Archive for the ‘Genesis I: 1-11’ Category

Faithful Community, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:   Enoch, by Theophanes the Greek

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God:  your Son Jesus promised that if he was lifted up,

he would draw all men to himself.  Draw us to him by faith,

so that we may live to serve you, and look toward life eternal;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 150

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Genesis 5:21-24

Acts 1:1-11

Luke 24:36-53

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Two of the assigned readings for the Feast of the Ascension are predictable; we read the two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus from Luke-Acts.  That is logical, given the occasion.

The reading from Genesis 5 (the assumption of Enoch) fits thematically.

I no more affirm the extremely advanced ages of people in the early chapters of Genesis than I think that Jesus literally ascended.  After all, I know that the cosmos is not three-tiered, with the Earth between the underworld and Heaven.  The story of the Ascension is correct, however, when it insists that Jesus departed bodily, however that happened.  The language of ascension functions as a prose poetry.

Genesis 5:22 tells that Enoch walked with God.  That is the mandate for every human being in every place and at every time.  Not one of us has to attempt to walk alone; God is with us.  We may experience persecution because of our walk with God, but God will remain beside us.  We may lead quiet, even prosperous lives of service; God will be with us then, too.  Circumstances beyond our control will determine much of what we will experience.

Nevertheless, acting in accordance with divine love–living the Golden Rule as nearly as humanly possible–will stir up opposition.  Ironically, many opponents will consider themselves pious followers of God.  We may even be among the opponents of those living according to the Golden Rule.  Each of us has spiritual blind spots, learned and otherwise.

May God cure us such blindness, so that we may serve Him faithfully and support each other in doing so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 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 PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Sins of Racism, Nativism, and Xenophobia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, by Jenõ Benedek

Image in the Public Domain

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For Race Relations Sunday, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Great God and Father of us all:  destroy prejudice that turns us against our brothers.

Teach us that we are all children of your love, whether we are black or red or white or yellow.

Encourage us to live together, loving one another in peace,

so that someday a golden race of men may have the world, giving praise to Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 179

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Genesis 11:1-9

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 10:25-37

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The Second Sunday in February used to be Race Relations Day (or Sunday) in much of mainline U.S. Protestantism.  The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) included four prayers for “Social Justice and Brotherhood,” but Race Relations Day had come into being in time for The Book of Common Worship (1946), with its prayer of “Better Race Relations.”  Meanwhile, The Methodist Church (1939-1968) defined the Second Sunday in February as Race Relations Day in its Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), which included two prayers for the occasion.

The occasion still exists.  In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the Sunday preceding the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, is Race Relations Sunday.  The United Methodist Church calls that day Human Relations Day, to call the

Church to recognize the right of all God’s children to realize their potential as human beings in relationship with one another.

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), 423

The assigned passages of scripture contradict dominant ways of the world.

  1. The myth in Genesis 11:1-9 condemns human hubris and reminds we mere mortals how insignificant we are compared to God, regardless of how important we consider ourselves to be.  In verse 5, for example, we read of God having to “come down” just to see the city and the Tower of Babel.
  2. The list of sins in Colossians 3:1-11 is hardly comprehensive, but it need not be.  The main idea is not to act as to harm others and oneself, but to pursue Godly, constructive purposes instead.
  3. The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is multifaceted.  After one gets past respectable, religious people refusing to help the man, one learns that a Samaritan–a half-breed and a heretic–an outsider–helped.  The parable contains layers of meaning; one of them is that we need to look past our prejudices.

Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are examples of hubris, of failure to affirm the image of God in others, of hatred, and of mutually exclusive biases.  Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are also frequently successful political weapons.

May God have mercy on us all.  Even we who decry the sins of racism, nativism, and xenophobia are not exempt from those biases; we generally rein them in within ourselves, however.  We, as members of society, are also partially responsible for the sins of society, and we share in societal punishment.

May God have mercy on us all and lead our societies to repent of these sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Christmas is Just the Beginning   Leave a comment

Above:  The Nativity, by John Singleton Copley

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 52:7-10

1 Timothy 3:14-16

John 1:1-18

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John 1:1-18, the prologue to the Gospel of John, is one of the greatest texts in the Bible.  The prologue establishes the timeless credentials of Jesus and contextualizes the story of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity in stunning theological poetry and poetic theology.  Sometimes prose does not suffice; poetry is necessary.  The prologue imitates the second creation (in chronology of writing, although the first in order of arrangement) myth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a), indicating a new creation of a sort.

