Archive for the ‘Galatians 4’ Category

Jesus and Empires   Leave a comment

Above:  Annunciation to the Shepherds, by Anonymous

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, First Service, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Glory be to thee, O God in the highest, who by the birth of thy beloved Son

has made him to be for us both Word and Sacrament:

grant that we may hear thy Word, receive thy grace,

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 40:25-31

Galatians 4:1-7

Luke 2:1-14

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Luke 2 presents the honest, objective reviewer of history and the Gospel of Luke with a text full of factual holes yet profound truth and timeless meaning.  We cannot possibly line up all the historical details–the census and all those officeholders–at the same period in the past.

There never was a census of the whole Empire under Augustus (but a number of local censuses, and the census of Judea (not of Galilee) under Quirinius, the governor of Syria, took place in AD 6, probably at least ten years too late for the birth of Jesus.

–Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1997), 233

The text of Luke 2:1-14, although factually inaccurate, is theologically true.

As Brown pointed out, the author of the Gospel of Luke, by linking the birth of Jesus to an imperial decree, introduced a divine plan that reached its culmination in Acts 28, when St. Paul the Apostle proclaimed the Gospel in Rome.  The song of the angels was for Jesus, not Augustus.  It constituted an imperial proclamation of a sort, too.

Code:  Jesus is more important than Augustus and his successors even were.

In Isaiah 40:27 exiles lament:

“My way is hid from the LORD,

my cause is ignored by God.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

It is an understandable way of thinking.  It is also one of the following verses refute.

One meaning of the Incarnation is that God does not ignore we human beings.  In contrast, God loves us enough to become one of us, alive among us, and save us.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Sonship and Fatherhood   1 comment

Above:  The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, by William Holman Hunt

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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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147

Galatians 4:4-7

Luke 2:41-52

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The Reverend George Washington Barrett (d. 1956), a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as well as one of my great-grandfathers, preached in the early years of the twentieth century that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  That analysis would have shocked the author of the Gospel of Matthew, who understood Jesus to have been a thoroughly Jewish figure whose life story echoed the history of Israel.  In that Gospel, with its prominent contrast between Heaven and Earth, the young Jesus’s identification of God as his (heavenly) Father while St. Joseph, the man who raised the Messiah, was alive, brought up issues of types of fatherhood.

By faith and grace we are sons of God–members of the divine household.  For the purpose of inclusion, a cause near and dear to my generally liberal heart, certain contemporary translations render the Greek word for “sons” as “children.”  In so doing they lose the connection between the Son of God (4:4) as well as the “Spirit of his Son” (4:6) and each of us as a son of God by God’s actions (4:7), a case St. Paul the Apostle made in a culture in which only sons inherited.  The gendered, seemingly exclusive language is actually inclusive, and the modernized, inclusive, neutered language sacrifices literary and theological subleties.  I know a New Testament scholar who favors translating “sons” as “sons and daughters” rather than “children” for modern readers.  He concedes that doing so sacrifices some meaning while stating that all modern translations sacrifice some meaning.  I favor a translation that sacrifices as little meaning as possible and abhors superficial inclusiveness that makes us feel good and accomplishes little else.

We are, anyway, heirs of God, by faith and grace.  We, the “sons of God,” are not exclusively male or Jewish; we come from many categories, but all of us are in God.  This is wonderful news!  The love of God, although unconditional, imposes the duty of faithful response on its recipients, not all of whom obey.

We can ever repay God, but at least we can be grateful.  The metaphor of God as Father is a wonderful one.  Yes, maternal images for God exist in the Bible, but the paternal ones are on my mind as I write this post, based partially on texts that use the word “father.”  When human fathers disown their children, abuse them, et cetera, the metaphor of God as Father emphasizes the contrast between God and such sub par human fathers.  One might think of St. Joseph, certainly a fine father (He did raise Jesus), but even he had human failings.  As fine a father (as in the man who raises a child) St. Joseph was, we are supposed to understand, God is better.  God is perfect.  God adopts us.  God cares deeply about us.

Do we care deeply about God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

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

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Universal Offer of Salvation   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Life of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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In Numbers 6:22-27 the Aaronic Benediction was for Israelites only.  In Galatians 3 and 4, St. Paul the Apostle, writing in large letters, with his own hand (6:11-12), argued that, by faith, in Christ, the Son of God, anyone, even if not male, free, or Jewish, became a son of God, an adopted member of the household of God, and therefore an heir.  (Only sons inherited in St. Paul’s time and place.)  The blessing was as close to universal as possible, St. Paul argued, given that many rejected the offer.

