Archive for the ‘Hebrews 4’ Category

God, the Only Proper Center   1 comment

Above:  Jezebel and Ahab, by Frederic Leighton

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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Exodus 33:12-23 or 1 Kings 21:1-24

Psalm 61:1-5, 8

Hebrews 4:14-5:5, 7-9

Mark 9:14-29

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According to Psalms 14 and 53, the fool/benighted man, an amoral person, thinks incorrectly that God either does not care (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) or is absent (Mitchell J. Dahood, 1968).  The erroneous assumption of the fool/benighted man is that God either does not want to answer prayers or cannot do so.  Therefore, from that perspective, one must and can rely on one’s own powers and devices.  This is the root of evil.

God does care.  God is present.  God does answer prayers.  Sometimes the answer is “no,” which we may not like.  God loves us, but is not our vending machine.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

We pray that we may believe and believe that we may pray.

We can simultaneously have faith and doubts.  I know this spiritual state.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  We can have enough faith to pray yet not enough to assume that God will answer as we desire.  To anyone who knows this spiritual state, I say,

Welcome to the human race.  You stand in the company of the communion of saints.

When we cannot pray, or be mindful of God, yet want to do so, we are not bereft.  That desire is a solid beginning, a foundation on which God can build.

We err when we place ourselves–individually and/or collectively–in the center of theology and spirituality.  God is the only proper center.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-b-humes/

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Signs, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

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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Exodus 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-20-year-b-humes/

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The Universality of God, Part II   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

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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Joshua 23:1-16

Psalm 81:(1) 2-9 (10-16) or Psalm 95

Luke 3:23-38 or Matthew 1:1-17

Hebrews 4:1-11 (12-16)

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In distress you called, and I rescued you;

I answered you in the secret place of thunder;

I tested you at the waters of Meribah.

–Psalm 81:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hears, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof though they had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The Deuteronomistic account of the farewell speech of Joshua son of Nun contains reminders to be faithful to God and not to emulate the pagan neighboring ethnic groups.  One may assume safely that at least part of the text is a subsequent invention meant to teach then-contemporary Jews to obey the Law of Moses, unlike many of their ancestors, including many who lived and died after the time of Joshua.  The theme of fidelity to God recurs in Hebrews 4, which reminds us that God sees everything we do.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–The Collect for Purity, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

The two options for Gospel readings are mutually inconsistent genealogies of Jesus.  Matthew 1, following Jewish practice, divides the past into periods of 14–in this case, 14 generations–14 being the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew.  This version of the family tree begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus, thereby setting his story in the context of God’s acts in history and culminating with the Incarnation.  This genealogy lists only four women, two of whom were foreigners and three of whom were the subjects of gossip regarding their sex lives.  These facts establish an inclusive tone in the text.

The genealogy in Luke 3 starts with Jesus and works backward to the mythical Adam.  The fact that the family tree according to the Gospel of Luke goes back past Abraham (the limits of Judaism, which are porous in the genealogy in Matthew 1) makes the Lukan version more inclusive than its counterpart in Matthew.  Jesus has kinship with all people–Jews and Gentiles–it teaches.  That is consistent with the fact that the initial audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile.

The universality of God is a recurring theme in the Bible.  The light of God is for all people, although many will reject it at any given time.  The neglect that light is a grave error, one which carries with it many negative consequences, both temporal and otherwise.  To write off people and populations is another error.  Salvation is of the Jews.  From them the light of Christ shines upon we Gentiles.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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Compassion and the Sabbath, Part II   1 comment

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Above:  Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 20:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 20:18-32 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 20:33-44 (Wednesday)

Psalm 109:21-31 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:7-4:11 (Monday)

Revelation 3:7-13 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:6-11 (Wednesday)

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Let them know that yours is the saving hand,

that this, Yahweh, is your work.

–Psalm 109:27, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Ezekiel 20 is a stinging indictment of an intergenerational, societal pattern of infidelity to God, who has done so much and required mere obedience in return.  In the Hebrew Bible keeping the Law of Moses is a faithful response to God.  Not observing that code, with its timeless principles and culturally specific applications thereof, leads to negative consequences in the Old Testament.  In contrast to Ezekiel 20 is Revelation 3:7-13, in which the church at Philadelphia has remained faithful in the midst of adversity.  The text encourages that congregation to remain faithful amidst hardship, a message also present in the lection from Hebrews.

