Archive for the ‘Ephesians 2’ Category

Intelligence and Understanding   Leave a comment

Above:  Head of Job, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by thy Holy Spirit,

that being made ever mindful of the end of all things,

and the day of just judgment,

we may be stirred up to holiness of living here,

and dwell with thee forever hereafter;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 233

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Job 28

Psalm 119:161-176

Ephesians 2:1-10

Matthew 12:38-50

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Which literary (not historical) character speaks in Job 28?  Scholarly sources disagree.  The two candidates are Job and that idiot, Elihu.  Job 28 does not flow stylistically from Job 27, in which Job is the speaker.  The Elihu cycle is Job 32-37, of course, but Job 28 may consist of material that belongs there.  If Elihu is the speaker (as the notes in The Jewish Study Bible insist), this text proves the adage that a broken clock is right twice a day.

And [God] said to man,

“Wisdom?  It is fear of the Lord.

Understanding?–avoidance of evil.”

–Job 28:28, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

To put it another way,

Then [God] said to human beings,

“Wisdom?–that is fear of the Lord;

Intelligence?–avoidance of evil.”

–Job 28:28, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“Fear of the Lord” is a terrible and common translation.  “Fear” should be “awe.”

More interesting, though, is “intelligence” for “understanding” in The New Jerusalem Bible.  “Understanding” is the standard translation in English.  On the other hand, Nouvelle Version Segond Revisée (1976) renders Job 28:28 as:

Puis il dit à l’homme:

Voici la crainte du Seigneur, c’est la sagesse;

S’ecarter du mal, c’est l’intelligence.

We read in Psalm 119:174-176:

I long for your salvation, Yahweh,

And your law is my delight.

Long live my soul to praise you,

and let your ordinances help me.

If I should stray like a lost sheep,

seek your servant,

For I have not forgotten your commandments.

Mitchell J. Dahood, S.J.

If we love God, we keep divine commandments.  If we love God, we do not ask for signs, faithlessly.  If we love God, we love one another, bearers of the image of God.  If we love God, we return to God after having sinned.  If we love God, we try to avoid evil.  If we love God, we embrace divine mercy for ourselves and all other recipients of it.  If we love God, we accept the present of salvation and the demands that gift makes on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.  If we love God, we stand in awe of God and act intelligently, with understanding, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

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Faithful Attitudes   Leave a comment

Above: The Uninvited Wedding Guest, by Vincent Malo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-19

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 22:1-14

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The destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. seems to have influenced the telling of the parable in Matthew 22:1-14.  The  allegory, told from the perspective of marginalized Jewish Christians, is plain:  The judgment of God will fall not only on those who reject Jesus, but on elements of the Christian movement, too.

Before I proceed to other texts, I note that we Gentiles need to be careful not to commit anti-Semitism, whether consciously or otherwise.  The language of invective is always dangerous.  It makes sense, in historical context, circa 85 C.E., within the Jewish faith–the context for the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  One can understand this example of invective in context without giving into it.  Besides, as we read in Ephesians, such divisions are supposed to end in Christ, crucified and resurrected.

So why do we insist on rebuilding those walls of division?

The unifying theme is the balance of judgment and mercy in God.  If one is an honest monotheist, one must affirm that God both afflicts and restores, and judges and forgives.  This theme is most prominent in Lamentations 3, in the voice of a man, the personification of exiles during the Babylonian Exile.  How can one affirm both that God has led people into exile and that those exiles should trust in God, whose mercies are not exhausted?

If you, O reader, expect a pat and easy answer from me, I disappoint you.  If, however, you expect an honest answer in which I admit to struggling with the question I have asked, I do not disappoint you.  Easy answers are for easy questions, and pat answers are probably never appropriate.  The life of faith is not about false certainty.  Much of the life of faith consists of admitting to doubts and to ignorance, and of following and trusting in God.

I distrust any theological system or approach that claims to have more correct answers than it does and that discourages honest questions.  Faith is not about having few or no questions and doubts; it is about struggling with them and working through them with God.

Lord, I don’t understand x, y, and z.  Perhaps I never will.  If so, so be it.  I still seek to follow you.

That is a faithful attitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES AND ENLIGHTENER OF NORTH AMERICA

THE FEAST OF CORDELIA COX, U.S. LUTHERAN SOCIAL WORKER, EDUCATOR, AND RESETTLER OF REFUGEES

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WRIGHT BUCKHAM, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA ALVAREZ MENDOZA, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

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God’s Ways and Thoughts   2 comments

Above:  The Exorcism at the Synagogue in Capernaum

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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2 Chronicles 21:5-20 or Joshua 4:19-5:12

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Ephesians 2:1, 11-22

Luke 4:31-44

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We human beings like barriers, literal and metaphorical.  We like walls, categories, and other ways of establishing who is an outsider and who is an insider.  Usually, of course, we define “insider” to mean “like ourselves.”