The love of God is universal; salvation is not.  Grace, although free to us, is certainly not cheap, for it demands much of us.  The family of Jesus provides a good example; Sts. Joseph and Mary, we read, were observant Jews.  On the eighth day, in accordance with Leviticus 12:3, they took Jesus for his bris, we read.  (Interestingly, Leviticus 12:3 mandates the circumcision of a boy on the eighth day, with no exception for the Sabbath, although Leviticus 16:31 and 23:3 state that the Sabbath should be a day of complete rest.  Sometimes the language in the Law of Moses states principles and not the exceptions as plainly as some readers might wish.)

The Holy Name of Our Lord and Savior means

YHWH saves

or

YHWH is salvation.

Philippians 2 reminds us that the price of that salvation was the self-sacrifice of Jesus–death on a cross–followed by resurrection, of course.  The cross is the background of much of the content of the canonical Gospels until it moves into the foreground.  Christ crucified, at the center of St. Paul’s theology, is essential to Christianity.  If the message of Christ crucified depresses us or otherwise makes us uncomfortable, that is a matter we should take to God in prayer.

The Holy Name of Jesus calls us to each of us to take up a cross and follow him, if we dare.  Do we dare?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

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

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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

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Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation:

Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world,

our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and

the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 151

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Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 147 (at least verses 13-21)

Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 2:15-21

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-the-holy-name-of-jesus-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Scandal of Grace I: Christmas   1 comment

Above:  Angels Announcing Christ’s Birth to the Shepherds, by Govert Flinck

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR CHRISTMAS DAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ.

Grant that we may joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,

so we may with sure confidence behold him when comes to be our judge,

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

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 76

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Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1, 5-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 5

Galatians 4:1-7

Luke 2:1-20

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The setting of Luke 2 is troublesome within itself.  There was no such imperial census, we know from historical records, but there was a regional census in Judea (not in the Galilee) in 6 and 7 C.E., written records tell us.  Father Raymond E. Brown, in his magisterial Introduction to the New Testament, states that Luke’s account gets historical details wrong.  Brown also argues that Luke-Acts speaks of a divine plan set inside the Roman Empire.  The text of Luke-Acts contextualizes the birth of Jesus in the reign of the Emperor Augustus (Luke 2) and concludes with the arrival of St. Paul the Apostle in Rome (Acts 28).  Brown writes of the song of the angels to the shepherds.  That song, he insists, is similar to an imperial proclamation in an empire that labeled Augustus the savior of the world.  The point is plain:  Christ is greater than Augustus.

In Psalm 5 the beleaguered author (allegedly David) seeks divine deliverance from his enemies.  He, referring to the Temple, writes,

But I can enter your house

because of your great love.

–Verse 8a, The New American Bible

In Christ we have the Temple in the flesh.  This is the Temple that became flesh out of great love.

The reading from Isaiah 9 is a description of the ideal Davidic king.  One probably thinks most intensely about the ideal ruler when one’s ruler falls far short of the ideal and does not try to live up to that ideal.  Otherwise one might extol the virtues of one’s ruler instead.  In this case the ideal Davidic king, according to the standard, traditional English-language translations is, as The New Revised Standard Version (1989) states:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

–Verse 6c

Perhaps the familiar language obscures the meaning of the Hebrew text.  Consider then, O reader, the translation from TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

The Mighty God is planning grace;

The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.

–Verse 5c

This version cuts to the chase nicely; God is planning grace.  We find another example of that grace in Galatians 3 and 4.  At the end of Galatians 3 we read in a glorious and duly famous passage that, through Jesus, Gentile believers join the ranks of Jews as “sons of God,” a term that indicates being the Chosen People, as in Deuteronomy 14:1-2.  With grace, such as that which makes people “sons of God,” also comes responsibility to shed the light of God brightly.  That is fair.  Grace is free yet certainly not cheap, for it requires much of its recipients.  That is fair.

Traditional categories, such as Jews, Greeks, slaves, free people, males, and females do not divide “sons of God,” all of whom are heirs of God.  That is wonderful news!  Why, then, do so many of us maintain, magnify, and create categories for the purpose of defining ourselves as the in-crowd and other “sons of God” as outsiders?  All who do so demonstrate that they prefer psychological comfort to the scandal of grace.

