Archive for the ‘Hebrews 11’ Category

Learning to Walk Humbly With God   1 comment

Amaziah of Judah

Above:  Amaziah

Image in the Public Domain

Learning to Walk Humbly with God

JUNE 12 and 13, 2015

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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:

1 Kings 10:26-11:8 (Friday)

2 Kings 14:1-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:4-7 (Friday)

Mark 4:1-20 (Saturday)

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The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

Such as are planted in the house of the Lord

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be vigorous and in full leaf;

That they may show that the Lord is true;

he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

–Psalm 92:12-15, Common Worship (2000)

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The readings for these two days are not entirely comforting and consistent with a Christian ethic.  Psalm 92 is straight-forward in its affirmation of divine righteousness and fidelity.  Hebrews 11 defines faith as

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

(Verse 1, The New Revised Standard Version, 1989)

then provides examples of people who, by acting out of trust in God, pleased God.  We know some deeds which displease God.  The Hebrew Bible tells us, for example, that God disapproves of idolatry and human explanation, so the condemnations of Solomon and Amaziah do not surprise me.  At least Amaziah disregarded custom and obeyed the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:16, to be precise) by not executing the children of his father’s assassins.  Nevertheless, Amaziah became arrogant when he should have been humble before God.  The same statement applied to Solomon.

Being humble before God enabled many people to follow Jesus, for they knew of their need for him and were not ashamed of it.  Many others who encountered our Lord and Savior, however, were haughty and opposed him.  Their spiritual blindness prevented them from understanding his parables then following him or continuing to do so.  The truth of God was in front of them plainly, but they did not recognize it as such.  Perhaps the main reason for this reality was that it threatened their status and egos.

We see what we want to see much of the time, for we walk around with spiritual blinders we have inherited or learned from others and those we have imposed on ourselves.  Many of us claim to follow God when God knows the opposite to be true.  May God forgive us for our spiritual blindness, may we recognize that blindness, and may we walk with God instead.

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-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-6-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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Living Faithfully   1 comment

GFS_8086

Above:  Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, Atlanta, Georgia, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 1:22-2:10 (January 7)

Exodus 2:11-25 (January 8)

Exodus 3:7-15 (January 9)

Psalm 110 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-26 (January 7)

Hebrews 11:27-28 (January 8)

John 8:39-59 (January 9)

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The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

The LORD has sworn and he will not recant:

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek,”

The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over nations.

He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

–Psalm 110, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Tradition attributes authorship of Psalm 110 to David.  One cannot be certain of the veracity of that claim, given the tendency of many people from Biblical times to attribute authorship to the famous dead regardless of who actually wrote a given text.  That issue is a minor point, however.  A Hebrew monarch has won a military victory, hence the content and tone of the text.  One can read the poem and identify passages germane to both Moses and Jesus, as well as those irrelevant to each person.  We read of Moses smiting in Exodus, for example.  And Jesus, like the king in the Psalm, sits enthroned at the right hand of Yahweh.

One might also compare Moses and Jesus, as the author of the Gospel of Matthew did frequently.  Both men were, for example, far more than they appeared to be; they were deliverers and princes, although not of the same variety.  No, Jesus was (and remains) far greater than Moses, for our Lord and Savior’s “I am” (John 9:58) carries the same meaning as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).  Jesus was the human incarnation of the deity who spoke to Moses.

Both men had to decide between a faithful life and a safer, more comfortable one.  They chose well, to the benefit of many people.  You and I, O reader, will probably not receive the mandate to liberate a large population.  We will certainly not have the vocation to redeem the world.  Yet we do have to decide between following God and doing otherwise.  The faithful path can be a dangerous and frequently uncomfortable one, but it is the superior way.  God calls us to act for the benefit of others, even when many of them reject God and us by extension.  But, as Charles William Everest (1814-1877) wrote in 1833:

“Take up thy cross,” the Savior said;

“if thou wouldst my disciple be,

take up thy cross with willing heart

and humbly follow after me.”

