Archive for the ‘Ephesians 2’ Category

The Sin of Legalism   1 comment

christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-bethesda

Above:  Christ Healing the Paralytic at Bethesda, by Palma Giovane

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:

Isaiah 57:1-21

Psalm 102

John 5:1-18

James 1:1-16 or Ephesians 2:11-22 or Galatians 1:1-24

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Penitence is related to repentance.  Frequently, in everyday vocabulary, they become interchangeable terms, but they are different.  To repent is to turn one’s back on sin–sin in general and a particular sin or set of sins.  The theological focus on Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is repentance.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has done an excellent job of selecting appropriate texts for Ash Wednesday while avoiding the usual suspects.

  1. We read in Isaiah 57 that Judah needs to repent of idolatry.  We also read that judgment will ensue, but that mercy will follow it.
  2. The penitence in Psalm 102 is individual.  In that text the consequences of the sins have caught up with the author, who is in distress and pleading for mercy.
  3. James 1 advises us to rejoice and to trust in God during times of trial, not to yield to temptation during them.  We read that Jesus breaks down barriers between us and God and among us.  Why, then, do many of us insist on maintaining and erecting barriers, especially for others?
  4. Galatians 1 informs us that Jesus liberates us to serve, enjoy, and glorify God.
  5. In John 5 we read of Jesus liberating  man from a physical disability and intangible, related problems.  Then, we read, some strict Sabbath keepers criticize the newly able-bodied man for carrying his bed roll on the Sabbath.  I detect misplaced priorities in the critics.

Each of us has much for which to be pentitent and much of which to repent.  At this time I choose to emphasize legalism, which is a thread in some of the readings.  Legalism, in some cases, has innocent and pious origins; one seeks to obey divine commandments.  Out of good intentions one goes astray and becomes a master nit picker lost amid the proverbial trees and unable to see the forest.  Rules become more important than compassion.  This might be especially likely to happen when one is a member of a recognizable minority defined by certain practices.  Creating neat categories, thereby defining oneself as set apart and others as unclean, for example, can become quite easily an open door to self-righteousness.  It is a sin against which to remain vigilant as one notices a variety of sins in one’s vicinity.

The list of sins I have not committed is long.  So is the list of sins of which I am guilty.  The former does not make up for the latter.  The fact that I have never robbed a liquor store speaks well of me yet does not deliver me from my sins and the consequences thereof; it does, however, testify to what Lutheran theology calls civic righteousness.  Although I have the right to condemn the robbing of liquor stores, I have no become self-righteous and legalistic toward those who have.  They and I stand before God guilty of many sins.  All of us need to be penitent and to repent.  All of us need the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ.

I am no less prone to legalism than any other person is.  My inclination is to break down roadblocks to God, not to create or maintain them.  Nevertheless, I recognize the existence of certain categories and approve of them.  This is healthy to an extent.  But what if some of my categories are false? This is a thought I must ponder if I am to be a faithful Christian.  Am I marginalizing people God calls insiders?  Are you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ABRAHAM RITTER, U.S. MORAVIAN MERCHANT, HISTORIAN, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRTIER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND ECONOMIST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-year-d/

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Humility Before God   1 comment

Age of Innocence

Above:   The Age of Innocence, by Joshua Reynolds

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 28:3-10 (Friday)

Proverbs 28:11-28 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 9:43b-48 (Saturday)

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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He who covers up his faults will not succeed;

He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy.

–Proverbs 28:13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Winston Churchill (the British Prime Minister, not the American novelist) was openly critical of his successor and predecessor, Clement Attlee.  Attlee, Churchill said, was a humble man who had many reasons to be humble.

Each of us in the human race has many reasons to be humble.  We cannot save ourselves from our sinfulness (Ephesians 2), and, in the Kingdom of God, a powerless child is the model to emulate (Luke 9).  All of this is consistent with the Law of Moses, in which we mere mortals depend on God for everything and also on the labor of our fellow human beings.  We depend on God directly and indirectly, and rugged individualism has no place in the divine order.  In God’s order there is no room for hubris or the illusion of self-sufficiency.  No, we must come to God as a helpless child and receive each other in the same manner.

That, in my setting, is a counter-cultural message.  It is one with which I have struggled, for culture and society exert powerful influences on one’s opinions.  Nevertheless, I have, thankfully, arrived at the point of embracing the truth of this counter-cultural teaching.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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“Received Wisdom”   1 comment

Job Speaks with His Friends Dore

Above:  Job Speaks With His Friends, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.