God’s categories are not ours.  God’s ways and thoughts differ from our ways and thoughts.  We may seek to keep blessings for ourselves and those similar to ourselves, but we err in doing so.  We will still suffer if we are faithful to God; I should not have to write that.  Yet even when we suffer because of faithlessness, we do not suffer in the absence of God.

In my individualistic culture, collective suffering is frequently a difficult topic.  In 2 Chronicles 21 we read of a kingdom (innocent subjects) suffering because of royal decisions and actions.  Fewer kings populate the Earth in 2020, but the principle that a leader’s decisions and actions have consequences for many other people remains relevant.  It seems unfair.  It may be unfair.  Yet it is reality, the way of the world.

God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts.  If our ways and thoughts were more similar to those of God, the world would be a much better place.  We can, at least, marvel at God and admit how far we fall from that high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part XII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who hast called us each by name and brought us thy salvation:

give us grace to welcome thee and, in all our affairs,

to deal justly with our brothers, in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Deuteronomy 29:1-15

Ephesians 2:11-22

John 15:18-27

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God is like what God has done and does, in Jewish thought.  Divine deeds reveal divine nature.  Patterns evident in divine deeds are apparent to the observant.  One of these patterns is establishing covenants, examples of grace that require faithful responses.

These faithful responses may put us in danger sometimes.  If so, we ought to recall that a servant is not greater than his or her master, Christ crucified and resurrected.  Grace is free, not cheap.  If faithful responses do not place us in danger, they still entail making certain changes in attitudes and actions.  Moral perfection is impossible, but improvement is mandatory.

A possibly disturbing spiritual course of action, O reader, is to ask oneself,

Given that I am like what I do, what am I like?

The answer to that question should precede continual repentance and amendment of life.  Fortunately, grace is freely and plentifully available to help us do just that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

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 HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Posted December 6, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Deuteronomy 29, Ephesians 2, John 15

Tagged with ,

A Light to the Nations VI   Leave a comment

Above:  Pottery Oil Lamp

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12216

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord, you see that all hearts are empty unless you fill them,

and that all desires are balked unless they crave for you.

Give us light and grace to seek and find you, that you may be ours forever.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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Isaiah 49:8-13

Psalm 10

Ephesians 2:11-18

Matthew 5:14-20

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These readings mesh especially well.  They also return to the familiar theme of being a light to the nations.

Psalm 10 asks why God stands at a distance while, as the New American Bible states the matter,

Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor;

they trap them by their cunning schemes.

–Verse 2

This is a timeless question.  Today, as in Psalm 10, the wicked crouch and lurk (figuratively, of course), with the purpose of ambushing and trapping the poor.  The reference to that pose is a literary allusion to Genesis 4:7, in which sin crouches and lurks at the door.  The author of Psalm 10 concludes on a note of confidence in God, but one might wonder how sincerely.  One could just as well speak the last several verses sarcastically; that would fit well with the rest of the psalm.

Isaiah 49:8-13, set in the context of the return from the Babylonian Exile, seems to answer the author of Psalm 10.  Gentile monarchs and nobles will revere God, who has taken back His afflicted ones in love.  God will act and keep faith, or hesed, with the afflicted.  God will be the light that attracts Gentiles to Himself.  Therefore, as in Ephesians 2, in Christ artificial barriers, such as those that separate Jews from Gentiles, cease to exist.  As we know from scriptures I have covered in previous posts in this series, Jews and faithful Gentiles are the Chosen People together.

That is so, but this reality does not change the fact that many people who consider themselves faithful prefer to preserve categories that Jesus erases.  My best guess is that these individuals labor under the incorrect impression of what divinely approved categories are and what merely human categories are.  Each of us who call ourselves faithful are guilty of this offense to some degree.

As Matthew 5:14-20 reminds us, we are the light of the world.  Yet many of us hide or misdirect our light.  We have an obligation to shed the light on God, for the sake of divine glory.  We ought to be the polar opposite of the oppressors in Psalm 10.  They boast in their greed and deny that, if God exists, He does not care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53 about that point.)  They seem to be amoral.  They shine their light on themselves, to their glory, such as it is.

God does care–quite deeply, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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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, Part IV   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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Posted December 11, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 2, Job 4-12, Psalm 77

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