. Pfatteicher writes:

The church needed by trial and occasional error to come to understand that the new is not always found in opposition to the old as its natural growth and development.  Stability and continuity are essential elements of catholic Christianity.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (1990), page 10

Thus U.S. Lutheran denominations have mixed the old with the new.  Even ultra-conservative Lutheran synods which make The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) look like a pack of wild-eyed liberals have published hymnals-service books in contemporary English, as have the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which ultra conservative synods think is really a pack of wild-eyed liberals.

Unfortunately, one tendency which crosses liberal-conservative lines is bad contemporary worship.  Last year, during an ecumenical visit to an ELCA congregation, I noticed an announcement on a bulletin board.  The church was planning to add a praise band to one service.  And, about nine years ago, when I thought that I might attend the University of Florida, I looked up websites for Episcopal congregations in Gainesville.  I knew that I would never attend the one which, on its service roster, listed the person in charge of overhead transparencies.  The probability that people were posting the words to “I Bind Unto Myself Today the Strong Name of the Trinity,” which takes three pages in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982, were very low.  “Seven-eleven songs,” which, as the critique tells us, have seven words which people sing eleven times, are theological tide pools.  Karl Marx’s analysis of religion as the opiate of the masses is an overgeneralization, one which applies well to some aspects of religion, such as praise choruses, and not at all in many others.

The real meat and potatoes of good liturgy and worship is found in excellent history-based form and practice updated occasionally.  The best U.S. Lutheran liturgies of today strike and maintain that balance well.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 12–THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO VIVALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, COMPOSER

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COMPREHENSIVE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FOR THIS SERIES

Books:

Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994.

Bible.  Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition.  2002.

Book of Common Prayer, The.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1979.  Reprint, 2007.

Book of Common Worship.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1906.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1946.

Book of Common Worship (Revised), The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1932.

Book of Hymns.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1917.  Reprint, 1932.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, The.  Service Book and Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Lutheran Publication House, 1958.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Concordia:  A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1917.

Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.  2d. Ed.  Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Concordia Hymnal, The:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part I.  Book of Confessions.  Louisville, KY:  Office of the General Assembly, 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Fevold, Eugene L.  The Lutheran Free Church:  A Fellowship of American Lutheran Congregations, 1897-1963.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1969.

Hymnal and Order of Service, The.  Lectionary Edition.  Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Book Concern, 1925.

Hymnal for Church and Home.  3d. Ed.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Ministers Desk Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

__________.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Pew Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship for Provisional Use.  Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Education, Lutheran Church in America, 1970.

Jones, Cheslyn, et al, eds.  The Study of Liturgy.  Revised Edition.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1992.

Lutheran Hymnary Including the Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee.  American Lutheran Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Columbus, OH:  The Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Washington, DC:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.

Methodist Hymnal, The:  Official Hymnal of The Methodist Church.  Nashville, TN:  The Methodist Publishing House, 1966.

Pfatteicher, Philip H.  Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990.

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

__________.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1959.

Segler, Franklin M.  Christian Worship:  Its Theology and Practice.  Nashville, TN:  Broadman Press, 1967.

Stulken, Marilyn Kay.  Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1981.

United Methodist Hymnal, The:  Book of United Methodist Worship.  Nashville, TN:  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

Wentz, Abdel Ross.  The Lutheran Church in American History.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  The United Lutheran Publication House, 1933.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

Worshipbook, The:  Services and Hymns.  Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1972.

PDFs:

“Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.”  Hymnal Sales, Minneapolis, MN.  This is a document designed to convince congregations to purchase the 1994 hymnal.

Association Free Lutheran Bible School, Plymouth, MN.  AFLBS Student Life Guidelines 2009-2010.

__________.  AFLBS Student Life Handbook 2012-2013.

Christian Worship:  Supplement Introductory Resources.  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2008.

DeGarmeaux, Bruce.  ”O Come, Let Us Worship!  A Study of Lutheran Liturgy and Hymnody.”  1995.

Erickson, Anne.  ”God Wants to Help Parents Help Their Kids.”  Pages 8-9 in The Lutheran Ambassador (April 10, 2001).

Faugstad, Peter.  ”Centennial of The Lutheran Hymnary.”  In Lutheran Sentinel, May-June 2013, page 14.

Schalk, Carl.  ”A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals (before LSB).”  Based on a 1997 document; updated to 2006.  Copyrighted by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Stuckwisch, D. Richard.  ”The Missouri Synod and the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.”  Lutheran Forum, Volume 37, Number 3 (Fall 2003), pages 43-51.

Walker, Larry J., Ed.  ”Standing Fast in Freedom.”  2d.  Ed.  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 2000.

Zabell, Jon F.  ”The Formation of Function of WELS Hymnals:  Further Conversation.”  For the National Conference of Worship, Music, and the Arts, July 2008.

KRT

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Regarding the Superiority of Lectionaries to the Lack Thereof   9 comments

Snapshot_20130616_16

Above:  The Author Studying the 2004 Irish Prayer Book on Sunday Afternoon, June 16, 2013

My review of The Book of Common Prayer (2004) is here:  https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/the-book-of-common-prayer-2004/.

