Archive for the ‘Genesis 21’ Category

Hard of Hearing   1 comment

 

Above:  Cooks Union United Methodist Church, Miller County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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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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Genesis 21:1-19 or Zechariah 7:4-14

Psalm 144:1-4, 9-15

Revelation 21:1-8

John 15:18-25

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My father served as the pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, outside Colquitt, Georgia, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One of the parishioners was Don, an elderly man.  Don was hard of hearing.  He frequently missed much of the contents of my father’s sermons and misheard other parts of those sermons.  Don also missed much context, so, when we correctly heard what my father said, Don often misunderstood the meaning.  Don frequently became upset with my father, accusing my father of having said X when my father had said Y.  This was unfair, of course; my father had done nothing wrong.

Many people have been hard of hearing in matters pertaining to morality.  Many still are.  Morals need not be abstract.  How do we treat one another?  How do governments treat vulnerable people?  What kinds of policies do politicians support?  Living according to the Golden Rule is one way to earn the world’s enmity.

God is kinder to the vulnerable than many people and governments are.  The divine preference for the poor recurs throughout the Bible.  And economic injustice and judicial corruption frequently occur on lists of collective and individual sins, alongside idolatry, that God judges harshly.  Yet, to hear many ministers speak, one would know that the Biblical authors spilled more ink condemning economic injustice and judicial corruption than various sexual practices.

May we, by grace, not be hard of hearing in matters of the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LESSLIE NEWBIGIN, ENGLISH REFORMED MISSIONARY AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BATHILDAS, QUEEN OF FRANCE

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK OAKELEY, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GENESIUS I OF CLERMONT AND PRAEJECTUS OF CLERMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINT AMARIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JACQUES BUNOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/devotion-for-proper-26-year-d-humes/

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The Defeat of Arphaxad   Leave a comment

Above:  Arphaxad

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JUDITH

PART I

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Judith 1:1-16

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The Book of Judith is a novella, like the Books of Tobit and Esther.  This story exists in two parts.  Chapters 1-7 establish the crisis facing the Jews of Bethulia.  Chapters 8-16 contain the story of the titular character.  The Book of Judith, composed between 135 and 100 B.C.E., during or shortly after the reign (134-104 B.C.E.) of John Hyrcanus I (named in 1 Maccabees 13:53, 16:1-23), includes details and characters from five centuries, mixed and matched in odd combinations.  The Book of Judith also exists in four Greek recensions, four ancient translations, and a Hebrew translation from the Vulgate version.

The Book of Judith, although never in the Jewish canon of scripture, has canonical status in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.  Certain early Christian writings attest to the high esteem in which some saints held that text.  One can, for example, read St. Jerome (347-419), the great, frequently moody translator of the Vulgate, describing Judith as (1) a model widow, and (2) a type of the Church.  One can also read of St. Jerome describing St. Mary of Nazareth, the Mother and Bearer of God, as a new Judith.  One can also read St. Clement (I) of Rome, Bishop of Rome from 88/91 to 97/101, writing in his (First) Epistle to the Corinthians, cite Esther and Judith as examples of heroic love of their people.  

“Judith,” literally “Jewish woman,” echoes other Jewish women.  These include Jael (Judges 4), Deborah (Judges 4-5), and Sarah (Genesis 11, 12, 16-18, 20-22).

Now, for Judith 1:1-16….

Do not bother trying to keep track of historical dates, O reader; they are all over the chronology.  Likewise, the measurements of the wall of Ectabana are hyperbolic.  Who has ever seen a wall 105 feet high and 75 feet thick, with tower gates 150 feet high and 60 feet wide?

On the surface, this is a story about the warfare between King Arphaxad of the Medes and King Nebuchadnezzar II (allegedly of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but really of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire).  Chapter 1 ends with Jews in Samaria and Judah dreading the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar II for not supporting his campaign against Arphaxad.

A careful reader may know that King Nebuchadnezzar II governed from Babylon, not Nineveh.

