Archive for the ‘Genesis 3’ Category

Introduction to the Apocalypse of John   Leave a comment

Above:  Revelation Title (French)

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from a copy of the Louis Segond revised translation (1910) of the Bible

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READING REVELATION, PART I

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Revelation 1:1-20

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Rev[elation] is widely popular for the wrong reasons, for a great number of people read it as a guide to how the world will end, assuming that the author was given by Christ detailed knowledge of the future he communicated in coded symbols.

Father Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), 773

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…Revelation does not speak about our time, it does speak to it.

–M. Eugene Boring, Revelation (1989), 62

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THE APOCALYPTIC GENRE

Reading a book within its genre matters.

Consider the apocalypse in Daniel 7-12, for example, O reader.  The author wrote in the first century B.C.E.  He mostly wrote history as prophecy.  But when the author started writing about the future (relative to him), he got details wrong.  This was par for the course, given the genre.

Apocalyptic literature, written in images and symbols, is politically subversive of tyranny.  The genre offers hope during difficult times, encourages the faithful to remain faithful, and contrasts the world order with the divine order.  Apocalyptic literature uses the future as away to address the present.

I lay my theological cards on the table at the beginning of this project, O reader.

  1. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian.
  2. I am a student of history.
  3. I am an intellectual.
  4. I know the historical record of failed predictions of Christ’s Second Coming and failed identifications of the Antichrist.
  5. I tell you, O reader, that the rapture is a fiction from the mind of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).
  6. I know that Darby’s Dispensationalism, popularized further in C. I. Scofield‘s study Bible, the “manual of fundamentalism,” remains a widespread interpretive system.
  7. I affirm that Christ will eventually return, but only once.  The rapture requires two Second Comings.
  8. I have no interest in prophecy conferences, but care deeply about loving like Jesus daily.

Apocalyptic literature has much to say about our present.  This content remains politically subversive.  That is fine.  I approve of subverting injustice, tyranny, slavery, economic exploitation, and needless violence.  They are antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

Apocalyptic literature is also optimistic.  In the darkness, the genre proclaims hope that God and good will triumph in the end.  Apocalyptic literature, therefore, stiffens the spines of discouraged, faithful people.  Good news of the deliverance of oppressed people doubles as judgment of the oppressors.  The genre invites us to ask ourselves:

Whose side am I on?

In summary, apocalyptic literature immediately moves past preaching and gets to meddling.

THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN AND RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY

Certain passages of the Old and New Testaments, in their contexts, support submission to earthly authority.  The Apocalypse of John has none of that.  Revelation tells us that the Roman Empire was evil, antithetical to the Kingdom of God.  This is the message that made the text treasonous long ago and still inspires many people to resist tyranny.  One may read, for example, of Christian opponents of Apartheid (in South Africa) drawing inspiration from the Apocalypse of John, even as the national government prosecuted and persecuted them.  Today, in dictatorships, certain Christians are reading Revelation as they emerge in their struggles for justice.

REVELATION IN THE BIBLE AND LECTIONARIES

Revelation is a liturgical hot potato.  The major lectionaries include little of it.  The Eastern Orthodox lectionary excludes the Apocalypse of John.  The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) explains:

While seen as canonical and inspired by God, the Revelation is the only New Testament book not publicly read in the services of the Orthodox Church.  This is partly because the book was only gradually accepted as canonical in many parts of Christendom.  In addition, in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians–a trend that continues to this day.

Genesis and Revelation constitute fitting bookends of the Christian Bible.  Genesis opens with mythology–the creation of an earthly paradise, followed by the end of that paradise–to be precise (Genesis 1-3).  Revelation concludes with a vision of God, having finally defeated evil once and for all, restoring that earthly paradise and establishing the fully-realized Kingdom of God (Revelation 21-22).

THE ORIGIN OF THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN

Revelation came from 92 to 96 C.E., at the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian.  Emperor-worship and the worship of the goddess Roma (Rome personified) were parts of conventional Roman patriotism and civic life.  The Christian refusal to participate in these cults made Christians seem unpatriotic at best and treasonous at worst.  Persecution was generally sporadic and regional at the time, but it was a constant threat.  “John of Patmos” (whoever he was) wrote to seven churches in commercial cities in western Asia Minor.

The elaborate symbolism–including numerology–in apocalyptic literature prevented the uninitiated–in this case, Roman censors–from understanding the texts.