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I admit it:  I am a ritualist.  I am, in fact, a happy, contented, and unapologetic ritualist.  Rituals create a sacred environment in which worship comes naturally to me.

Many Protestants–a great number of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists especially–do not understand this tendency.  They are heirs to a tradition which has thrown out the baby with the bath water since 1517.  Many of them might not know this, for, as Karen Armstrong wrote:

…fundamentalism is antihistorical.

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, page xx)

She wrote that referring to theological developments (especially changing God concepts) over time, but the principle applies to broader matters.  I have met many Protestants who did not know the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have also encountered professing Baptists who did not know that they were Protestants.  In fact, many people are quite ignorant of the traditions they profess to embrace and practice.

I, as a student of history, seek to know as much as possible about not only my tradition but others.  How else can I  be an informed practitioner of my faith?  Part of Judeo-Christian heritage is ritualism–from the Law of Moses to missals and Prayer Books to lectionaries to bowing at crosses and high altars.  Some very conservative, Low Church Protestants bristle at all of it, calling it “going through the motions” dismissively.  From time to time I have had unpleasant encounters with some of them–usually the sort which the late Molly Ivins called “Shi’ite Baptists.”  (I do live in the U.S. South.)  They do not understand, for they mistake the simplicity of worship for the purity thereof.  Those are actually separate matters.

The combination of my inherent interests and my youthful experiences brought me to the embrace of full-blown ritualism.  My father, a United Methodist minister in the South Georgia Conference, seldom preached from a lectionary, the existence of which I knew of vaguely.  But I always like more ritual and beauty of worship than those rural congregations practiced.  My adolescent self-directed study of pre-Protestant Reformation Christianity brought me closer to Roman Catholicism.  But I was too Protestant to cross the Tiber River.  So I walked the Canterbury Trail instead.

Order appeals to me.  I practice it in my living space, in my being, and in my public and private worship of God.  Tying the Bible study to lectionaries, plans for reading the Bible in an orderly manner, has provided the discipline necessary to sustain the practice consistently for years.  Converting that Bible study into a blogging project (http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/, and http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/) has encouraged me to write more, thereby increasing my comprehension and retention of material.

I collect worship books and books about worship.  Thus I have hymnals, Prayer Books, and related volumes from a variety of denominations and decades.  Many of these books contain lectionaries, all of which stand within Judeo-Christian tradition.  This post is not a history of lectionaries, but a few details are appropriate here.  Lectionaries go back to Judaism, before the birth of Jesus.   Thus they entered Christianity via Judaism.  Although the oldest known year-round Christian lectionary dates to the 600s, established, orderly plans for reading Scripture in Christian public worship existed in first century CE.

I have easy access to a variety of lectionaries.  The Jewish Study Bible (2004) and The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) contain a lectionary each.  But I, being a Western Christian, not a Jew or an Eastern Orthodox Christian, find other lectionaries more applicable or at least interesting.  Episcopal Church lectionaries for Sundays and major feast days have changed over time.  The first editions of The Book of Common Prayer (1928) contained one, but copies printed since 1945 and contained another.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) debuted a new lectionary, since superceded (in 2007 and later printings) by the Revised Common Lectionary.  The 1979 BCP also debuted a new two-year Daily Office cycle, altered slightly and reprinted in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship from 1993 (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/).  U.S. Presbyterians have had one proper Sunday lectionary or another since their 1946 Book of Common Worship (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-1946/).  The oldest volume in my collection of U.S. Lutheran service books is the 1917 Common Service Book, which contains a Sunday lectionary.  U.S. Methodism has had one Sunday lectionary or another since at least the 1945 Book of Worship for Church and Home (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/the-book-of-worship-for-church-and-home-1945/).  That is a partial list of liturgies in my library.

But the fact that a church body authorizes a lectionary does not mean that many people use it, especially in much of U.S. Protestantism, affected negatively by

  1. Puritan hostility to lectionaries and rituals;
  2. the reality of frontier life and worship in the colonial era and the early republic; and
  3. widespread anti-Roman Catholicism, quite virulent, for example, in the 1928 and 1960 Presidential election campaigns.

Revivalism has thrived and become its own tradition in these circumstances.  Jerald C. Brauer, author of Protestantism in America:  A Narrative History (Westminster Press, 1953), summarized revivalism as follows:

The whole thrust of revivals was to get results in the moral life.  This could be done only by concerting individual souls.   Thus revivalism was not concerned so much with theology or with the structure of society; it was concerned with personal morality and personal conversion.

–Quoted in Kenneth G. Phifer, A Protestant Case for Liturgical Renewal (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press,  1965, page 104)

Revivalism is insufficient and founded too much on emotionalism.  It was, however, the style of religion which my great-grandfather, George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), practiced.  He was a Southern Methodist minister of the old school–no ritualism, no lectionaries, no alcohol, no playing cards–and a preoccupation with personal sin at the expense of addressing societal, structural sins properly.  I know this because I have undertaken an effort to post as many of his sermon outlines as possible online (http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/family-tree-of-george-washington-barrett/http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/spiritual-religion-and-ritualism/, etc.).  The effort is in progress.

