Archive for the ‘Galatians 1’ Category

The Sin of Favoritism   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

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:

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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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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Vindication and Faithfulness   1 comment

Brugghen,_Hendrick_ter_-_The_Calling_of_St._Matthew_-_1621

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Friday)

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Galatians 1:11-24 (Thursday)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/proper-28-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Samuel 9-10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/devotion-for-july-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Samuel 15-16:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/proper-6-year-b/

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-twelfth-and-thirteenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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One thing I have asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

to behold the fair beauty of then LORD,

to seek God in the temple.

–Psalm 27:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The readings for these three days tell of faithfulness to God, of faithlessness, and of vindication.  Along the way we read of two different Sauls.

Hannah was childless.  For this her husband’s other wife mocked her.  But Elkanah loved Hannah, his wife.   And God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, giving her the great prophet Samuel.  He, following divine instructions, anointed two kings of Israel–Saul and David, both of whom went their own sinful ways.  Yet Saul, no less troublesome a figure than David, faced divine rejection.  Saul’s attempts at vindication–some of them violent–backfired on him.

Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul the Apostle, had to overcome his past as a persecutor of the nascent Christian movement as well as strong opposition to his embrace of the new faith and to his mission to Gentiles.  Fortunately, he succeeded, changing the course of events.

And Jesus, who dined with notorious sinners, brought many of them to repentance.  He, unlike others, who shunned them, recognized the great potential within these marginalized figures.  For this generosity of spirit our Lord and Savior had to provide a defense to certain respectable religious authorities.

Sometimes our quests for vindication are self-serving, bringing benefit only to ourselves.  Yet, on other occasions, we have legitimate grounds for vindication.  When we are in the right those who cause the perceived need for vindication–for whatever reason they do so–ought to apologize instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALLAN CRITE, ARTIST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOTT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Human Weaknesses, the Kingdom of God, and Kudzu   1 comment

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Above:  An Abandoned Barn Overwhelmed by Kudzu, 1980

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011635740/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-17546

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 22:15-25 (Thursday)

Genesis 27:30-38 (Friday)

Psalm 40:1-11 (both days)

Galatians 1:6-12 (Thursday)

Acts 1:1-5 (Friday)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 27:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/devotion-for-the-fifteenth-and-sixteenth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/proper-4-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

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Blessed are those who have put their trust in the Lord:

who have not turned to the proud,

or to those who stray after false gods.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Shebna was a high-ranking official in the court of the King of Judah.  This royal steward, according to Isaiah, was unworthy of the position he held and of the elaborate tomb he had had built for himself.  The prophet predicted Shebna’s demotion and the promotion of Eliakim to the post of steward.  As the notes on page 826 of The Jewish Study Bible tell me, Isaiah 36:3; Isaiah 37:2; and 2 Kings 18:18 refer to Eliakim as royal steward.  Isaiah also predicted the downfall of Eliakim, who was also vulnerable to human weaknesses and failings.

Human weaknesses and failings were on full display in Genesis 27:30-38.  Certainly Rebecca and Jacob did not emerge from the story pristine in reputation.  And St. Paul the Apostle, a great man of history and of Christianity, struggled with his ego.  He knew many of his weaknesses and failings well.

Fortunately, the success of God’s work on the planet does not depend upon we mere mortals.  Yes, it is better if we cooperate with God, but the Kingdom of God, in one of our Lord and Savior’s parables, is like a mustard tree–a large, generally pesky weed which spreads where it will.  Whenever I ponder that parable I think about the kudzu just an short drive from my home.  The Kingdom of God is like kudzu.  The divine message of Jesus is like kudzu.  I take comfort in that.

Yet we humans, despite our weaknesses and failings, can cooperate with God.  It is better that way.  It is better for us, certainly.  And it is better for those whom God will reach through us.  The transforming experience of cooperating with God will prove worth whatever price it costs us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-thursday-and-fridaybefore-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Judges and Galatians, Part I: Divine Glory and Human Scandal   1 comment

gideons-fountain-ii

Above:  Gideon’s Fountain

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004001169/PP/)

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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:

Judges 7:1-23

Psalm 86 (Morning)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening)

Galatians 1:1-24

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Some Related Posts:

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/proper-4-year-c/

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

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The story in Judges 7 is a narrative about a coward (Gideon) leading an army of cowards (water lappers).  So the victory belonged unmistakably to God.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary of 2006 skips away from Acts for a few days.  The logic is impeccable, for Acts 15 and Galatians 2 contain slightly different accounts of the Council of Jerusalem.  But I get ahead of myself.  All glory goes to God in Galatians 1, for Paul inspires people to glorify God.  Paul had, after all, been a zealous persecutor of Christians.