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Take up thy cross, let not its weight

fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

his strength shall bear thy spirit up,

and brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

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Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

and let thy foolish pride be still;

the Lord refused not e’en to die

upon a cross, on Calv’ry’s hill.

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Take up thy cross and follow Christ,

nor think till earth to lay it down,

for only they who bear the cross

may hope to wear the glorious crown.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2014 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/devotion-for-january-7-8-and-9-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Seeking the Common Good   2 comments

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Above:  Samuel Ryeschenski, Nine-Year-Old Chess Player, at the United States Capitol, April 6, 1922

Photographer = Harris & Ewing

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-hec-31620

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The Collect:

O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.

Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you,

that we may delight in doing your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 48:8-22 (Monday)

Genesis 49:29-50:14 (Tuesday)

Genesis 50:22-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 133 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-29 (Monday)

Romans 14:13-15:2 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:20-25 (Wednesday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support each other.  Do not wreck God’s work for the sake of food.

–Romans 14:19-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The ethic of building up the common good is part of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In the Law of Moses we have responsibilities to and for each other.  A healthy communitarianism respects individual consciences while avoiding rugged individualism on hand and the tyranny of the majority on the other hand.  Our human reality is that we depend on God for everything and on each other.  We are, therefore, dependent and interdependent.  May we behave toward each toward each other according to the ethic of seeking the best for each other.  Joseph sought the best for his family members, even those who had almost killed him.  He should have sought the best for the Egyptians instead of reducing them to a state of serfdom in Genesis 47, however.  (The man was not entirely heroic.)

Sometimes the common good works via authority figures; sometimes it works around them.  Joseph’s boss was sympathetic to him, but the Pharaoh whom Moses knew was hostile.  Under the best possible circumstances authority figures will function as agents of the common good, but often we humans must work around them or even replace them.  Such is life.  If we can muster enough faith we will discover that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our required tasks.

As we go about the work of seeking the common good and building each other up, may we avoid ridiculous extremes which function mainly as fodder for criticisms of religion.  I recall that, when I was quite young, my sister and I were not supposed to play in the parsonage yard on Sunday afternoons.  My father was the local United Methodist pastor in a conservative rural community, some members of which retained overly strict–Puritanical, even–notions regarding Sabbath-keeping.  I mention this example to make a point:  If we place too much emphasis on what others think, we will restrict our own range of options (and that of our children, if we have any) needlessly.  Spiritually uptight people will have to deal with the consequences of their own constipation of the soul for themselves, without cramping my style.  Besides, my personal life is quiet, quite boring by many standards of what is “interesting,” and nobody’s business.  So I will persist in my behaviors, which according to many killjoys through the ages, are sinful:  playing chess, reading novels, dancing on occasion, eating meat, drinking tea, watching movies, et cetera.  I like intellectual stimulation, artistic fulfillment, antioxidants, and the taste of meat, none of which cause moral harm to anyone.  So why should anyone object?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

link

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This is post #1150 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Active Faith II   1 comment

jmdp-56

Above:  Jonathan Myrick Daniels Memorial , August 9, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://plus.google.com/photos/114749828757741527421/albums/5910907140282601969/5910903135957646082?banner=pwa&pid=5910903135957646082&oid=114749828757741527421)

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The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 6:2-9 (Thursday)

Exodus 19:9b-25 (Friday)

Psalm 2 (Both Days)

Hebrews 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Hebrews 11:23-28 (Friday)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/week-of-proper-11-thursday-year-1/

Hebrews 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-4-and-5-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The kings of the earth rise up,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his anointed:

“Let us break their bonds asunder

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who dwells in heaven shall laugh them to scorn;

the Lord shall have them in derision.

–Psalm 2:2-4, Common Worship (2000)

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But when Moses repeated those words to the Israelites, they would not listen to him, because of their cruel slavery, they had reached the depths of despair.

