Archive for the ‘Ecclesiastes 2’ Category

Faith and Works, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Christ Before Caiaphas, by Matthias Stom

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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Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Psalm 119:153-160

James 2:18-26

John 11:47-53

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The imagined disagreement between the Letter of James and St. Paul the Apostle regarding faith, works, and justification is one of which I have written repeatedly at this and other weblogs, with their thousands of posts.  Writing of it again and again has, frankly, become irritating to me.  Yet I have, yet again, felt obligated to explain it again, so here it is:  Faith is inherently active in Pauline theology and is intellectual in the Letter of James.

The emphasis on works in James might seem off-putting to a staunch Protestant, but it is a useful reminder that what we do matters.  If we, as in John 11, scapegoat an innocent man, that is not only wrong but important too.  If we, unlike Koheleth, value wealth too much, that is also wrong and important.  If we value the commandments of God, we well act accordingly.  Doing so might, as in the case of the Psalmist, lead to persecution.  Clinging to God during suffering is a faithful response.

Consenting to vague principles is easy, but acting on them is often more difficult.  We can follow through, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/devotion-for-proper-25-ackerman/

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Gracious Speech Seasoned With Salt   1 comment

Salt Shaker

Above:  A Salt Shaker

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-17 (Monday)

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:8 (Tuesday)

Psalm 127 (Both Days)

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (Monday)

Colossians 4:2-6 (Tuesday)

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If Yahweh does not build a house

in vain do its builders toil.

If Yahweh does not guard a city

in vain does its guard keep watch.

–Psalm 127:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The key word from the readings from Ecclesiastes is “futility.”  The quest for wealth is futile.  Seeking happiness in wealth is futile.  At least one can obtain some enjoyment from possessions, not that one can take them along for the journey after death.

Colossians 3:18-4:6 offers some uncomfortable material.  First we encounter the verse about wives being subject to their husbands.  The next verse mitigates it somewhat by speaking of a husband’s obligation to love his wife and never to be harsh with her.  At least in Ephesians 5, when these topics arise, they do so in the context of

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–5:21, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

The next difficult topic is slavery, which the New Testament condemns nowhere.  Slavery in the Roman Empire was different from race-based chattel slavery, of courrse, but I posit that all forms of slavery are wrong at all times and at all places.  The expectation that Jesus would return soon and inaugurate social justice informed the absence of a condemnation of slavery, but (A) that was nearly 2000 years ago, (B) Jesus did not return, and (C) the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself applies in all places an at all times.  At least the text noted that there is no partiality with God.

The parting advice from Colossians 4 is timeless:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.

4:6, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Graciousness flows from and imparts grace.  Salt preserves and amplifies flavor.  Contrary to the term “salty language,” gracious speech seasoned with salt builds up others.  It edifies them; it does not insult them.  And it is not futile.

May your speech, O reader, be gracious and seasoned with salt more often that it is already.  May mine be likewise.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.  May we function as effective agents of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Enjoying God Fully   1 comment

Family Record-Marriage Certificate

Above:  Family Record-Marriage Certificate, 1800s

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (Friday)

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 (Saturday)

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The LORD’s thunder brings flashes of lightning.

The LORD’s thunder makes the desert writhe,

the LORD makes the desert of Kadesh writhe.

The LORD’s thunder makes the oak trees dance around

and strips the forests bare.

So in his Temple everyone shouts “Glory!”

–Psalm 29:7-9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The Westminster Larger Catechism

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Koheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, discovered that he enjoyed his wealth, but that he got nothing else out of it.  That enjoyment of life’s blessings is a gift from God, he wrote.

Psychological studies have revealed the links between increased wealth and happiness.  Up to a certain amount, more wealth means more happiness.  Past that point increased wealth leads either to no additional happiness or to greater stress.  Often people who are wealthy beyond the point at which more wealth does not increase happiness desire more money.  Yet some of the most content people have had little and some of the most miserable people have been wealthy.  Likewise, some of the poorest people have found poverty to be the cause of great misery and some of the wealthiest people have long known that money can stave off many indignities and sorrows.