Keeping the Sabbath is a related theme in some of these days’ readings.  I covered that topic in the previous post, so I will not repeat myself here.  In Luke 6:6-11 Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  Certain critics of our Lord and Savior accused him of having acted inappropriately, given the day.  Jesus replied that all days are good days to commit good deeds.

As I understand Jewish Sabbath laws, Jesus acted consistently with the best spirit of them.  I have heard, for example, of Jewish doctors and nurses whose work in emergency rooms (including on the Jewish Sabbath) is an expression of their faith.  As for the account in Luke 6:6-11, our Lord and Savior’s accusers were especially strict and represented one part of the spectrum of opinion regarding the question of how to keep the Sabbath.  According to a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), the Law of Moses forbade work on the Sabbath without defining “work.”  Germane texts were Exodus 20:10; Exodus 31:14-15; and Leviticus 23:3.  Previous study has revealed to me that, at the time of Jesus, strict Jewish Sabbath regulations permitted providing basic first aid and saving a life on that day.  If saving a life was permissible on the Sabbath, why not healing on that day?

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 6:6-11 thought they were holding fast to their obligations to God.  They erred, however, by becoming lost in details and losing sight of compassion and kindness.

May we avoid the opposite errors of caring about the wrong details in the name of piety and of not caring enough or at all.  May we act out of compassion and kindness every day of the week.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-16-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Rest in God   1 comment

Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise Gustave Dore

Above:  Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 5:1-21 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 (Friday)

Psalm 90:12-17 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:17-19 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:1-11 (Friday)

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FYI:  Those of you who compare and contrast versification in translations of the Bible might notice that Deuteronomy 5:1-30 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versions equals 5:1-33 in Protestant translations.

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Trust and obedience to God undergird the readings for these two days.

Deuteronomy 5, which contains the Ten Commandments, concludes with these words:

Be careful, then, to do as the LORD your God has commanded you.  Do not turn aside to the right or to the left:  follow only the path that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess.

–Verses 29-30, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One had to arrive first, however.  In Numbers 14, after spies had returned from their mission to Canaan, fear and faithlessness spread through the population.

I the LORD have spoken:  Thus will I do to all that wicked band that has banded together against Me:  in this very wilderness they shall die to the last man.

–Numbers 14:35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, who assumed that David had written Psalm 95, referred to that text:

Forty years I was provoked by that generation;

I thought, “They are a senseless people;

they would not know my ways.”

Concerning them I swore in anger,

“They shall never come to my resting-place!”

–Verses 10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Promised Land is the resting-place in Psalm 95, as is one meaning of the Greek word katapausis in the readings from Hebrews.  There are two words for “rest” in them; the other refers to sabbath rest.  Katapausis has two other meanings in the Letter to the Hebrews:

  1. The rest God took after the sixth day of creation; this definition has eschatological overtones; and
  2. The peace of God.

The latter is the ultimate meaning of katapausis in the readings from Hebrews.  Entrance into the peace of God requires trust and obedience.

But what does that mean in practical terms?  Many voices compete to answer that question.  Many of them horrify me.  Those, for example, who argue that fidelity to God requires mutilating offenders and killing heretics and unbelievers appall me.  (Some of those sources quote the Bible word-for-word while ignoring inconvenient passages.)  Those who justify their violence by placing a false stamp of divine approval on it offend me.  I do not pretend to know the mind of God, for I affirm the mystery of the divine.  Yet I state clearly that one can, by considering the example of Jesus, learn much about the requirements for being a Christian.  Loving one’s neighbors as one loves oneself (presuming, of course, that one loves oneself) is part of obeying God, I affirm.

The author of Hebrews referred to Joshua, son of Nun, in 4:8.  May we who call ourselves Christians follow our Joshua–Jesus–into the peace of God.  May we lay aside the fear which leads to disobedience to and lack of trust in God.  May we, by grace, come into that divine rest and lead others to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-23-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Fleeing from Grace   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:15-18 (Thursday)

Exodus 30:1-10 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:2-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 (Friday)

John 12:1-11 (Saturday)

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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

–Psalm 51:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Through all generations you have made yourself known,

and in your wrath you did not forget mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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For thus said my Lord GOD,

The Holy One of Israel,

“You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;

Your victory shall come about

Through calm and confidence.”

But you refused.

“No,” you declared.