Chapter 1 sets up the rest of the Book of Judith.  One theme is already evident.  That theme is whether one should be loyal to a tyrant.  The answer is “no.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILIP AND DANIEL BERRIGAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

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The Birth and Consecration of Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Before Eli

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART II

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1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

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I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

–Psalm 9:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Hannah’s culture, infertility was a curse and a source of humiliation for women.  Several Biblical authors wrote of formerly barren women, including Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mother of Samson, as well as Hannah.  (See Genesis 21:1-8; Genesis 25:19-26;l Genesis 30:1-2, 22-24); and Judges 13:2-3, also.)  In each case, the offspring entered the world with a divine purpose.  Samuel, in particular, provided moral guidance to his people.  Many people ignored him, but he continued to offer the moral advice.

Elkanah, despite being a kind man and a loving husband, seems to have been oblivious to the bad blood between Hannah and Peninnah.  He favored Hannah (“charming” or “attractive”) and had children with Peninnah (“fertile” or “prolific”).  The double portion of the sacrifice Elkanah gave to Hannah contrasted with the portions he gave to Peninnah, his sons, and his daughters with her.

Hannah was pious.  Her manner of prayer at Shiloh was unusual; moving one’s lips yet not speaking was a rare method of praying in that culture at the time.  The priest Eli mistook her desperation and her way of praying for intoxication.

Hannah asked.  God granted.  Hannah kept her word.

Grace is the foundation of this story.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it carries obligations.  Grace also transforms despair into thanksgiving and creates a better future out of a bleak present.

The Song of Hannah (2:1-10) is a later text.  It mentions a king in verse.  That reference to a monarch cannot be contemporary with Hannah, whose lifetime preceded the Israelite monarchy.  The themes fit her circumstances, though.  And, if the text reminds you, O reader, of another song, you may be thinking of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), modeled on the Song of Hannah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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A Faithful Response, Part XVIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast promised for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Genesis 21:1-13

Philippians 1:12-18

Luke 4:1-13

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We all benefit from grace in more ways than we know, even if we count our blessings conscientiously, daily.  Many blessings are so commonplace as to fade into the background of life.  Examples for many of us include reliable transportation, electrical service, and indoor plumbing.  For many, though, these are not ubiquitous.  Other blessings are so out of the ordinary as to attract attention readily.

Such generosity demands both gratitude and faithful response; grace is free, but not cheap.  Faithful response may cost one little much of the time, especially if one is obviously fortunate.  Yet, O reader, consider Jesus in Luke 4:1-13 and St. Paul the Apostle in Philippians 1:12-18.  At the time of testing, will one remain faithful?

Martyrs have swelled the ranks of Christian saints.  So have those who, without dying for the faith and God, have remained faithful in the context of daunting circumstances.  Jesus, of course, went to the cross, and St. Paul the Apostle died via beheading.

If they could do that, surely I can follow Christ day-by-day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 21, Luke 4, Philippians 1

Tagged with , ,

Passing or Failing Spiritual Tests   Leave a comment

Above:  Temptations of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who givest us our quiet seasons of thought and prayer:

help us now and at all times to find in thee our true peace.

Save us in the hour of trial, deliver us from evil thoughts and desires,

and from the tyranny of outward things.

May we learn of Christ to be strong and brave in the struggle with temptation,

and to over come even as he overcame.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120-121

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Genesis 22:1-8

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 4:1-11

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One’s sole basis of identity should be God, according to Henri J. M. Nouwen, writing in The Way of the Heart (1981).  That standard proves daunting for me, for my ego rests on several factors, including my intellect.

In Matthew 4 we read of the temptations of Jesus.  Analyses of the temptations, with slight variations, follow the same pattern.  Nouwen’s argument is that the temptations were, in order, were “the three great compulsions of the world”:  to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful.  The case according to M. Eugene Boring, writing in Volume VIII (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, follows:

  1. To fulfill messianic expectations and gain political power by feeding the masses,
  2. To demonstrate dramatically that he is the Son of God, and
  3. To serve Satan, to rule as the Roman Emperor did, and to accept and fit in with the status quo.