The world has never been the same since the birth of Jesus.

A most attentive reader might notice that the first readings for the Christmas Day services on the old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 are (1) from Isaiah and (2) related to hopelessness and discouragement exiles felt.  That liturgical choice makes sense theologically, given the messianic hopes, born in exile, which the authors of the canonical Gospels linked to Jesus in their compositions.  The canonical Gospels are theological works, each with a thesis.  They are not chronicles, devoid of interpretation.

An early Christian hymn or confession of faith, quoted in 1 Timothy 3:16b, speaks of Jesus:

He was manifested in flesh,

vindicated in spirit,

seen by angels;

he was proclaimed among the nations,

believed in throughout the world,

raised to heavenly glory.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a fine summary, is it not?  It reminds us of some of the events in the life of Jesus and of part of the progress of the early Church.

Christmas is just the beginning.  This is a truth also evident in The Methodist Hymnal (1966), which sets “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” to the same tune, that of the Christmas carol.  Christmas leads to Good Friday, which leads to Easter.

Christmas is just the beginning.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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Little Less Than Divine   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is the creation of Bishop Stephen of Liege (in office 903-920).  The feast, universal in Roman Catholicism since 1334 by the order of Pope John XXII, is, according to the eminent Lutheran liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher, author of the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), not so much about a doctrine but

the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

–page 301

Famously the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and no single verse or passage gives us that doctrine.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the result of much debate, some fistfights, ecumenical councils, Roman imperial politics, and the pondering of various passages of scripture.  The conclusion of 2 Corinthians and Matthew are two of those passages.  Perhaps the best summary of that process in the fourth chapter in Karen Armstrong‘s A History of God (1994).

I, being aware that a set of heresies has its origin in pious attempts to explain the Trinity, refrain from engaging in any of those heresies or creating a new one.  No, I stand in awe of the mystery of God and affirm that the Trinity is as close to an explanation as we humans will have.  We cannot understand the Trinity, and God, I assume, is more than that.

The great myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, itself a modified version of the Enuma Elish, affirms, among other key theological concepts, (1) the goodness of creation and (2) the image of God in human beings.  We are not an afterthought.  No, we are the pinnacle of the created order.  These themes carry over into Psalm 8.  The standard English-language translation of one verse (which one it is depends on the versification in the translation one reads) is that God has created us slightly lower than the angels.  That is a mistranslation.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane passage as

little less than divine.

The Anchor Bible (1965) translation by Mitchell J. Dahood reads

a little less than the gods.

The Hebrew word is Elohim, originally a reference to the council of gods, and therefore a remnant of a time before Jews were monotheists.  An alternative translation is English is

a little lower than God,

which is better than

a little lower than the angels.

Studies of religious history should teach one that Elohim eventually became a synonym for YHWH.

“Little less than divine” seems like an optimistic evaluation of human nature when I consider the past and the present, especially when I think about environmental destruction and human behavior.  But what if Pfatteicher is correct?  What if the work of salvation is complete?  What if the image of God is a great portion of our nature than the actions of many of us might indicate?

In Christ we can have liberation to become the people we ought to be.  In Christ we can achieve our spiritual potential–for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May we, by grace, let the image of God run loose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-a-humes/

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The Light of Christ, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

At least three of the following sets:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 and Psalm 46

Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18

Isaiah 55:1-11 and Isaiah 12:2-6

Ezekiel 20:1-24 and Psalm 19

Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalms 42 and 43

Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143

Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 98

Then:

Romans 6:3-11

Psalm 114

Matthew 28:1-10

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The history of the Great Vigil of Easter is interesting.  We do not know when the service began, but we do know that it was already well-established in the second century C.E.  We also know that the Great Vigil was originally a preparation for baptism.  Reading the history of the Easter Vigil reveals the elaboration of the rite during ensuing centuries, to the point that it lasted all night and was the Easter liturgy by the fourth century.  One can also read of the separation of the Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday service in the sixth century.  As one continues to read, one learns of the vigil becoming a minor afternoon ritual in the Roman missal of 1570.  Then one learns of the revival of the Easter Vigil in Holy Mother Church in the 1950s then, in North America, in The Episcopal Church and mainline Lutheranism during the liturgical renewal of the 1960s and 1970s.  Furthermore, if one consults the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (1993) and The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), on finds the ritual for the Great Vigil of Easter in those volumes.