God works in mysterious ways, including a seemingly unlikely convert and an army or cowards.  The first will be last and the last will be first.  The servant of all is the greatest in the Kingdom of God.  Some prostitutes will enter Heaven ahead of some respected religious figures.  Second sons inherit the privileges of the firstborn.  God works in mysterious ways; dare we embrace the scandal?  Or are we wedded to our hierarchies and ordered senses of how the world should work that we reject such divine and mysterious ways?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted May 3, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Galatians 1, Judges, Psalm 19, Psalm 6, Psalm 86

Tagged with ,

God, Who Surprises Us and Crosses Barriers   2 comments

a-light-to-lighten-the-gentiles

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window for Bogart Community Church in Bogota, New Jersey, with a Text, “A Light to Lighten the Gentiles,” Showing the Presentation in the Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006001665/)

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24) and Psalm 146

or 

1 Kings 17:17-24 and Psalm 30

then 

Galatians 1:11-24

Luke 7:11-17

The Collect:

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; 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 5, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

Proper 5, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/proper-5-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

1 Kings 17:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-1/

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Widows were among the most vulnerable members of society in biblical times.  So the sons raised from the dead in 1 Kings 17 and Luke 7 were crucial because they were males.  Each son had to support his mother financially and protect her from other threats.

I detect another thread in the assigned readings.  Elijah received help from a widow at Zarephath, in Gentile territory.  She was quite poor yet God provided for the widow, her son, and the prophet. Then the prophet raised her son from the dead.  And Paul was the great Apostle to Gentiles.  Who would have expected someone with his background to accept that mission?  In modern parlance, he had been more Catholic than the Pope, so to speak.  God is full of wonderful surprises.

And we play parts in many of those surprises.  Dare we obey God’s call on our lives to become willing instruments of blessing upon others?  Will that call send us into what (for us) is Gentile territory?  If we define ourselves as this and others as that, what will such assignments mean for our identity?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Posted April 15, 2013 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 17, Galatians 1, Luke 7, Psalm 146, Psalm 30

Tagged with

Divine Inclusion and Human Exclusion   1 comment

roman-centurion-window

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained Glass for Memorial Window with Centurion for Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, North Carolina

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006001020/)

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29), 30-39 and Psalm 96

or 

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 and Psalm 96:1-9

then 

Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 4, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Proper 4, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

1 Kings 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

1 Kings 18:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-2/

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A summary of the readings follows:  There is only one God, from whom people (including Elijah and Paul) have received revelations.  The message of God is for all people, who are supposed to revere the deity.  And sometimes one finds deep faith in unexpected quarters.

That last statement, a reference to the Gospel reading, appeals to me on one level and humbles me on another.  I have spent much of my life feeling like a heretic in the Bible Belt.  (I AM A HERETIC IN THE BIBLE BELT.)  Sometimes even Episcopal Church congregations–where I, one who enjoys asking probing questions, exploring possibilities, and becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, should find a safe haven–have not always provided safe havens. And so I have been as the Roman centurion–a goy one way another.  Yet God accepts me, however heretical I might be.

Nevertheless I also find a reason for caution and humility.  Which populations do I mark unjustly (without knowing that I am doing this unjustly) as beyond the pale theologically?  Whom do I mistake as a member of a den of heretics?  I am clearly not a Universalist; there are theological lines which  God has established.  There is truth–revealed truth–and many people occupy the wrong side of it.  But do I know where those lines are?  How much do I really know, and how much do I just think I know?  And who will surprise me by being present in Heaven?

I tell myself to mind my own business, to be the best and most conscientious person I can be.  I tell myself to practice compassion and to leave judgment to God.  Sometimes I do.  And I know better the rest of the time.  Thus, aware of this failing of mine, I read Luke 7:1-10 with humility.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2012 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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