The case according to Douglas R. A. Hare (1993) is that the temptations were, in order, to distrust God, to dishonor God, and to commit idolatry.

I would be remiss if I chose not to quote the play, Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), set in the U.S. South.  In that paraphrase, Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into grits.  Jesus replies,

Man doesn’t live by grits alone, but on every word that drips from the lips of God.

–35

I experience no temptation to justify the actions of Abraham in Genesis 22.  My analysis differs from what one may have read and heard elsewhere:  God tested Abraham, and Abraham failed, for he should have argued from the beginning.

Abraham cared more about strangers, on whose behalf he haggled with God in Genesis 18, than he about his sons.  He exiled Ishmael in Genesis 21 and was prepared to kill Isaac in Genesis 22.  Arguing faithfully with God has long been part of Judaism and, by extension, Christianity.  Abraham, at the root of Judaism, had argued with God.  Why was he submissive at this crucial moment?  And how much did he damage his domestic relationships?

I have probably read every traditional rationalization of Genesis 22:1-19.  Not one has satisfied me.

One could write about more than one theme present in 2 Corinthians 6, but verse 3 stands out in my mind.  Erecting spiritual obstacles is a frequent human activity.  One might even mistake doing so for being properly devout.  Who is an outsider?  Who is an insider?  Our answers to those may be predictable, but God’s answers may shock us.  Also, we must trust in God if we are to grow spiritually, but do we really understand divine intentions at crucial moments?

One may wish for a clear–even spectacular–sign or signs.  Yet would we understand those, or would we find the signs distracting and miss the message?  Yes, we would, correct?

I ask God for no spectacular signs.  No, I need simply to pay attention to my surroundings.  As I type these words, the seasons are finally turning–from an abbreviated autumn to an early winter.  The splendor of autumn leaves, cold temperatures, and other wonders of nature satisfy many of my spiritual needs.

Trusting in God remains difficult for me much of the time, but doing so is at least less difficult than it used to be.  Grace accounts for that change.  I trust more progress will ensue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Nature and Human Nature   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who knowest us to be in the midst of many dangers, that we cannot always stand upright;

grant to us such strength and protection that we may be supported in all difficulty,

and our feet be set against temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Genesis 18:22-33

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Matthew 8:23-27

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The story of Abraham haggling with God for the lives of complete strangers in Genesis 18 impresses me.  It also causes me to wonder why he was so submissive to God’s demand in Genesis  21.  I can only guess how much psychological damage the sight of a father ready to kill his son (Isaac) caused to the son.

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

The warning against sexual immorality in general in prostitution in particular in 1 Corinthians 6 is part of a longer discourse about sexual morality in that epistle.  Prostitution is not, despite the common term, a victimless crime.  Readings in history reveal that many prostitute have been sexual slaves, for example.  Furthermore, everyone involved pays some sort of price, monetary or otherwise.  Readings in history also reveal that many women have become prostitutes as a last resort–to avoid starvation.  Any society that forces people into that dilemma commits sin against God and them.

In the case of 1 Corinthians, temple prostitution is a matter to consider.  When one realizes that, one comes to understand that clients were uniting themselves with a false, imaginary deity, as well as with a prostitute.  This understanding adds depth to one’s grasp of the language about unions and a temple in the passage.

The title of this post is “Nature and Human Nature.”  The “human nature” aspect is plain from what precedes this paragraph.  For the rest we must turn to Matthew 8, where we read of Jesus calming an aquatic storm.  To be fearful when one’s life is in danger is human nature.  Sexuality is why the human species continues, as well as a means of commerce.  Advertising confirms the end of the previous sentence.

But what about empathy?  It is part of human nature, too.  Nevertheless, so is the lack of concern for strangers and those different from us.  The dehumanization and demonization of the “other” is an old–and current–strategy in politics and warfare.