The real issue is priorities.  Wealth can insulate one from a sense of total dependence on God and of responsibilities to and for other people.  This reality, I am convinced, explains many of the hard sayings regarding wealth in the Bible.  Furthermore, wealth cannot shield one from all of life’s indignities and sorrows.

Another priority is choosing happiness.  Being happy is a choice, regardless of one’s level of wealth, marital status, health, et cetera.  Establishing the priority to notice the plethora of blessings from God and to revel in them is a positive course of action.

A negative course of action is to fail to recognize divine wisdom.  St. Paul the Apostle wrote that such failure led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Christ was divine love incarnate, but that love proved threatening to human power structures built on violence and on artificial scarcity and exclusiveness.  Those blinders prevented those who killed Jesus and those who consented to his death from recognizing their sin.  Those people could have enjoyed God fully, but they failed to recognize God in their midst.

A habit I remind myself to nurture is to identify five blessings every day.  (I should do better at this practice than I do, but often I become distracted.)  To identify five blessings each day and to revel in them is a realistic goal.  So is to do this for many consecutive days without duplicating any items on the daily lists.  The main point of this spiritual exercise is to develop a mindset of gratitude to God and of awareness of the great number of blessings–to enjoy God more fully.  Koheleth and St. Paul the Apostle would approve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Proper Priorities   1 comment

citizen-kane

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane, from Citizen Kane

(A Screen Capture)

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43

or 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23 and Psalm 49:1-11

then 

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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:

Proper 13, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

Proper 13, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecos/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

Hosea 11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-9-friday-year-2/

Ecclesiastes 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-24-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Colossians 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-a-principal-service/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-c-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

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Citizen Kane is a wonderful film, one which many younger viewers, accustomed to a different, faster-paced style of cinema find intolerable.  That is their loss.  The movie ends with Charles Foster Kane having died recently.  His business empire is gone and his mansion is full of material goods which mean nothing to those burning them.

And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

–Luke 12:20b, New Revised Standard Version

Night Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following words near the ritual’s beginning:

It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early,

and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety.

For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.

–page 167

Proper priorities matter.  Appropriate work provides one with an opportunity for self-fulfillment and economic independence while doing something beneficial to others.  It is about the “we,” not just “me.”  Such work is something worth enjoying.  And everything which destroys or damages that which is best in others and in oneself one must not nurture.  Or, as Rumi wrote in A Basket of Fresh Bread:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you who are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads.

Too often

we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey

run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t put a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

–Translated by Coleman Barks; from The Essential Rumi (1995), page 256

God, who loves us, longs to show us mercy.  Yet our actions will have consequences.  What we sow, we will also reap.  May we sow righteousness and focus on that which is positive and long-lasting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, KING OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WAYNE JUSTICE, JURIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/proper-13-year-c/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part II: Heirs   1 comment

st-pauls-newnan

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assistant Bishop of Atlanta, with Three Parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newnan, Georgia, July 1, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreSVisitToStPaulSNewnan#5760319237264683970)

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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:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-26 (May 25)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 (May 26)

Psalm 104 (Morning–May 25)

Psalm 19 (Morning–May 26)

Psalms 118 and 33 (Evening–May 25)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–May 26)

John 7:1-13 (May 25)

John 7:14-31 (May 26)

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Some Related Posts:

John 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-21-and-22-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

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A wise person and a fool share the same fate:  death.  And, even if one is wise, there is no guarantee that one’s heirs will not be foolish.  One’s actions in life cancel each other out, but at least one can enjoy one’s own work, even if that work is futile.  Such was Koheleth’s perspective in Ecclesiastes 2 and 3.

I perceive in the Gospels many occasions on which Jesus could have felt that this words and deeds were futile.  The Apostles failed to understand–again.  He faced opposition yet again for committing a good deed on the Sabbath.  People kept plotting to kill him.  Followers deserted him after hearing difficult teaching.  I have no doubt that he felt discouraged at times; he was fully human.

But his heirs of a sort started something which has flourished.  So today I am a Christian because of a chain of faith which reaches back to those Apostles.  I am an heir of a sort.  May I be, by grace, a wise one.  And so may you, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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