“We shall flee on our steeds”–

Therefore you shall flee!

“We shall ride on swift mounts”–

Therefore your pursuers shall prove swift!

One thousand before the shout of one–

You shall flee at the shout of five;

Till what is left of you

Is like a mast on a hilltop,

Like a pole upon a mountain.

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Truly, the LORD is waiting to show you grace,

Truly, He will arise to pardon you.

For the LORD is a God of justice;

Happy are all who wait for Him.

–Isaiah 30:15-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The concept of God changes between the covers of the Bible.  God is physically immediate to Abraham, for example, yet proximity to God is fatal in much of the Hebrew Scriptures.    Even touching the Ark of the Covenant accidentally proved fatal, according to the texts.  There was no fatal holiness in Jesus, however; St. Mary of Bethany anointed him in John 12:1-11, shortly before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

So we can draw near to God, who has drawn close to us and become incarnate (however that worked) as one of us.  The theological point of the full humanity anddivinity of Jesus is one of those difficult knots great minds have tried to understand.  (For details, consult a history of Christian theology.)  I will not tread in their steps here except to assert that one ought to seek a balance between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus; one should not emphasize one at the expense of the other.  My experience in congregations (especially during my formative years) has been that people have usually been more comfortable with the divinity of Christ than with his humanity.  They have committed the heresy of Apollinarianism, or acknowledging his humanity while giving short shrift to it.

If attempting to untangle the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the nature(s) and will(s) of Christ proves insufficiently challenging, what about the balance between divine judgment and mercy?  I can provide a partial answer; the rest I am content to leave as a mystery.  Some things we do to ourselves, so we suffer the consequences of our actions.  Forgiveness of sins does not remove those consequences in this realm of existence, however.  Also, sometimes good news for the oppressed is catastrophic news for oppressors who refuse to change their ways.  That is the way life works.  In addition, some divine judgment is discipline meant to prompt repentance.  In such cases the metaphor of God as parent works well.  In some circumstances (especially from the Hebrew Scriptures) I refuse to affirm the argument that God has commanded people to commit genocide and other atrocities.  Maybe those who committed those deeds thought they were fulfilling a divine mandate, but they were wrong.  Against which population would Jesus commit or condone genocide?

Often we seek to use theology to justify our sins when we ought to confess and repent of those offenses.  Frequently we seek not God–in the context of whose holiness our sinfulness becomes evident–but confirmation of our imagined righteousness.  We flee from God, so we doom ourselves to face certain consequences.  We run away from God, who waits to show us mercy.  Maybe doing that is easier than facing the reality of our spiritual lives.  If that is true, this statement is a sad one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Adjusting to America: Moravians, 1735-1848   12 comments

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Above:  A View of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Publication Date = May 20, 1761, by Thomas Jeffreys

Artist = Thomas Pownall (1722-1805)

Painter and Engraver = Paul Sandby (1731-1809)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-04087

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART II

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Grant us to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that hate us;

Have mercy upon our slanderers and persecutors; and lay not this sin to their charge;

Hinder all schisms and scandals;

Put far from thy people deceivers and seducers;

Bring back all that have erred, or have been seduced;

Grant love and unity to all our congregations;

Hear us, gracious Lord and God!

–From the Church Litany, in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Protestant Church, of the United Brethren; New and Revised Edition (1809)page x

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This post stands in lineage with the Prelude and Part I.

Immigrant and emigrant traditions intrigue me.  One reason for this fact is the reality of my ancestry, for I descend primarily from English people, some of whom settled in North America during the colonial era.  Some of my ancestors fought under the command of General George Washington during the U.S. War for Independence, in fact.  So I, a Caucasian, English-speaking male with deep roots in the United States of America, feel as non-ethnic as one can.  The closest I come to a sense of ethnicity is, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan’s H. M.S. Pinafore, “I am an Englishman.”  Indeed, “God Save the Queen,” er, “My Country, “Tis of Thee.”  Do you want tea with that?

People whose roots do not run deeply in the country in which they live occupy a different cultural space than do the rest of us.  Xenophobes and nativists consider that different cultural space inherently negative.  I reject the extremes of ethnocentrism, which holds up one’s culture as the ideal, and cultural relativism, which rejects the existence of standards and considers one culture just as good as any other.  No, I stand in the middle, where I welcome the positive influences and reject the negative ones, regardless of cultural origin.  Emigrants and immigrants have enriched this nation in countless ways, from cuisine to physical infrastructure.  Nevertheless, my digestive tract rejects much of their spicy food, so I practice considerable caution in the realm of culinary multiculturalism, much to the approval of my innards.