SYMBOLISM AND MEANING IN REVELATION 1

The only instance in which to interpret any number in the Apocalypse of John literally pertains to the seven churches in western Asia Minor.

Revelation 1 plunges us into the symbolic aspect of apocalyptic literature immediately.  Stars (at the end of the chapter) represent angels and lamp-stands represent churches.  Earlier in the chapter, Jesus has white hair, indicating holiness.  His eyes, like a burning flame, pierce to the heart of all things.  Christ’s “feet like burnished bronze” are stable and steadfast.  His voice, “like the sound of the ocean,” is the convergence of the truth of God in the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus holds the Church–then a vulnerable group of house congregations–in his hand.  From Christ’s mouth emerges a two-edged sword (speech).  His face shines like the sun.  Christ is victorious, resurrected, ascended, and priestly.

The Roman Empire may have seemed to have had all the power and glory.  It did not.  The Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  Yet he had risen; his tomb was empty.  The power of the Roman Empire was nothing compared to the power of God in Christ.

That was treasonous, for, according to Roman coinage, the emperor was the “Son of God.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE EDWARD LYNCH COTTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CALCUTTA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH ALBERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND POET

THE FEAST OF HERBERT G. MAY, U.S. BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN ERNEST BODE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TYNDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND MARTYR, 1536; AND MILES COVERDALE, ENGLISH REFORMER, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF EXETER

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Deeds and Creeds V   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Ephesus

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 3:1-19 or Acts 20:17-38

Psalm 123

Revelation 2:1-7

John 6:16-24

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Words have power.  Libel and slander are threats.  Some words build up.  Other words tear down.  Some words make truths plain.  Other words confuse.  Some words heal, but other words harm.  And misquoting God is always a bad idea.

Consider Genesis 2:16-17, O reader:

The LORD God gave the man this order:  You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  From it you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Then, O reader, consider Genesis 3:2-3:

The woman answered the snake:  “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die!”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

God said nothing about touching the fruit in Genesis 2:16-17.

Misquoting God opens a door that should remain closed.

Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love than you used to.

–Revelation 2:4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Concern for resisting heresy can come at a high cost, if a congregation, person, et cetera, goes about affirming orthodoxy the wrong way.  That cost is too little love.  This is also a moral in Morris West’s novel Lazarus (1990), about the fictional Pope Leo XIV, a harsh yet extremely orthodox man.

The late Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel offered useful analysis of the message to the church at Ephesus:

This is to say that a church can lose its effectiveness if it has no love.  As I think about the mission of the church, as I hear calls for “more evangelism” and a stronger application of the Gospel to the social issues of the day, I wonder if we can do either unless we can love first–love each other and love the world, for Christ’s sake.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 27

To quote St. Paul the Apostle:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Orthodoxy without love is devoid of value.  May we who say we follow Jesus really follow him.  May we love as he did–unconditionally and selflessly.  May we–collectively and individually–love like Jesus.  May our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy be like sides of one coin.  May our deeds reveal our creeds and not belie our professions of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF COSIN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/devotion-for-proper-10-year-d-humes/

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Sin and Individual Responsibility   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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

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

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We beseech thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation,

to arm us with the same mind that was in him toward all evil and sin;

and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline,

that our minds may be always ready to resist temptation,

and obey the direction of thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 146

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Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 1:1-20

Luke 4:1-13

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The mythology in Genesis 3 does not identify the snake with Satan, but subsequent tradition does.  There are traditions and there are traditions.  Some are trustworthy; others are not.  Anyhow, I suppose the framers of the old lectionary I am following in this series of posts sought to encourage reading the pericopes from Genesis 3 and Luke 4 as counterpoints.

Some points are worth noticing.

  1. Eve misquoted God (from Genesis 2:17) in 3:3.  Misquoting God creates an opening evil can exploit.
  2. Adam (unlike the author of Psalm 51, as well as St. Paul the Apostle) did not accept individual responsibility he rightfully owned.  No, he blamed Eve.  Many who misinterpret Genesis 3 still blame Eve.

Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Ignoring or minimizing one of the varieties of responsibility is not a virtue.  Neither is passing the buck.

I have written about the temptations of Jesus so much that I have nothing new to contribute.  Follow the appropriate tag, O reader, and read, if you desire to do so.  I do ask you, however, some germane questions:

  1. How many of us would, in the same weakened physical state, exasperated by hunger, resist the temptation to acquire food in a way we should not?
  2. How many of us, with our egos, would resist the temptation to glorify ourselves?
  3. How many of us would (if we have not done so already) serve anyone other than God, in hope of a reward in this life?

