Archive for the ‘Ecclesiastes’ Category

Building Up Each Other in Christ   1 comment

ancient-corinth

Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 9:1-9, 11:1-13 or Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

Psalm 35

John 15:18-25 (26-27); 16:1-4a

2 Corinthians 12:11-21; 13:1-10 (11-13)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One might suffer for any of a number of reasons.  One might, as did Solomon, suffer for one’s sins; actions do have consequences, after all.  Or one might suffer because of the sins of at least one other person.  This is one reason one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Or perhaps one might suffer for merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  On other occasions there might be no apparent reason for one’s suffering.

This is a devotion for Trinity Sunday.  Many attempts to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity have resulted in heresy.  I have resolved to cease trying to explain it and to revel in the glorious mystery instead.  God is greater and more glorious than I can imagine; thanks be to God!

I do feel comfortable in making some comments, however.  For example, Jesus of Nazareth (the historical figure) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son.  I do not pretend to grasp the mechanics of the Godhead, but so be it.  Jesus suffered and died, but not because of any sin of his; he committed none.  God suffered due to human sinfulness and made something wondrous out of something brutal and base.

That extravagant grace imposes certain obligations on those who benefit from it.  Among these obligations is building each other up.  St. Paul the Apostle’s words on that topic remain as applicable today as they were in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago.  Christ Jesus is in me.  He is also in you, O reader.  He is also in those around us.  How will we treat them?  We have Jesus, a role model, to emulate.  Where would the human race be without him?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-d/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Universal and Timeless Love of God   1 comment

Micah

Above:  Icon of the Prophet Micah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ecclesiastes 7:15-29 or Micah 7:1-20

Psalm 44

Matthew 10:9-23 or Luke 12:1-12

Romans 3:1-22a

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rouse yourself!  Why do you sleep, O Lord?

Awake, do not cast us off forever!

Why do you hide your face?

Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

For we sink down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up, come to our help.

Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

–Psalm 44:23-26, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The readings for this occasion present a realistic appraisal of the world, not only in antiquity or today, but during all the times in between.  Certain powerful empires conquer weaker neighbors.  Wicked people flourish.  Good people perish.  Persecution of people of God occurs.  Nevertheless, one should avoid committing the theological error of assuming or otherwise concluding that the existence of God, of whom caring is an essential property, precludes the reality of suffering for many righteous people.  At this point one might point to the Book of Job and the crucifixion of Jesus as Exhibits A and B in that case.

Although suffering (for righteousness, sin, and simply having a pulse) occurs, that fact does not negate or contradict the mercy of God.  That mercy is available regardless of ethnic and cultural factors and boundaries.  That love is evident in the form of baby Jesus, born into a place and time at which his life was in danger.  That love is and always has been evident in many ways.  That love is worth pondering every day, but especially on Christmas Day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/devotion-for-christmas-morning-year-d/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In Jesus’s Name   1 comment

Madonna and Child

Above:  Icon of Mary and Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 or 7:1-14 or Ezekiel 33:23-33

Psalm 21

Philippians 3:1-4a; 4:10-21 or James 1:17-27

Matthew 12:22-50 or Luke 11:14-54

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!

We will sing and praise your power.

–Psalm 21:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sincere praise of God is a virtue and insincere spiritual speech is an affront to God.  Often such insincere speech, externally pious, disguises willful and/or institutionalized social injustice, especially that of the economic variety.  The mercy and judgment of God coexist.  Often we prefer to hear of the mercy yet not of the judgment.  That is at least as bad an error as committing the opposite fallacy.

That is a concise summary of several of the elements of the lections for Christmas Eve (Year D).  One might recognize my summary as being accurate while wondering what it has to do with Christmas Eve, however.  That is a legitimate question.  Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in Year D (2012), acknowledges the challenge of selecting germane and neglected texts for December 24 and 25.  He explains that his suggested readings contain relevant themes, such as the universality of sin.

The world that the Second Person of the Trinity, incarnated as Jesus, entered was dangerous and corrupt.  That description still applies to the world, does it not?  Jesus continues to come to us in the guise of the poor, the lame, the exploited, the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.  Do we content ourselves with pious platitudes while we do little or nothing to help them (as we are able, of course) and/or to justify systems that harm them?  And, as we enjoy hearing about divine mercy, do we give proper attention to God’s judgment on those who exploit the vulnerable?

The celebration of the birth of Jesus, linked to his death and resurrection, is more than a time to celebrate.  It is also an occasion for us to commit or recommit ourselves to living according to the incarnational principle.  God is present all around us intangibly in tangible elements of creation.  These tangible elements include the defenseless and the exploited.  May we commit or recommit ourselves to recognizing the image of God in them and to acting accordingly, in Jesus’s name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/devotion-for-christmas-eve-year-d/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Waiting for God, Part I   1 comment

Abraham

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Job 21:1-16 (Thursday)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 11:27-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 33:12-22 (All Days)

Romans 9:1-9 (Thursday)

Acts 7:1-8 (Friday)

Matthew 6:19-24 (Saturday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We are waiting for Yahweh;

he is our help and our shield,

for in him our heart rejoices,

in his holy name we trust.

Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,

as our hope has rested in you.

–Psalm 33:20-22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.  This reality has frustrated many for ages and contradicted incarnations of Prosperity Theology (a heresy that does not die) since antiquity.  In the Book of Job the titular character’s alleged friends insisted that he must have done something to deserve his suffering.  The text, with all of its layers of authorship, explains in Chapters 1 and 2 why Job suffered; God allowed it.  Job was a pawn in a heavenly wager.

We who follow God wait for God, but, if we are realistic, we will not expect that doing so will lead to life on Easy Street.  Sometimes, in fact, it will lead to suffering for the sake of righteousness.  On other occasions suffering will just happen, seemingly for no reason.  Suffering is a part of life, I have become convinced.

Yet we need not suffer alone.  In Christ Jesus God suffered in human flesh, after all.  The divine promise is not that a proper relationship with God will be present during suffering.  This has been my experience.  We are members of God’s household via grace, not lineage, and the pilgrimage of faith begins with one step.  In God we find intangible and eternal (in the Johannine sense of that word, that is, “of God,” see 17:3) treasures, the variety that outlasts and is vastly superior to the most appealing temporal prizes.

Of course we should love God for selfless reasons; the rewards will come.  I recall a story about a woman who walked around carrying a torch and a bucket of water.  The torch, she said, was to burn up heaven and the water was to extinguish the flames of hell so that nobody would seek to follow God to enter heaven or to avoid hell.  Yet we humans seem to have mixed motivations much of the time, do we not?  Certain evangelists emphasize the possibility of damnation to frighten people into salvation.  Although I affirm the existence of both heaven and hell, I argue that terror is not a basis for a mature relationship with God, whom many Jews and Christians describe as loving and compassionate.

May we wait for Yahweh, who is our loving and compassionate help and shield, in whom our hearts rejoice.  May we wait for God in times of prosperity and of scarcity, of suffering and of ease, of pain and of pleasure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-14-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lilies of the Field   1 comment

Lillies of the Field

Above:  Lilies of the Field

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, 13-14

Psalm 127

Luke 12:22-31

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We will all age and die, Koheleth reminds us.  Pursuits we might think are important and accomplishments we might think are permanent are actually fleeting and futile, we read.

Perhaps Koheleth overcorrected excessive optimism, such as we find in the Book of Proverbs and some of the psalms, but the point is valid.  Nevertheless, what we do or do not do matters, at least in the moment.  Frequently the effects are long-term, even intergenerational.  Yet the vast majority of us will, in time, become as if we had never existed.  Our names will pass into anonymity.  So be it.

Nevertheless, God loves us.  The passage from Luke 12 might seem unduly optimistic, given the nature of poverty across the planet.  The problem is distribution, not supply.  Those are matters of human responsibility.  Too often we fail miserably in them, do we not?

Koheleth also instructs us accordingly:

This is the end of the matter:  you have heard it all.  Fear God and obey his commandments; this sums up the duty of mankind.  For God will bring everything we do to judgement, every secret, whether good or bad.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Among those commandments is to provide for the less fortunate.  This is a sacred duty, one which requires people working together to accomplish.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gracious Speech Seasoned With Salt   1 comment

Salt Shaker

Above:  A Salt Shaker

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Attachments   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 23:1-11 (Thursday)

Proverbs 24:1-12 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 49:1-12 (All Days)

Romans 11:33-36 (Thursday)

Ephesians 4:17-24 (Friday)

Mark 10:17-22 (Saturday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In prosperity people lose their good sense,

they become no better than dumb animals.

So they go on in their self-assurance,

right up to the end they are content with their lot.

–Psalm 49:12-13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The assigned readings, taken together, caution against becoming attached to temporal and transitory things, trusting in one’s imagined self-sufficiency, and endangering the resources of orphans.  We should, rather, focus on and trust in God, whose knowledge is inscrutable and ways are unsearchable.  One of the timeless principles of the Law of Moses is complete human dependency upon God.  Related to that principle are the following ones:

  1. We are responsible to each other,
  2. We are responsible for each other, and
  3. We have no right to exploit each other.

In Mark 10 Jesus encounters a wealthy man who has led a moral life.  He has not killed, committed adultery, stolen, borne false witness, defrauded anyone, or dishonored his parents.  Yet the man is attached to his money and possessions.  Our Lord and Savior tells him to detach himself by ridding himself of his wealth.  The man, crestfallen, leaves.

I ponder that story and ask myself how it would be different had the man been poor.  He still would have had some attachment of which to rid himself.  The emphasis of the account, therefore, is attachments, not any given attachment.  These attachments are to appetites, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.

The challenge is, in the words of Ephesians, to clothe ourselves

with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

–4:24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Fortunately, we have access to grace.  We also have a role model, Jesus.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++