One of my the themes of this post is the struggle of many American Moravians with many of their fellow Americans who misunderstood them.  “Why do you use different hymn tunes than we do at the Methodist (or Baptist, Presbyterian, et cetera) Church?’ some asked, sometimes with hostility.  “What is the reason you insist on being different from other Protestants?” many wanted to know.  And, given the prominence of the nativistic politics of the American Party/Native American Party/American Republican Party in the middle third of the nineteenth century, these were serious questions which pointed to profound issues with which the Moravian Church in America had to struggle.

One lesson I have learned is that, despite the frequency of repetition of the ethic of “live and let live” or even to embrace and learn from certain differences, many people are unapologetic conformists.  This reality becomes obvious in a plethora of locations, from schools to places of employment.  I argue, however, that if God had intended us to be alike, God would not have created us to be different.

A few words about sources are appropriate before I delve headlong into the material.  I have listed hardcopy sources at the end of the post.  You, O reader, will find links to other posts behind parts of the text.  And I have found much useful information in an academic paper, “A Look at Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century American Moravian Liturgy” (December 2011), which Michael E. Westmoreland, Jr., wrote for his Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree at Wake Forest University.  I found the paper via an Internet search and downloaded the PDF file.  That document will also prove useful when I start taking notes for Part III of this series.

II.  GERMAN LEGACIES

The origins of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum were, of course, Germanic.  Central to it were Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) and his estate near Berthelsforf, Saxony.  On that estate, in 1722, Moravian exiles had settled and formed a community, Herrnhut.  Developments there and elsewhere in Europe functioned as background to American settlements and influenced them.

Rituals

Many of the influences (some of which I covered in Part I) pertained to rituals of varying degrees of formality.  There was, for example, the Church Litany, based on a litany which Martin Luther had revised from the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Saints.  Luther had translated that text into German and removed all references to saints and the Pope.  The revised version was never as popular with Lutherans as with Moravians.  The Moravian revision debuted at Herrnhut in 1731 and became the center of Moravian liturgical practice and reinforced the communal nature of Moravian religious life.

More informal was the Singstrunde, or the “Singing Hour,” which started in 1727.  Across the Moravian world in the 1700s this constituted a standard part of evening devotions.  At Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, for example, the community held such a service each Saturday, in the late 1740s.  The form of Singstrunde was to sing stanzas and half-stanzas of hymns based on  a theme, thereby creating a sermon in song.  This, of course, required great knowledge of hymnody.  By 1770 readings from the Bible had become part of the service.

Related to the Singstrunde was the Love Feast, which had become the high point of Moravian festivals by the 1750s.  Composers wrote anthems for Love Feasts, which included common meals.

The Moravian practice of saying the Litany of the Wounds every Friday in communal settings in the 1700s pertained to the fact of Good Friday.  When people said it less frequently, they did so at least once a month, one week before Communion Sunday.  (The scheduling of Moravian Communion services has varied from once a quarter to once a month.)  Other times for the saying the Litany of the Wounds included days in the season of Lent.  Since 1753 the Litany has existed in two parts:  the Litany of the Life, Suffering, and Death of Christ, and the Hymn of the Wounds.

Forms were ordered and usually simple, although occasionally elaborate.  The purpose of worship was to promote love for Jesus and each other, and the forms were flexible with constant cores, so as to meet needs in various circumstances.  Related to that norm of ordered simplicity was the basic ministerial garment for Baptism, Communion, Marriage, and Confirmation.  The white surplice (often with a white belt) debuted in Moravian worship at a Communion service in Europe on May 2, 1748.  It, like other vestments, functioned as a uniform, thereby preventing the minister’s wardrobe from becoming a distraction.  My survey of websites of North American Moravian congregations has yielded images of clergymen and clergywomen leading worship while wearing a white surplice, a black Geneva robe (without a stole), and secular clothes.  This is consistent with the optional nature of Moravian vestments outside of those four rites.