Each of us has the responsibility to resist temptations, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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A Faithful Response, Part XVI   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistlesby Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth 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 Thou who from the beginning didst create us for life together:

grant that, by thy fatherly grace, we may put aside suspicion and fear,

and live as one family on earth, praising thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 3:22-4:7

Ephesians 6:1-9

Matthew 8:14-22

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I begin this post by addressing and dispensing with the proverbial elephant in the room in Ephesians 6; I reject all forms of slavery in all places and at times as immoral.  Nobody should ever reconcile Christianity to any form of slavery.  Unfortunately, the history of Christianity contains people doing just that, since antiquity.

The image of sin crouching at the door, waiting to ambush, in Genesis 4:7, is memorable.

Yet you can be its master.

–Genesis 4:7f, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I recall owning and framing a napkin that read,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

That describes much of human experience accurately.  Yet we need not commit every sin we experience temptation to perform.  We can, by grace, follow God and not offer excuses for not doing so.  We can demonstrate the love of God in how we behave toward our fellow human beings.  The Golden Rue can define our lives.

Sin crouches at the door, waiting to ambush us daily.  The first step in avoiding a trap, of course, is knowing of its existence.

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 Ephesians 6, Genesis 3, Genesis 4, Matthew 8

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A Faithful Response, Part XV   Leave a comment

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who hast given us authority to rule the earth according to thy will:

enable us to manage things with reason and love,

that the whole creation may give thee praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 3:1-15

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 8:5-13

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And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.

–Genesis 2:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden.  It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said:  “You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.”

–Genesis 3:2-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Misquoting God is a bad idea.  Notice, O reader, that

or touch it

is absent from Genesis 2:16-17.

“Passing the buck” is another bad idea.  Notice, O reader, the absence of any force feeding of Adam in Genesis 3.

The mythology in Genesis 2 and 3 is what it is.  Interpretations of it vary, however.  Judaism and Eastern Orthodoxy, for example, have no concept of Original Sin.  Western Christianity does, however.  Whether one accepts or rejects Original Sin may inform how one reads 1 Timothy 2:1-7, especially verse 6.

…to win freedom for all mankind….

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Is that freedom from Original Sin?

That freedom, anyway, extends to Gentiles.  This is especially good news to those of us who are Gentiles.

Questions of Original Sin (my concept of which owes more to Reinhold Niebuhr than to St. Augustine of Hippo) aside, God loves everybody.  It follows, then, that everybody should properly love God–not in a transactional relationship, but in a manner of faithful response.  A transactional relationship with God can never really work anyway; we can never repay God.  Yet we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  We can begin by not misquoting God and by not “passing the buck.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Empowered by God, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Peter, by Dirck van Baburen

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you:

Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature,

we can do no good thing without you,

grant us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments

we may please you, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 3:1-6, 22-23

Psalm 12

Acts 3:1-7, 11-21

Matthew 11:2-6

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Trinity Sunday is, by definition, the Sunday immediately following Pentecost Sunday.  Therefore the practice of the old lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), whereby separate sets of readings for Trinity Sunday and the First Sunday after Pentecost exist, is odd.

These readings, taken together, speak of what God does.  More to the point, most of them concern what God chooses to do through us, with divine empowerment.  Wherever we, empowered by God, are present, we can achieve great goals, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, near and/or far away.  Of course, each of us (individually) and all of us (collectively) are inadequate for the great work.  That reality, however, is no excuse to do nothing.  God might not call and empower you, O reader, to confront a potentate and lead a population out of slavery, for example, but God calls and equips you to do something.  You will probably be amazed at what it is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Our Common Life   2 comments

Above:   Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, by Marc Chagall

Use of Image Permissible According to Fair Use

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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 3:1-7, 22-24

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 15:22-35

John 3:22-30

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The reading from Genesis 3 always prompts me to ask what is wrong with being able to discern between good and evil.  I tend to argue with the story.  I also recognize an opposite vision in Isaiah 4:  the return from exile.

The Bible opens with God creating the world and people messing it up.  The sacred anthology concludes with God restoring the world.  Genesis and Revelation are the best possible bookends for the Bible, which contains stories about the relationship between God and mere mortals.  We should learn, among other lessons, to obey certain ethical teachings, to rely on God completely, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to emphasize God, not ourselves.  We, as Christians, must say with St. John the Evangelist,

He must increase

while I must decrease.

–Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII) (1966), page 150

When we seek to glorify ourselves, we set out on a fool’s errand.  Yet the world praises such men and women.  Often these individuals build themselves up at the expense of others, according to the ethic of the old economic theory of mercantilism, according to which there is a finite supply of wealth, hence more for one means less for others.  In contrast we consider Jesus, who humbled and sacrificed himself.  He was a failure, according to worldly standards of success.  Yet we know him to have been successful, do we not?  So much for worldly standards!

May we increase in love for God and each other and in our understanding of our complete reliance on God and our interdependence.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us:

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live:  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Page 134

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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Prelude to the Passion, Part II   1 comment

fig-tree-1930

Above:  Fig Tree Cleaving a Rock, Transjordan, Circa 1930-1933

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14982

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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:

Genesis 3:1-7 (8-15) 16-24 or Jeremiah 8:4-13 or Jeremiah 24:1-10 or Habakkuk 3:1-19

Psalm 140

Matthew 21:12-22 or Mark 11:12-25 (26)

Colossians 1:29-2:5 (16-19) 20-23

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God is the only proper source of confidence, human philosophies and accomplishments are puny and transitory at best and deceptive at worst.  They are also seductive.  Consequences of giving into them in the assigned readings include exile, pestilence, famine, and destruction.

The readings from Matthew and Mark, despite their slight chronological discrepancy, are mostly consistent with each other.  In the narrative they follow the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem immediately.  We read that Jesus takes great offense to people profiting by converting Roman currency (technically idols, given the image of the Emperor, described as the “Son of God”) into money theologically suitable for purchasing sacrificial animals.  He also curses and kills a fig tree for not bearing figs.  We who read these accounts are supposed to ask ourselves if we are fruitful or fruitless fig trees.  One will, after all, know a tree by its fruits.

Are we the kind of people who would have followed Jesus all the way to Golgotha or are we the variety of people who would have plotted or ordered his execution or at least denied knowing him or would have shouted “Crucify him!”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-16-year-d/

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Responsibilities and Consequences   1 comment

Garden of Eden Thomas Cole

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to the world.

Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth,

that we may bear your truth and love to those in need,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 3:14-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

Hebrews 2:5-9

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It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord

and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

To tell of your love early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night-time,

Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp,

and to the melody of the lyre.

For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts,

and I will sing aloud at the works of your hands.

–Psalm 92:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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I have yet to grasp what is wrong with knowing good from evil.  The mythic tale from Genesis teaches, however, that blissful ignorance of that distinction was somehow God’s original purpose for the human race.  The myth’s core is something I reject, for I have no obligation to accept something as true just because certain people affirmed it in antiquity.

It is a myth about the origin of human alienation from God.  In the story unbridled curiosity partnered with disobedience and the tendency to blame others for one’s errors prompts the alienation from God and the expulsion from paradise.  “Passing the buck” is bad, of course, as is disobeying God.  I reject the underlying assumptions about what God commands that we find in the myth.

Those who created the lectionary I am following and using as a tool for Bible study put three passages of scripture together in a most interesting manner.  The expulsion from paradise is an expression of divine judgment, but mercy is also present.  Judgment does not preclude kindness in this myth.  That tale rubs shoulders with the jubilant Psalm 92, in which the Psalmist proclaims that God, in whom no unrighteousness is present, is his rock.  That mood of jubilation clashes with Genesis 3:14-24.  Then, in Hebrews 2:5-9, which quotes Psalm 8, we read that people are slightly lower than the angels.  The author of Hebrews informs us of human dominance on the planet.  With that power comes great responsibility, of course.  What a bad job our species has done and continues to do!  Another important point is that Jesus’s life (including his death and resurrection) indicates, among other things, divine solidarity with people.

The Christian Bible (73 books long for half of Christianity and 66 books long for only about a quarter of the religion) begins with the creation and loss of paradise and ends with the restoration of paradise.  God creates paradise, people ruin it, and God restores it.  Likewise, as Jewish biblical scholars note, the Torah begins with an act of kindness (God clothing the naked) and ends with an act of kindness (God burying Moses).  Mixed in with that divine power and kindness is judgment, for we will reap what we sow.  If that combination seems less than “warm and fuzzy,” that is because it is less than “warm and fuzzy.”  My concept of God is certainly inadequate compared to the real thing, but a “warm and fuzzy” God concept is more inadequate.