A study of his sermons reveals a pattern:  The man preached variations on the same sermon again, again, and yet again.  I wonder how the variety of material a lectionary would have provided would have changed his preaching.  I know that this variety expands my horizons theologically.  For, as Richard Bauckham wrote:

The final context which is authoritative for the meaning of a biblical text is the complete canon of Scripture.

The Bible in Politics, 2d. Ed.  (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, page 17)

There is a more basic reason for using lectionaries, especially in public worship.  A good Sunday lectionary, such as either of those near-twins, the Revised Common Lectionary and the most recent Roman Catholic lectionary, provide for reading aloud much of the Bible in church during three consecutive years (A, B, and C).  This is a good things for one who values Scripture, is it not?  Among the content read are passages which a minister might have skipped over otherwise for reasons of discomfort.  But now he or she must address such material, perhaps even wrestle with it.  That is also a positive activity.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal.  Somewhere in the U.S. South, an old Baptist minister always preached on baptism by immersion, regardless of the biblical text.  Finally, some members persuaded him to preach on a text with no relation to baptism.  The pastor addressed that context seriously for a brief time before making a segue:

That brings me to baptism by immersion.

The Bible contains many germane topics.  Following lectionaries helps one cover them well and to establish connections between and among passages.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6–THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND OF HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

(They were quite interesting!  http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/feast-of-norman-macleod-and-john-macleod-june-16/)

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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Books Which Influenced This Post, Yet Which I Neither Quoted Nor Named Therein:

Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold, and Paul Bradshaw, eds.  The Study of Liturgy.  Revised Edition.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1992.

Micks, Marianne, H.  The Future Present:  The Phenomenon of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Seabury Press, 1970.

Wainwright, Geoffrey, and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, eds.  The Oxford History of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2006.

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part XIV: Following Jesus   2 comments

moravian-logo-stained-glass

Above:  Logo of the Moravian Church

Image Source = JJackman

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AgnusDeiWindow.jpg)

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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:

Exodus 19:1-25

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Hebrews 13:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/week-of-proper-11-thursday-year-1/

Hebrews 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/prayer-for-saturday-of-easter-week/

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I have heard press reports of the Vatican cracking down on liberal dissenters for years.  This is the sort of news that makes me glad to be an Episcopalian, for we have distributed authority.  And, as a self-respecting liberal, I identify with the denominational establishment more often than not.  Many Roman Catholic dissidents would occupy the Episcopal Church’s mainstream if they were to leave the Roman Church for the Anglican Communion.

I thought about that as I read Hebrews 13:17, which, in The New Jerusalem Bible, begins

Obey your leaders and give way to them….

Context matters.  The dominant theme in Hebrews 13 is looking out for each other, including strangers.  So a good religious leader is one who looks out for the flock.  When I turn to historical context I note that the audience consisted of persecuted Christians and Christians who might face persecution.  So sticking together was vital for the church.  Nevertheless, as one who grew up feeling out of place in the denomination in which he grew up (The United Methodist Church) and feeling alienated from the adjacent and dominant Southern Baptist subculture in rural southern Georgia, I reserve the right to identify with dissenters when I agree with them.  I also reserve the right to identify with the establishment when I agree with it.  I know that all of the following statements are accurate:

  1. I can be wrong.
  2. I can be correct.
  3. Bishops can be wrong.
  4. Bishops can be correct.
  5. Both sides can be wrong, just about different matters.
  6. Both sides can be correct, just about different matters.

The ultimate Christian leader is Jesus of Nazareth; may we follow him always.

Moses was the leader in the Book of Exodus.  He was, unfortunately, not immune from mysogyny, hence his instruction

…do not go near a woman

–Exodus 19:15b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

in relation to maintaining the ritual purity of men.  (The Law of Moses does cast female biology in a negative light, does it not?)  But it was generally good advice to do as Moses said; God spoke to him.  And Moses was trying to do the best he could for the people.  Leading a group of mostly quarrelsome nomads in the desert was not an easy task or vocation.

Issues of human authority and submission to it occur elsewhere in the Bible.  Paul wrote that we should obey our leaders, but Hebrew Prophets, speaking for God, opposed kings in their day.  I have no doubt that one reason the Romans crucified Jesus was that his rhetoric regarding the Kingdom of God called the imperium into question; the Kingdom of God looked like the opposite of the imperial order.  And our Lord and Savior clashed with his religious leaders.  So prooftexting one or two passages regarding this issue distorts the biblical witness on it.

I am a Christian who grew up a Protestant.  (Now I identify as an Anglo-Lutheran-Catholic within The Episcopal Church.) Much of that Protestant rebelliousness remains within me, although I have mixed it with Roman Catholicism.  So I stand with the Moravians, whose motto is

OUR LAMB HAS CONQUERED; LET US FOLLOW HIM.

May we follow him wherever he leads us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-easter-saturday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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