The focus on divine (rather than on human) authority became more apparent than it was already in the Moravian Church in 1741.  There has been a series of Chief Elders, spiritual leaders of the Unitas Fratrum.  That year, however, Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766) resigned the position.  The job had become impossible due to the recent global expansion of the Church.  Also, Dober had no desire to function as a kind of Moravian Pope, which was what his office might have come to entail had he not resigned his post.  On November 13, 1741, the Church announced formally that Jesus Christ was the Chief Elder.  Since then November 13 has been the Festival of Christ the Chief Elder.  The designated parament color is White and the readings are Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 4:14-16; and John 10:1-10.

Settlements

Moravians arrived on the North American mainland in 1735.  The first group settled in Savannah, Georgia.  The initial Georgia mission (1735-1779) failed primarily due to internal divisions.  Outside pressures made matters worse, for the pacifistic Moravians refused to take up arms against the Spanish in the late 1730s.  This fact did nothing to endear them to the British military authorities.  Most of the Georgia contingent departed for Pennsylvania in 1740 and founded the settlement of Nazareth the following year.  The founding of other Moravian settlements ensued, such as at Bethabara (1753) and Salem (1766), in North Carolina.

Early Moravian settlements were communes which emphasized the self-sufficiency of the community and members’ responsibilities to and for each other.  Musical skills carried a high priority, but church music did not require professionalism.  Practice time was important and distracted people from dubious pursuits, but too much practice time detracted from communal duties.   Survival mattered, as did the rigorous daily worship schedule, which included morning, midday, and evening prayers.

Hymnals

The hymnals were mostly in German during the 1700s.  In fact, the first English-language Moravian hymnal rolled off the printing presses in England in 1742.  The Tunes for the Hymns in the Collection with Several Translations from the Moravian Hymnbook, with supplements in 1746 and 1749, was a personal collection which James Hutton had prepared.  The original edition had only 187 hymns, thus it was small by Moravian standards.  A Collection of Hymns of the Children of God in All Ages, From the Beginning Till Now; Designed Chiefly with the Brethren’s Church (1754), with Bishop John Gambold, Sr. (1711-1771), as the Editor, contained 1,055 hymn texts, however.  These spanned the time from the Early Church to the-then contemporary age and included works by Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.  Only fifty-one hymns came from the Ancient Unity.  Next in line was  A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren (1789), with a mere 887 hymns plus liturgical texts dispersed among the hymns.  Given the fact that American Moravians used imported British and German worship materials prior to their 1851 hymnal, many of the Brethren in North America knew these English-language materials well.  For a long time, however, German was the main language of worship on this side of “the pond.”

Count Zinzendorf published the Herrnhuter Gesangbuch (1735), thereby starting the Moravian tradition of words-only hymnals for congregations and tune books for church musicians.  The 1735 hymnal offered 999 texts, 208 of which Zinzendorf had written.  Only two hymns came from the Ancient Unity.  Subsequent editions published through 1755 added a total of twelve appendices and four supplements.  Modern Moravian sources consider much of the textual content of hymnals from the “Sifting Time” (ending about 1750) as lacking good taste and exhibiting an excessive–even childish–emphasis on the wounds of Christ.

The next major development in German Moravian hymnody was the “London Book” of 1753-1755.  Alt und neuer Bunder Gesang, a.k.a. Das Londoner Gesangbuch, debuted in two parts.  It contained 3,264 hymns arranged chronologically, from the Early Church to then-contemporary times.  Of these texts, 1,096 came from Moravian sources.  The texts, in German and English in parallel columns, emphasized the fact that the Moravians thought of themselves as standing in continuity with the Early Church and as part of the Universal Church.  This great accomplishment in hymnody also corrected much of the childish language of earlier Moravian hymnals.

Christian Gregor (1723-1801), a bishop from 1789, was responsible for the next great leap in (German) Moravian hymnody.  He, the “Father of Moravian Music,” composed hundreds of hymn texts, introduced arias and anthems into Moravian worship, and stabilized the denomination’s hymnody.  He edited the Gesangbuch (1778), with its 1,750 hymns, more than 300 of which he wrote or revised.  Six years later the Choralbuch, intended for organists, appeared.  The Gesangbuch contained only words and the Choralbuch offered only music.

German-language hymnals remained in use in the United States throughout the 1800s.  A domestically published volume from 1848 contained 836 hymns and went into new printings in 1854 and 1861.  The revision debuted in 1885.  By then English had become the main language of worship, however.