In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us,

and defend us from everything that is evil,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 18:1-21 (Monday)

Job 19:1-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 64 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Monday)

Ephesians 2:11-22 (Tuesday)

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They sharpen their tongues like a sword,

aim their arrows of poisonous abuse,

shoot at the innocent from cover,

shoot suddenly, with nothing to fear.

–Psalm 64:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Blaming victims is among the oldest of human practices.  Consider the Book of Job, O reader.  Chapters 1 and 2 explain why the eponymous character suffers; God allows it.  Job is upright; he suffers not because of any sins he has committed but because he has become a pawn in a heavenly wager.  Job protests repeatedly that he is innocent.  Bildad the Shuhite, however, will hear nothing of it.  The righteous flourish and the wicked suffer, according to Bildad.  This does not lift Job’s spirits, of course.

Sometimes “received wisdom” is actually foolishness.  The example of Jesus of Nazareth belies the theology of Bildad the Shuhite, a system of thought which has staying power, unfortunately.  Sometimes innocent and righteous people suffer, even die unjustly.  Jesus was not only innocent but the most righteous person ever, and he died unjustly.

I wonder how much “received wisdom” we assume to be valid and true is actually invalid and false.  I also wonder how often we, acting on that erroneous assumption, harm others when we should help them.  May God show us the errors of our ways and forgive us for them.  And may we, by grace, succeed in changing them so that we will become agents of divine healing, comfort, and reconciliation for all who need them and whose paths cross ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUPHRASIA OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-7-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, Challenging   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Visitation

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 4:1-5 (December 22)

Micah 4:6-8 (December 23)

Luke 1:46b-55 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:22-22 (December 22)

2 Peter 1:16-21 (December 23)

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And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord

and my spirit exults in God my savior;

because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.

Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,

for the Almighty has done great things for me.

Holy is his name,

and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.

He has shown the power of his arm,

he has routed the proud of heart.

He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.

He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy

–according to the promise he made to our ancestors–

of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.

–Luke 1:46-55, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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One function of rhetoric regarding the fully realized Kingdom of God is to criticize the errors of human social, economic, and political systems.  Exploitation of people, often via the artificial scarcity of wealth, has been a serious problem for a long time.  Many of the hardest working people are among the poorest, for many economic systems are rigged to benefit a relative few people, not the masses, and therefore the society as a whole.  Violence is among the leading causes of poverty and hunger, corruption frustrates poverty and creates more of it, and labeling groups of people “outsiders” wrongly for the benefit of the self-appointed “insiders” harms not just the “outsiders” but all members of society.  Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  As even many antebellum defenders of race-based chattel slavery in the United States of America admitted, keeping a large population “in their place,” that is subservient to Whites, held back Whites and the entire society also.  After all, if keeping a large population “in their place” was to be a reality, who was going to keep them there without forgoing other tasks?  In human brotherhood free people could have advanced together, but slavery delayed the society in which it existed.

In Christ, we read in Ephesians 2, we are:

no longer strangers and aliens, but…citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord….

–Verses 19-21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

2 Peter 1 reminds us “cleverly concocted tales” to quote The Revised English Bible (1989), form the basis of the declaration of the majesty and power of Jesus.  The oral tradition, which informs many canonical writings, has a flexible spine which preserves the core of stories yet permits variation in recall of minor details.  Nevertheless, the narrative retains its integrity, even if it contradicts itself about, for example, in whose house a woman anointed Jesus.  So, without committing the error of biblical literalism, I affirm that something happened and that we can have at least an outline of what that was.

This is a devotion for December 22 and 23, two of the last three days of Advent.  This is a time when I complain about the inaccuracy of many manger scenes.  The shepherds, from the Gospel of Luke, were at Bethlehem.  The Magi, from the Gospel of Matthew, were at Nazareth a few years later.  What are they doing in the same visual representations?  Why have more Christians, churches, and artists not paid attention to these details?  Regarding those details I acknowledge that, even if all of them are not literally true, something still happened and we can have some reliable idea about what that was.  Via the Incarnation God broke into human history and started a new chapter in the grand narrative of salvation.  That is no “cleverly concocted tale.”

God, via Jesus and other means, seeks to reconcile us to God and to each other.  Part of this reconciliation is the correction of social injustices, the perpetuation of which provides certain benefits to many of us while harming us simultaneously.  In baby Jesus we have a reminder that God approaches us in a variety of ways, some of which we do not expect.  We might miss some of them because we are not looking for them.  Our functional fixedness is counterproductive.