The early readings for the Easter Vigil trace the history of God’s salvific work, from creation to the end of the Babylonian Exile.  The two great Hebrew Biblical themes of exile and exodus are prominent.  Then the literal darkness ends, the lights come up, and the priest announces the resurrection of Jesus.  The eucharistic service continues and, if there are any candidates for baptism, that sacrament occurs.

One of the chants for the Easter Vigil is

The light of Christ,

to which the congregation chants in response,

Thanks be to God.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans, reminds us down the corridors of time that the light of Christ ought to shine in our lives.  May that light shine brightly through us, by grace, that we may glorify God every day we are on this side of Heaven.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FOUNDER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Agents of Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O almighty and most merciful God, of your bountiful goodness keep us,

we pray, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things which you command;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship of Church and Home (1965), page 153

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 33

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

Mark 10:28-31

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In Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel, people are impressed with themselves and their collective accomplishment.  That accomplishment is a tower that God, looking down from Heaven, can barely see because of its relative smallness.  Our accomplishments and might are puny compared to God, as Psalm 33 reminds us.  May we have proper perspective, that is, humility before God.

Humility before God would certainly be easy for one to have if one were in the position of Isaiah, eyewitness to a glorious vision.  Accepting the call of God, as continued in subsequent verses in Isaiah 6, is perhaps a greater challenge.  The consequences can be dire, even to the point of death.  Certainly obeying that call will make one a new creation.  Change–even of the positive variety–frequently scares many people, for it endangers their comfort zones.  God calls us away from complacency and into the unknown.  Sometimes, as in the cases of some Hebrew prophets, God calls us to enter the realm of the scandalous.  Ultimately, though, the result should be the reconciliation of people separated from God with God.

This goal offends many people, including some of the professing faithful.  One might think of the great satire that is the Book of Jonah, a criticism of post-Babylonian Exile excesses.  One lesson from the text is that God loves everyone and wants all people to repent.  God sends the reluctant Jonah on a mission.  The prophet succeeds, much to his dismay.  We have enemies, by whom we define our identities.  If they cease to be enemies, who are we?  The possibility of such drastic change frightens us, does it not?

Will we stand humbly before God and serve as willing agents of reconciliation?  Or will we remain in our comfort zones and function as agents of obstruction?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Empowered by God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Landscape with the Thanksgiving of Noah, by Joseph Anton Koch

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SECOND 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 Lord, who never fails to help and govern those whom you bring up in your steadfast fear and love:

Keep us, we ask you, under the protection of your good providence,

and make us to have a perpetual sense of awe and love of your holy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Genesis 9:8-15

Psalm 2

Acts 4:8, 10-13, 18-20

Luke 10:1-11

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The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, in the note on Genesis 9:8-17, of a Talmudic teaching.  All humankind has obligations to keep seven commandments.  To obey them is to win divine approval.  The seven commandments are:

(1) to establish courts of justice, (2) to refrain from blaspheming the God of Israel, as well as from (3) idolatry, (4) sexual perversion, (5) bloodshed, (6) robbery, and (7) not to eat meat cut from a living animal.

–Page 23

That is quite a list!  Keeping all of those commandments is, of course, impossible on human power alone.  In some cases, keeping some of them violates decrees of human authorities.  Merely committing a non-violent act of mercy outside that list might get one into trouble, as in Acts 4.

With certain notorious exceptions, most of us try to be good people, do we not?  Many of us do this in the name of God.  Nevertheless, many of us, while behaving righteously, in our imaginations, oppose those who, like the Apostles in Acts 3 and 4, commit non-violent acts of mercy.  We do not for like people, even those who behave mercifully, to challenge our authority and/or sense of order.  We might not merely leave them alone; no, we might interfere with them.  We need to get out of God’s way.

One can tell what kind of plant a tree is by its fruit.  By grace we can be good trees for God, instead of agents of obstructionism.

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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