The Incarnation had much meaning.  Part of that meaning was God empathizing with us.  This empathy was evident in the life and ministry of Jesus, who established examples for those who came to call themselves Christians to follow.

God, who has mastery over nature, commands us to live up to the best of our human nature and to rise above the depths of our human nature, for the sake of divine glory, the benefit of others, and the living into our potential in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EASTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMAUS HELDER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIFF, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

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Legalism and Fidelity   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

FEBRUARY 18 and 19, 2016

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Looking Upon the Heart   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-04411

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 20:1-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 21:22-34 (Friday)

Genesis 23:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Romans 8:1-11 (Friday)

Luke 16:14-18 (Saturday)

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When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;

mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

You have made them little lower than the angels

and crown them with glory and honour.

–Psalm 8:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Genesis is honest about the vices and virtues of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham was a man who valued his relationship with God so much that he acted to the detriment of his family sometimes.  Sarah knew jealousy and acted accordingly.  Abraham, who preferred that people deal honestly with him, dealt dishonestly with others on occasion, telling lies.  These were not the

No, that dress does not make you look fat

variety of lies.  No, these were lies with negative consequences for people.  Yet Abraham and Sarah were instruments of divine grace in their time.  Their legacy has never ceased to exist.

Grace is radical and frequently disturbing.  It ignores human-created distinctions (as in the pericope from Galatians) and calls us to live according to a higher purpose.  We are free from the shackles we have accepted, those which others have imposed upon us, and those we have imposed upon ourselves.  We are free to love God and our fellow human beings as fully as possible, via grace.  We are free to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who taught us via words and deeds how to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I watched a sermon by Michael Curry, soon to become the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.  He spoke of an incident in the Gospels in which our Lord and Savior’s relatives, convinced that Jesus was crazy, sought to take him away and control him.  Seeking to control Jesus is what much of the Christian Church has sought to do for a long time, Curry stated accurately.  Our Lord and Savior was–and remains–beyond control, fortunately.  Yet elements of institutionalized Christianity have retained human-created distinctions (such as those St. Paul the Apostle listed in the pericope from Galatians) and have labeled doing so orthodoxy.  Fortunately, other elements of institutionalized Christianity have behaved properly in that regard.

Boundaries provide order, hence definition and psychological security.  Some of them are necessary and proper.  Other boundaries, however, exclude improperly, labeling members of the household of God as outsiders, unclean persons, et cetera.  Jesus, as the Gospels present him, defied social conventions and broke down boundaries relative to, among other factors, gender, ritual impurity, and economic status.  Erroneous distinctions regarding gender and economic status remain in societies, of course.  Many of us lack the concept of ritual impurity, but we have probably learned from our cultures or subcultures that certain types of people are somehow impure, that contact with them will defile us.  Often these are racial or ethnic distinctions.

The example of Jesus commands us to, among other things, lay aside erroneous standards of judging and to consider only the proverbial heart.  That is a difficult spiritual vocation, but it is a matter of obedience to God.  It is also possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-22-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Arguing Faithfully With God, Part II   1 comment

sacrifice-of-isaac-caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, 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:

Genesis 21:1-7 (Monday)

Genesis 22:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:8-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (Tuesday)

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For he remembered his holy word

and Abraham, his servant.

–Psalm 105:42, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The New Testament defines faith three ways, for that anthology is the product of more than one writer.  Faith, in the Pauline sense, is inherently active, hence justification by grace.  Yet, in the Letter of James, faith is intellectual, hence that book’s theology of justification by works.  Those two schools of thought affirm active faith, so they are two ways of making the same point.  Then there is faith according to Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faith, according to this definition, which overlaps with the Pauline meaning, keeps one going in the absence of evidence in support of or in contradiction to a proposition.

Abraham, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was an exemplar of that kind of faith.  As we have read in Genesis in this lectionary-based series of devotions, this was not always true.  (The author of Hebrews glossed over some content from Genesis.)  And I argue that, in Genesis 22, the patriarch failed the test of faith, for the faithful response was to argue.