–Exodus 6:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Active faith by which we follow God has changed the world for the better.  In the United States of America, for example, it fueled the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  Such active faith overturned Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.  This continues to compel people to work for social justice all over the planet.

Yet passiveness born of resignation stymies progress.  Giving up on improving conditions in this world and seeking a better lot only in the afterlife does nothing to work for a just society on this plane of reality.  The Hebrew prophets condemned social injustice.  Our Lord and Savior did likewise.  Indeed, seeking to improve this reality is part and parcel of loving one’s neighbor and pursuing the great Jewish ethic of healing the world.

So may each of us never make peace with oppression.  May all of us take to heart and act on the following prayer:

O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.  Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.  Through us give hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, peace to the troubled, and rest to the weary, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Faith and Grace   1 comment

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Above:  William Lloyd Garrison

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672098/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-10320

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The Collect:

O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live,

and you illumine our world with your beloved Son.

By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness, and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 3:1-5 (January 4)

Joshua 1:1-9 (January 5)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:23-31 (January 4)

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 (January 5)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/third-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

Joshua 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/devotion-for-june-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 11-12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-lent-monday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/proper-14-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/proper-15-year-c/

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Give the king your justice, O God,

and your justice to the king’s son;

that he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people

and shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

–Psalm 72:1-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The assigned readings for these days tell us of Biblical heroes of faith, from Moses to Joshua son of Nun to Rahab the prostitute–quite an assortment!  I perceive no need to repeat their stories today, for the Bible does that better than I can.  And I have other matters on my mind.

If I were to amend the hall of fame of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews, part of my addition would read as follows:

By faith abolitionists challenged racial chattel slavery in the United States.  By faith Harriet Tubman risked life and limb to help her people, who called her “Moses.”  By faith Sojourner Truth spoke out for the rights of women and African Americans alike, as did William Lloyd Garrison.  By faith Frederick Douglass challenged racism and slavery with his words, deeds, and very existence.

By faith members of subsequent generations challenged racial segregation.  These great men and women included A. Philip Randolph, Charles Hamilton Houston, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bayard Rustin, Vernon Johns, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  They challenged the United States to confront its hypocrisy, to live up more closely to its stated ideals, and to guarantee civil rights.  By faith Thurgood Marshall fought the good fight in courts for decades.  By faith brave students, supported by their courageous parents and communities, integrated schools with hostile student bodies and administrators.

By faith Nelson Mandela confronted Apartheid and helped to end it.  By faith he encouraged racial and national reconciliation as a man and as a President.

All of these were courageous men and women, boys and girls.  There is no room here to tell their stories adequately.  And the names of many of them will fade into obscurity with the passage of time.  Some of their names have faded from collective memory already.  But they were  righteous people–giants upon whose shoulders we stand.  They were agents of divine grace, which transformed the world, making it a better place.

May the light of God, incarnate in each of us, shine brightly in the darkness and leave the world–if only one “corner” of it at a time–a better place.  May we cooperate with God, for grace is more about what God does than what we do.  We ought to work with God, of course.  Doing so maximizes the effects of grace.  But grace will win in the end.  That is wonderful news!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

 http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-4-and-5-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #900 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Faith, Questions, and Confidence   Leave a comment

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Above:  A Question Mark

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have filled the earth with the light of your incarnate Word.

By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-7 (January 2)

Genesis 28:10-22 (January 3)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:1-12 (January 2)

Hebrews 11:13-22 (January 3)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-eighth-and-ninth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

Genesis 28:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/week-of-proper-9-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/proper-14-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/proper-15-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-friday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.  It was this that that won their reputation for the saints of old.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

It was by faith that the people of old won God’s approval.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The Revised English Bible

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Faith is the reality of we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.  The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.

–Hebrews 11;1-2, Common English Bible

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.  It is for their faith that our ancestors are acknowledged.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition

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Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wonderful things.