Grace is scandalous.  By means of it we receive more than we deserve; so do people we dislike strongly.  We, like the author of Psalm 5, want better than we deserve yet desire the worst for our foes.  By means of grace a defenseless newborn boy is greater than Augustus Caesar.  Much is possible via grace.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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The Sin of Not Loving   1 comment

st-augustine

Above:  Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

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 54:1-17 or 37:14-38

Psalm 39

John 8:12-30

James 4:(1-3) 4-6 (7-8a) 8b-17 or Galatians 4:1-3 (4-7) 8-3, 5:1

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Love, and do what you will:  whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare; let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

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The more familiar version of that excerpt from a sermon is:

Love God and do as you please:  for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

One might identify a plethora of scriptural verses consistent with this nugget of wisdom from St. Augustine.  The reading from James comes to mind immediately.  In the background of St. Augustine’s counsel is the fidelity of God (evident in the readings from Isaiah).  Yes, we will not escape all the consequences of our sins, but, for the Hebrews in the Old Testament, divine mercy follows God’s judgment.  We are free in Christ to follow him.  Nevertheless, many choose the yoke of slavery to sin.  Maybe they prefer that which is familiar or seemingly easier.  After all, grace, although free, is never cheap; it costs us something.  Yet following Christ is the way of ultimate life, in this realm of existence as well as in the next one.

I like the advice from St. Augustine, for it cuts through legalism (as Jesus did, to the ire of certain religious people) and offers a concise path, one more different from legalism.  Legalism leans toward a checklist morality, which is shallow and typical, for example, of the alleged friends of Job.  Loving God (and, by extension, our fellow human beings) is about relationships.  The Holy Trinity itself is about, among other things, relationships.  We human beings are, by nature, relational.  We are, according to divine law, responsible to and for each other in a web of interdependence.

Taking up one’s cross and following Christ requires one to surrender much, including one’s selfish desires and illusions of independence.  It requires one to grow into a mindset that will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.  In so doing it liberates one to do as one pleases–as one ought to wish to do.

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-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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A Consuming Fire, Part II   1 comment

Fire

Above:  Fire

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:22-10:11 (Thursday)

2 Kings 1:1-16 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 32:15-27, 39-43 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 13:5-10 (Thursday)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Friday)

Luke 9:21-27 (Saturday)

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To Yahweh I say, “You are my Lord,

my happiness is in none of the sacred spirits of the earth.”

–Psalm 16:2-3a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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St. Paul the Apostle was perplexed with the Galatian Church.  Many members of it had reverted to idolatry or to the Law of Moses, both of which he considered to be forms of spiritual slavery.  As he instructed the Corinthian Church, the proper course of action was to pass the test and remember that they carried Jesus Christ inside them.  In Christ, according to St. Paul, was liberation, although not to engage in negative activities, but to build up the faith community, and to pursue virtue (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).

The theme of rebelling against God unites these days’ readings.  Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, laid incense upon their fire pans in violation of divine instructions.  This constituted sacrilege and an attempt to control God.

Further, the sin of the two brothers was not simply that they went too far in their super-piety.  Rather, they acted in utter disregard for the deity.  God intended that the manifestation of His Presence would ignite the altar fire, marking His acceptance of His people’s devotion.  Their intent was for the divine fire to ignite their own pans; that is, they were attempting to arrogate control of the deity for themselves.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), page 216

Divine fire consumed the two priests.

Disregard for God was present in the population as a whole.  Idolatry and arrogance were difficult habits to break.  This was true in Biblical times, as in the days of Elisha.  It was true in the time that Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the earth.

It remains true today, for human nature is a constant factor.

God is a consuming fire.  Fire is a destructive force, reducing much to ashes.  Yet destruction is frequently part of a creative process, as in the renewal of ecosystems in forests.  Divine fire destroys the corrupt and idolatrous, and arrogant so that seeds of fidelity, justice, and humility may germinate.

Jesus faced a difficult decision, and he resolved to take up his cross.  His challenge to the Apostles to do likewise has applied to members of generations for nearly 2000 years.  Will we be faithful or will we seek the easy way out?  Will we turn away from the truth, or will we act as people with Jesus Christ in them?  Will we follow the fire of the Holy Spirit or will we risk the fire of divine punishment?

The choice is ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, JULIA ANNE ELLIOTT, AND EMILY ELLIOTT, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPHREY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-8-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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