Did I hear you correctly?  Do you want me kill my own son?  Have I not sacrificed Ishmael already by sending him away with Hagar?  What kind of God commands me to kill my son?

The near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham must have caused psychological damage to the son (how could it not?), for he became a passive, minor figure and the least of the patriarchs.

My favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  In Islam one is supposed to submit to God, but Jews get to confront the deity in good conscience.  This ethic is evident in the Psalms, with frequent complaints to God.  I recall, decades ago, reading a review of a translation of the Psalms.  The new translation avoided King James-style politeness, as in

Lord, I beseech thee,

preferring

Look, Yahweh.

The review, from a Christian magazine, was favorable.  I have kvetched to God with great honesty often.  Is not honesty essential to any healthy relationship?

Pondering the art of faithful arguing led me to remember an incident from the Gospels.  The four Gospels are wonderful texts, but they lack any description of tone of voice at some crucial points in the narratives.  Tone of voice, of course, can change the meaning of dialogue.  In Matthew 15, for example, Jesus was in Gentile country–the region of Tyre and Sidon.  There a Gentile woman begged our Lord and Savior to heal her daughter.  He replied,

It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

–15:26, The Revised English Bible (1989)

She answered,

True, sir, and yet the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.

–15:27, REB

Jesus replied,

What faith you have!  Let it be as you wish.

–15:28a, REB

The context if that story tells me that Jesus said what he did to prompt her to reply as she did.  She passed the test.  All she had to do was argue.  Isaac would have been better off had Abraham been as faithful as that Gentile woman.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Serving God and Each Other   1 comment

cmng_8361_2

Above:  Church of the Common Ground, Woodruff Park, Atlanta, Georgia, June 30, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://plus.google.com/photos/114749828757741527421/albums/5895768055006743249/5895768668837559218?banner=pwa&pid=5895768668837559218&oid=114749828757741527421)

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 17:15-22 (Monday)

Genesis 21:1-21 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (both days)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Genesis 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

1 Samuel 2:

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

Galatians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-14-15-and-16-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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Hannah’s Song from 1 Samuel 2, a partial basis for the Magnificat, is fitting to read during Advent and with these lections.  The birth of Isaac was a miracle, as was the birth of Samuel.  And we read an allegory of Isaac and Ishmael in Galatians.  The essence of the allegory is this:  In grace there is freedom, not slavery–freedom to serve God.

Among the underlying principles of the Law of Moses was that everything belongs to God.  Therefore we are tenants on this planet and slaves of God, a kindly (at least some of the time) master.  God, in the Bible (both Testaments) does have quite a temper.  God, in both Testaments, exercises both judgment and mercy.  And, in the Law of Moses, there was mercy in exchange for obedience to the Law, which spoke of mutual responsibilities of people to each other.  If all were slaves of God, none was better than anyone else.  And nobody had the right to exploit anyone else.

There was, of course, the long list of stonable offenses (many of which I have committed), from working on the Sabbath day to showing disrespect to parents.  If one were subject to such laws, who would live into or past adolescence?  Obviously, executing someone does not indicate mercy toward him or her.  I mention these matters to avoid even the appearance of committing prooftexting and to acknowledge the complexity of the texts.  But my earlier point remains accurate.

That point–responsibility to each other–runs through the Galatians lessons also.  There is a consistent biblical testimony on the topic of what we owe to each other as social beings who bear the Image of God.  The well-being of the community is crucial to this theology, for none of us is, as John Donne said, an island.  So, just as surely as we ought not to endanger the community, the community has no right to crush us for simply not conforming to every rule.  Diversity enriches the whole and individualism and communitarianism can co-exist peacefully and respectfully.  Besides, if everybody were alike, much that is essential would not get done.  If that were not bad enough, the community and the world wold be incredibly dull.

May this Advent be a time to renew our commitments to God and each other to labor faithfully for the greater good in interesting and perhaps even quirky ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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