And blessed by his glorious name for ever.

May all the earth be filled with his gory.

Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Bible is replete with troublesome characters.  Yet, the texts tell us, God worked through many of them.  For example, Abraham and Sarah became the parents of nations in their old age–an inspiring story?  But what about the mistreatment of Hagar and Ishmael?  Furthermore, the story of near-sacrifice of Isaac disturbs me; I will make no excuses for it.  As Elie Wiesel pointed out in a Bible study I saw in the 1990s, the Bible does not record any conversation between father and son after that incident, which must have damaged their relationship in ways which the passage of time did not repair.

As for Jacob, he was a trickster whom others conned.

Yet God worked with and through them, transforming these people for their benefit and that of many others, even to the present day.  That is grace, is it not?

“Faith” has more than one meaning in the Bible.  It is purely intellectual in James and inherently active in Paul, hence the appearance (but no more than that) of a faith-works contradiction between the two.  And, in the Letter to the Hebrews, faith is that which, in the absence of evidence for or against, enables one to continue in justifiable confidence.  If we have empirical evidence one way or the another, we do need faith.  I have heard church members say that they (A) have faith and (B) have evidence for the same proposition.  They misunderstood whereof they spoke.  They sought certainty when they should have desired confidence.

As James D. G. Dunn wrote in a different context (the search for the historical Jesus):

The language of faith uses words like “confidence” rather than “certainty.”  Faith deals in trust, not in mathematical calculations, nor in a “science” which methodically doubts everything which can be doubted….Walking “by faith” is different from walking “by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Faith is commitment, not just conviction.

Faith as trust is never invulnerable to questions.  Rather, faith lives in dialogue with questions.  Faith-without-doubt is a rare commodity, which few (if any) have experienced for any length of time.  On the contrary, doubt is the inoculation which keeps faith strong in the face of unbelief.  Whereas it is the “lust for certainty” which leads to fundamentalism’s absolutising of its own faith claims and dismissal of all others.  In fact, of course, little or nothing in real life is a matter of certainty, including the risks of eating beef, or of crossing a road, or of committing oneself in marriage….

Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), pages 104-105

I propose that we should never fear to question God faithfully.  Have we understood God correctly?  We can misunderstand, after all.  We have done so often.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman who encountered Jesus, rebutting a statement is the result which the speaker of the rebutted statement desires.  Sometimes passing the test of faithfulness entails arguing with, not being submissive, to God.  We need not stand in terror of God if we act out of healthy faith, the kind which creates space for many intelligent questions.  And then how will God work through us in the world?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-2-and-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Unworthiness of the World   1 comment

noahs-thank-offering-koch

Above:  Noah’s Thank Offering, by Joseph Anton Koch

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 9:1-17

Psalm 124

Hebrews 11:32-40

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/first-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-lent-monday-in-holy-week/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/proper-15-year-c/

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If the Lord had not been on our side,

now may Israel say:

If the Lord had not been on our side

when our enemies rose up against us,

then they would have swallowed us up alive:

when their fury was raised against us.

Then the flood would have swept us away:

and the torrent would have covered us.

Then the raging waters

would have gone right over our heads.

–Psalm 124:1-4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Daily Lectionary from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) skips over Genesis 8:20-22 (over J, the Yahwist, and from P, the Priestly Source) to 9:1-17 (back to P), which covers much of the same ground–plus a rainbow.  In that composite narrative many people had died because of their sinfulness.  In Hebrews 11:32-40, however, we read of people who have died because of their righteousness, people

of whom the world was not worthy.

–Verse 38a, The New Revised Standard Version

These saints, the lesson tells us,

…were commended for their faith [yet] did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better, so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

–Verses 39-40, The New Revised Standard Version

Both readings contain the element of the unworthiness of the world.  Although the world might be unworthy God vows never to flood it again.  The world might be unworthy yet God does not give up on it, hence the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth and all that followed it–especially the death and resurrection of Jesus and their spiritual implications for us.  God has not given up on the world yet; unwritten chapters in the story of grace on this planet remain for people to see unfold.