God’s glorious refusal to fit into the proverbial boxes of our expectations challenges us to think and act anew.  May we rise to the challenge.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/devotion-for-december-22-and-23-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Defense Mechanisms   1 comment

Job Illustration

Above:  One of William Blake’s Illustrations Based on the Book of Job

Image Source = William Safire, The First Dissident:  The Book of Job in Today’s Politics (New York, NY:  Random House, 1992)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (Monday)

Job 5:8-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 77 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Monday)

1 Peter 3:8-18a (Tuesday)

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I think of God, I am restless,

I ponder, and my spirit faints.

You will not let my eyelids close;

I am troubled and I cannot speak….

Will the Lord cast me off for ever?

will he no more show his favor?

Has his loving-kindness come to an end for ever?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

has he, in his anger, withheld his compassion?

–Psalm 77:3-4, 7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Those verses from Psalm 77 remind me of Job.  The assigned readings from the Book of Job come from a speech by Eliphaz the Temanite, who mocks the titular character of the book while reciting a combination of pious platitudes and works-based theology of righteousness.  Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job deserves his fate, for a just deity would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  1 Peter 3:8-18a and Ephesians contradict Eliphaz.

The character of Eliphaz acted partially out of the defense of tradition.  Certainly tradition provides comfort in the form of predictability, but sometimes it is wrong, as are many deeds people commit in defense of it.  Eliphaz should have obeyed the advice of 1 Peter 3:8 instead.  He should have been

full of brotherly affection, kindly and humbly.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

It is better to be compassionate than to be correct in one’s opinion.  To behave correctly is superior to acting badly in defense of one’s theological orthodoxy.  This is a devotion for the season of Lent, a time of repentance and of confession of sin.  May we confess and repent of our defense mechanisms which inflict harm on others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Passed Torch   1 comment

elisha-eliseus

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

through 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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-12 (41st Day)

2 Kings 2:13-15 (42nd Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Ephesians 2:1-7 (41st Day)

John 8:21-30 (42nd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Kings 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/week-of-proper-6-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/proper-8-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-and-thirtieth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The account from 2 Kings 2:1-15 is a story of the passing of the torch from Elijah to Elisha.  The transfer of a double portion of the former’s spirit to the latter, per Deuteronomy 21:17, marked Elisha as having the status of an elder son, therefore Elijah’s legitimate successor.  And, as a careful reader of 2 Kings knows well, stories of Elisha’s mighty deeds abound.  Some of these stories resemble incidents from the Gospels, down to a feeding of a multitude (with little food available) and to restoring dead people to life.

Speaking of Jesus, his Ascension passed the torch to his Apostles, some of whose subsequent stories we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  And each Christian generation has passed the torch to the next one.

The task of serving God in a wide variety of circumstances is a challenge–one which we have grace to help us accomplish.  This grace liberates us from spiritual death and other obstacles to glorifying and enjoying God forever.  By grace we can do more  for God’s glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings than we can imagine.  By grace members of previous generations have challenged (and eventually) ended race-based chattel slavery, for example.  That multi-generational task was daunting, but that adjective describes many worthwhile efforts.  Fortunately, many other tasks from God play out within a shorter timeframe.

What, O reader, is God commanding and empowering you to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/devotion-for-the-forty-first-and-forty-second-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Raised to New Life in Christ   1 comment

paul_raiseth_eutychus_to_life

Above:  Paul Raiseth Eutychus to Life, 1728

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  through 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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:17-24 (29th Day)

2 Kings 4:18-37 (30th Day)

Psalm 143 (Both Days)

Acts 20:7-12 (29th Day)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (30th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 17:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/proper-5-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/devotion-for-august-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Kings 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-6-and-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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My spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

–Psalm 143:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to death and restoration to life.  Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead.  So did Elisha.  These deeds benefited the mothers in that society, making them less vulnerable economically.  Acts 20 tells us that St. Paul the Apostle, who probably spoke for too long into the night, restored young Eutychus, who had fallen asleep and fallen from a third-story window, to life.  Certainly the young man was important to his faith community.

The metaphor coexists with the literal fact in Ephesians 2:1-10.  Through Jesus, the text tells us, we who die in our trespasses find spiritual rebirth.  Although the Apostle does not say so in this passage, we then carry a mandate to bless others—to pass it on, to pay it forward.  We are responsible to and for each other.

May we act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-and-thirtieth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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