Wrestling with biblical texts is a proper activity in which to engage.  It involves interacting with assumptions which are not our own and many of which are inaccurate, such as demonic possession causing mental illness.  Others, however, lead us to question our assumptions and condemn elements of our societies as well as some of our attitudes.  We ought to know also that a text might not mean what we think it means.  Often we who are steeped in the Bible do not know it as well as we imagine we do, for we approach texts with preconceptions and lapse into autopilot easily.  This reality prevents us from engaging with the texts as they are.

I wrestle with the combination of these pericopes for today.  The myth from Genesis 3 bothers me, a person with an inquisitive mind, but I recognize much truth in it.  Reading the Genesis pericope in the context of Psalm 92 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Psalm 92 in the context of the Genesis pericope creates a tapestry of judgment, mercy, responsibility, and gratitude, with those elements interacting with each other.  Doing so also provides much food for thought and prompts me to ask myself how often I am behaving responsibly and how I am acting irresponsibly.  God will save the world, but each of us has a responsibility to leave it better than we found it.  Any amount of improvement helps.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-6-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part IV: Sin and Food   1 comment

st-gregory-the-great

Above:  St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreVisitsStGregorySAthens#5534662619157616338)

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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:

Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 2:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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

Mark 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/proper-2-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/proper-3-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/prayer-for-saturday-after-ash-wednesday/

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The LORD spoke further to Moses:  Speak to Aaron and say:  No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God.  No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified:  no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scruvy, or crushed testes.  No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God.  He may eat of the food of his  God, of the most holy as well as of the holy; but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect.  He shall not profane the places sacred to Me, for I the LORD have sanctified them.

Thus Moses spoke to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.

–Leviticus 21:16-24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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On the day that you elevate the sheaf, you shall offer as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb of the first year without blemish.

–Leviticus 23:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The mythology in Genesis 3 tells  the familiar tale of the eating of forbidden fruit and of the subsequent blaming of one another for one’s sin.  In the story Adam is responsible for his sin and Eve for hers.  The cost they paid entailed exile from the Garden of Eden.

Sin is a word I hear used often.  Yet I wonder how many people know what it means.  The catechism from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines sin as

…the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.  (page 848)

And, as Paragraph 705 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,

Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God,” in the image of the Son, but is deprived of “the glory of God,” of his “likeness.” The promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at which the Son himself will assume that “image” and restore it in the Father’s “likeness” by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.”

(The scriptural citations in the notes to this paragraph are Romans 3:23, John 1:14, and Philippians 2:7.)

Concern over maintaining the image of God provided the rationale for the list of “defects” which disqualified one from offering sacrifices to God in Leviticus 21:16-24.  And a sacrificial lamb had to be unblemished.  Furthermore, there was, at the time of Jesus, a long-standing assumed connection between sin and suffering, despite the Book of Job.  So the physically disabled and different had to cope with that attitude.  Certainly many of them internalized it.

Thus we arrive at Mark 2 and the paralyzed man with some very good friends.  Jesus treated all the man’s needs.  Our Lord, the author tells us, also attracted criticisms.  As a sign I have reads,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

Next in the Markan sequence Jesus calls Levi/Matthew, literally a tax thief for the occupying forces, to be an Apostle.  Then our Lord dines with Levi/Matthew and other notorious sinners and outcast people, attracting more criticism.

Jesus liked outcasts.  So far in Mark 2, for example, he has healed one, called another to be a close associate, and dined with a group.

Table fellowship was a serious matter for observant Pharisees and other Jews.  It was a question of maintaining one’s identity as a member of a visible minority.  This fact explains much of why many early Jewish Christians insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity become Jews and obey the Law of Moses.  I propose that Jesus also took table fellowship seriously–but as a means of including people, not excluding them, as a means of associating with them, not keeping oneself apart from them.

I have heard a Russian proverb:

A good meal is not one eats but with whom one eats.

Perceptions of sin–real or imagined, depending on circumstances–need not separate us from God or each other.  We are all in the big boat of sin.  And God forgives quite often.  When God draws near, may we reciprocate.

At my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, we take the Holy Eucharist each Sunday.  (The 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines taking the Holy Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship.  In pre-1979 BCP days, it was common to take communion less often than every Sunday.)  Printed in the Sunday bulletin at St. Gregory the Great Church is this invitation:

Whoever you are and wherever you are in your journey of faith, know that you are welcome to join with us at the table of the Lord and to share in the bread and wine made holy.

And it is an excellent meal.  Jesus there in the bread and wine.  And the company is excellent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURBGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH MONK AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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