Yes, we are unworthy; I take that as a given.  But does that reality constitute a topic upon which we should dwell?  No.  God knows what we are yet has identified with us by means of the Incarnation.  Our worthiness is in God alone.  May we respond lovingly to God, who loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted July 6, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 9, Hebrews 11, Psalm 124

Tagged with ,

The Proof in the Pudding   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-10

Psalm 122

Hebrews 11:1-7

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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I was glad when they said to me:

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

And now our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.”

–Psalm 122:1-2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The Priestly Source tells us in Genesis 6:9 that:

Noah walked with God.

The New Revised Standard Version

One definition of faith in the New Testament comes from Hebrews 11:1:

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

The New Revised Standard Version

Thus, by faith Noah, a subsequent verse tells us, respected and acted on the divine warning of the Great Flood.  In so doing he not only saved his extended family but

he condemned the world….

The New Revised Standard Version

When we set out merely to do the right thing and succeed, one side effect of our action(s) is the condemnation of those who have done otherwise, for the contrast becomes so stark as to be unmistakable.  Acting based not on what has occurred but on what will happen sets one apart from others, many of whom might become contemptuous.  Yet stepping out on the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith does empower one to please God, to walk with God.

Sometimes God acts in ways that are new in human experience.  For example, the Incarnation fit that description.  Responding favorably to it pleased God; rejecting it did not.  In our contemporary timeframe the previous statement, altered only to become present tense, continues to apply.  By the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth God did something new, something which made the Kingdom of God–already extant–more

manifestly and effectively true.

–C. H. Dodd, The Founder of Christianity (New York:  Macmillan, 1970, page 57)

Thus the reality of Jesus in words and deeds challenged people to respond positively.

But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection.

–page 58

It is easier to recognize God’s new (to us, anyway) tactics after the fact than beforehand.  Indeed, many people have acted on allegedly divine instructions which turned out to be delusions.  (They were probably talking to themselves.)  The proof, an old saying tells us, is in the pudding.  Jesus has the pudding.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-friday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted June 6, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 6, Hebrews 11, Psalm 122

Tagged with ,

Increased Faith   1 comment

28990v

Above:  A Drawing of a Mulberry Tree, 1919 or 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2008009491/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-28990

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The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:1-6 and Lamentations 3:19-26 (as a canticle) or Psalm 137

or 

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 37:1-10

then 

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 22, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Proper 22, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Lamentations 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/proper-8-year-b/

Habakkuk 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-2/

2 Timothy 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-ninth-fortieth-and-forty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

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The readings from Habakkuk and Lamentations speak of suffering because of sins.  Thus they reflect a major theological theme of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Yet, amid widespread apostasy, faithful people remain.  And sometimes the faithful suffer because of their piety.  There is more than one cause for suffering.

“Faith” is a word with more than one meaning in the Bible.  In some instances it indicates an intellectual assent to a proposition or to propositions.  Thus, in the Letter of James, where this is the definition, works must accompany faith.  For the Apostle Paul, however, faith was inherently active, so works were already part of the formula and faith sufficed for justification to God.  The Letter to the Hebrews contains a third understanding, one in which faith is

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

–11:1, New Revised Standard Version

There it is a valid way of knowing that which we can neither confirm nor debunk by another means.

Faith, in Luke 17:5f, follows the Pauline definition.  It must do so, for the Gospels exist to, among other things, encourage discipleship–following Jesus.  The request for increased levels of faith is a prayer to be able to obey God and follow Jesus better.

That is a proper spiritual gift to seek to increase.  It can enable one to survive suffering and hardship falling prey to anger and resentment, thereby poisoning one’s soul.  No, may we avoid poisoning our souls, by faith.  And may we have more of it, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/proper-22-year-c/

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