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Enemies and Repentance II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Ezekiel 33:10-16

Galatians 6:1-5

Matthew 13:24-30

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Do we really want sinners (other than ourselves, those similar to ourselves, and those we like) to repent–to turn around, to change their minds?  Or, do we want the others we despise to suffer?  According to Ezekiel 33 and Galatians 6, God wants all sinners to repent.  Not all will, unfortunately.  This is why I say that the damned condemn themselves, and that God sends nobody to Hell.

The Parable of the Weeds, I hear, is apparently better spiritual counsel than agricultural advice.  So be it, for the parable is spiritual counsel.  Lest we, in the quest to remove darnel, gather some wheat for burning instead, we need to leave that matter to God, who knows infinitely better than we do.  This parable does not negate any Biblical teachings about dealing with teachers of heresies; standards remain, after all.  We need to know our proper limits, though.  Speaking the truth is vital; so is doing so in love.

Maybe some of the darnel will repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS (SEPTEMBER 14)

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-holy-cross-september-14/

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This is post #1900 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Faithful Servants of God, Part XI   1 comment

Above:  Pole Gate, July 1978

Image Source = Library of Congress

Photographer = Suzi Jones

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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 12 or Ezekiel 36:22-36

Psalm 10:1, 14-20

Galatians 6:1-18

Matthew 7:1-14

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To sum up the matter:  fear God, and keep his commandments, since this is the whole duty of man.  For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, to judgment.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The author of Psalm 10’s query remains germane.  Why does God stand far off while the wicked hunt down the poor?  At least God does not always stand far off, although I also wonder about divine timing.

A major theme for this Sunday is how we treat each other.  God seems to care a great deal about that in the Bible.  We are supposed to build up one another, thereby creating an improved common good.  We actually benefit ourselves by putting others first.  This is part of “fearing”–actually, standing in awe of–God.

Selfishness is a difficult habit to break, unfortunately.  May we break it, by grace, and become the people and societies we are supposed to be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-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 Sin of Religious Violence   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

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 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-palm-sunday-year-d/

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God’s Social Contract   1 comment

090806-N-6220J-004 SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy's Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

090806-N-6220J-004
SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy’s Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

Above:  United States Navy Personnel Serving Breakfast in a Soup Kitchen, Salinas, California, 2009

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, United States Navy

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 32:11-17 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:1-4 (Friday)

Psalm 104:23-34, 35b (Both Days)

Galatians 5:16-26 (Thursday)

Galatians 6:7-10 (Friday)

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The portion of Psalm 104 speaks of divine generosity, as do the lections from Isaiah.  In Isaiah 32 and 44 God’s generosity follows the Judeans reaping what they have sown (to borrow a phrase from Galatians 6:7).  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

The social contract in the Law of Moses precludes exploitation and insensitivity to needs as it proclaims human interdependence as well as complete dependence upon God.  Yet the monarchies of Israel and Judah, scripture tells us, did not live up to that standard, among others in the Law of Moses.  I focus on the social contract because it segues nicely into the readings from Galatians, where we read to seek the common good (thus, for example, awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, which many people expected to be in the near future, did not constitute a valid excuse for laziness), not our selfish desires.  We are responsible for each other and to each other.  We are also responsible to God.  If we can avoid becoming a burden, we should do so, but we remain dependent upon God and our fellow human beings.  Likewise, one should not use the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude to justify the unjustifiable inaction of not providing appropriate help one can provide.  Attempting to identify the allegedly unworthy poor is inconsistent with Judeo-Christian ethics.

Even the hardest working person who plans well depends upon the labor of others and upon the grace of God.  Do we recognize this about ourselves as well as those near to us and far away from us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-pentecost-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part II   1 comment

Absalom Conspires Against David

Above:  Absalom Conspires Against David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 17:15-29

Psalm 34:1-8

Galatians 6:1-10

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Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exalt his Name together.

–Psalm 34:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That is easier to do when we bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joys.

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yes, as the passage continues, we read that each person has a responsibility to carry his or her own loads, but that statement exists in the context of mutual burden-bearing.  Some burdens are too great for one person to bear alone.  Personal responsibility and communal responsibility do not cancel each other out.

The story in 2 Samuel 17 illustrates those points well.  In the context of Absalom’s rebellion against King David, each person on the King’s side had a crucial part to play, but the effort was bigger than any one of them.  And, if some people had failed, others would have died.  Furthermore, David’s soldiers needed to eat properly, and the burden of feeding them required more than one person.

God has provided each of us with abilities we can use for the benefit of each other and for divine glory.  Often, however, someone or certain people must create the opportunities for others to develop those talents.  Likewise, one presented with such an opportunity has a responsibility to make the most of it.  When all goes well, many people benefit.  So I ask you, O reader, has God granted you the responsibility to help another person in such a way recently?  And has some agent of God aided you in some great way recently?  I suspect that the answer to both questions is “yes.”

The best principle for carrying one’s weight while helping others bear burdens comes from Acts 4:32-35:  giving as one is able and receiving as one has need.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/devotion-for-friday-before-proper-14-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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