III.  THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL ASSIMILATION

The transition to English was part of a process of cultural assimilation and adaption to the dominant culture.  I would be remiss if I were, O reader, to leave you with the mistaken idea that all linguistic developments among American Moravians at the time moved toward the English tongue.  There were, for example, missions among Native people.  Hence there was, for example, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Christian Indians, of the Missions of the United Brethren in America (1803), which missionary David Zeisberger prepared.  The second edition debuted in 1847.

The first printing of a Moravian hymnal in the United States occurred in 1813.  The volume in question was A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren–New and Revised Edition (1801) with its 1808 supplement.  The 1809 composite hymnal served well in Britain until the publication of its successor in 1826; another revision followed in 1849.  The U.S. Moravian hymnal of 1851 was a revision of that volume, hence the division between Parts II and III of this series.  The 1801-1808-1809 book was itself a revision of the 1789 Collection of Hymns, which John Swertner had also edited.

The two volumes were similar yet different.  Both, consistent with Moravian practice of the age, had words only.  The 1789 hymnal offered 887 hymns, but the 1801 book contained 1,000.  The 1808 supplement thereto added 200 hymns.  The 1789 hymnal dispersed the liturgies among the hymns, but the 1801-1808-1809 volume grouped the liturgies at the front of the book.  Those forms were:

  1. The Church Litany;
  2. Doxologies at Ordinations;
  3. Easter Morning Litany;
  4. Baptismal Litanies;
  5. Holy Communion; and
  6. Liturgy for Burials.

Another important volume was Hymn Tunes Used in the Church of the United Brethren (1836), which Peter Wolle (1792-1871) edited.  The core target audience was Moravian, but Wolle intended it for other Christians also.  He edited the traditional Moravian tunes to make them less foreign.  That fact indicated that Moravians were feeling pressures to conform to the practices of others.

I have read enough in the realm of liturgy during the last few years to develop a firm grasp of the difficulties inherent in linguistic and cultural changes in the public worship of God.  Among many culturally Germanic Lutherans (especially in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) in the United States, the transition to worshiping in English entailed the loss of traditional texts.  Much of this transition was abrupt, for domestic hysteria and vandalism during World War I (a time when many people relabeled Sauerkraut as “Liberty Cabbage”) compelled its acceleration.  The Dutch-language worshipers from the Christian Reformed Church in North America felt much of the same pressure during the Great War.  Their transition was mostly complete by 1940, at the cost of much grief and many tunes and texts.

Language carries culture, which influences one’s identity.  Thus those who dismiss the “other” as automatically and inherently defective because it is different not only engage in ethnocentrism but inflict harm on others.  Those nativists and xenophobes also harm themselves, for their insistence on homogeneity deprives them of positive influences from other cultures.

American Moravians, who were making the transition from German to English as the primary language during the first half of the nineteenth century, experienced an awkward time.  There were still many older church members who knew the German hymns and litanies by heart, but many of the younger Moravians knew English, not German.  And copies of the English-language worship resources were frequently scarce.  One result of this situation was having many people reading the services badly from books (of which the supply was often insufficient) and generally being lost in the ritual, thereby diminishing the traditional services.  Those services were also becoming less frequent, for changing lifestyles rendered the former rigorous worship schedules obsolete.  Also, many Evangelical congregations (such as those of Baptists and Methodists) attracted many young Moravians.

Were traditional Moravian melodies bad because they were different?  Of course not!  Yet many non-Moravians thought so.  I have listened to some traditional Moravian music and concluded that is superior to much traditional American Protestant (especially Baptist and Methodist) music, actually.  Then again, I am an unapologetic European Classicist.  Nativism and xenophobia, however, led to opposition to such foreign influences.

IV.  CONCLUSION

The story of adaptation to America will continue in Part III, which will start with the British hymnal of 1849, the basis of the U.S. hymnbook of 1851.  This series will continue with summaries of revisions in the hymnody and liturgies of the Moravian Church in America as it adapted to changing circumstances.

The allegation that Moravians were somehow foreign or insufficiently American was false.  In fact, an examination of the germane facts belies it, not that bigots care about objective reality.  The first documented celebration of July 4 occurred at Salem, North Carolina, in 1783.  The Moravians there observed the occasion with a Love Feast.  As a common expression states, “enough said.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Hutton, James E.  A History of the Moravian Church.  London, England, UK:  Moravian Publication Office, 1909.  Reprint.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar & Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2013.

Moravian Daily Texts 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2013.

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