Archive for the ‘Hebrews’ Category

Recognizing the Savior   1 comment

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple falls on February 2, forty days after Christmas.  The origins of the Feast of the Presentation date to the 300s, in Jerusalem, where the original date was February 14-forty days after January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.  In the English Prayer Book tradition the Feast of the Presentation has been the Feast of the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, per the beginning of Leviticus 12, hinted at in Luke 2:22-23.

The readings from Malachi 3 and Psalm 24, along with Luke 2:22-40, convey a sense of awe and wonder.  They tell us to take notice, for God, or a messenger thereof, has arrived.  Where better to be than in the Temple?  This is an event that has changed the world, after all.  When we read of the divine arrival in Luke 2 and Hebrews 2, we read of the Incarnation as an infant, not a conquering hero in armor.  Via living as a human being, one fully human as well as fully divine, Christ can identify with our suffering and help those enduring tests, we read in Hebrews 2:18.

It would have been easy to fail to recognize the infant Jesus for who he was, but Simeon and Anna knew who he was.  They spread their wisdom in their time and place.  Certainly some who heard them considered that message ridiculous, as it must have seemed to have been.

Fortunately, we can, via hindsight and the Bible, recognize the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, as well as the true identity of that infant boy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly pray that,

as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple,

so may we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts

by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 239

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have sent us your salvation.

Inspire us by your Holy Spirit to see with our own eyes him who is

the glory of Israel and the light for all nations, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), page 32

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Malachi 3:1-4

Psalm 84 or 24:7-10

Hebrews 2:14-18

Luke 2:22-40

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-presentation-of-the-lord-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Reasons for Hope   1 comment

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

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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Proper 2

Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 97

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:[1-7] 8-20

Proper 3

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-12

John 1:1-14

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The Reverend Will Humes, consistent with the Roman Catholic tradition of the three masses of Christmas, provides Propers 1, 2, and 3 in his proposed lectionary.  Proper 1 is for Christmas Eve.  Propers 2 and 3 are for Christmas Day.

St. Gregory I “the Great,” Bishop of Rome (d. 604), provided the oldest surviving documentation of the three masses of Christmas.  The midnight mass was at the Church of St. Mary Major.  The second mass, at dawn, was at St. Anastasia’s Church.  The third mass of the day was at the Church of St. Peter.

Proper 2

The context of Isaiah 62 was the end of the Babylonian Exile.  The nations had witnessed the vindication of Israel in 61:10-62:2.  The best days of the returning exiles lay ahead.  The problem was that, according to all historical sources, those predictions of paradise on Earth did not come true.  Returning exiles lived in a poor, backwater satrapy of the Persian Empire.  Many people pushed those vaunted hopes into the future.

God is in charge.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for those He consumes.  Justification by grace, which results from divine mercy, makes the justified heirs to eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Part of living faithfully, of responding favorably to God in response to divine mercy, is striving to live more patiently as one acknowledges God’s promises.  There is always hope, even though some of it has yet to arrive.

Regardless of the year you are reading this post, O reader, I guarantee that global news looks nothing like God’s full-blown reign on Earth.  This is a matter of human sinfulness and of divine scheduling.  Mustering patience can be difficult, I know, but we need not rely on our strength, which is insufficient anyhow.  Fortunately, God seems to smile upon even the effort to muster patience; at least the attempt is a sign of good faith.

Proper 3

The readings from Hebrews 1 and John 1 present the heavenly Jesus, who dwelt among people and met with both acceptance and rejection.  All the people of the Earth should rejoice because of the Incarnation, but most do not.  This is unfortunate.  It is also a matter for divine judgment and mercy; I will not presume to know more about the balance of those two factors than the very little I perceive.

The reading from Isaiah 52 is a prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem.  The Presence of God will dwell with the people, as it did after the Exodus and before the crossing into Canaan, we read.  The full victory of God remains for the future, but the Incarnation constitutes a unique divine intervention into human events.  The Incarnation points toward intervention and tells us, among other things, that we who follow Christ have excellent reasons to hope for the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-christmas-day-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Laying Down Burdens, Part II   Leave a comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

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

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You have shown us, O Lord, what is good;

enable us, we pray, to perform what you require, even

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Micah 6:1-4, 5b-8

Psalm 44

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6

Matthew 8:23-27

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I prefer to use language correctly.  Therefore I like the title of S. I. Hayakawa‘s classic work, Use the Right Word.  Consider the word “faith,” O reader.  It, like many other words in the Bible, has a range of meanings in the sacred anthology.  In the Letter of James, for example, faith is intellectual, so works must accompany it; justification with God comes through works, not words, in James.  In Pauline theology, however, faith is inherently active; works are part of the package deal.  Thus justification comes by faith, not works, according to St. Paul the Apostle.  The two actually agree, for they arrive at the same point from different directions.  We read of another definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

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

The Revised English Bible (1989)

If we have concrete evidence for a proposition, we have no need for faith to accept it.  With that in mind, O reader, consider the following statement:  Human depravity is not an article of faith for me, for I have evidence from the past and present for it.  I reserve faith for issues (such as the resurrection of Jesus) for which there is no concrete evidence to prove or disprove.

We cannot repay God for any, much less all, God has done for us and continues to do, but we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  If we cannot respond as faithfully as we know we should, we can do something, at least.  The inability to do everything is no excuse for not doing anything.  Storms of life leave us battered, do they not?  Frequently we emerge from them angry–perhaps justifiably.  Anger of a certain sort, channeled properly, can be socially constructive and spiritually beneficial.  However, frequently, if not usually, anger functions negatively in societies, communities, organizations, families, and individual lives.

By faith we can see the way to lay down that burden, and to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.  Laying down that burden of anger can prove difficult; I know this from experience.  I wish that doing what I know God tells me to do were easier and more appealing to me than the alternatives.  The struggle is palpable, but the strength necessary to succeed is divine, not human.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Repentance and Restoration, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIFTH 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 God, our refuge and strength, you are the author of all godliness:

Be ready, we pray, to hear the devout prayers of your Church;

and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Nahum 1:1-8

Psalm 37

Hebrews 13:1-6

Matthew 18:15-22

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These four readings, taken as a unit, constitute a masterpiece of liturgical cohesion; the lectionary committee’s work for the Fifth Sunday of Kingdomtide stands the test of time.

As the great Jewish Biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman points out, the Hebrew Bible balances divine judgment and mercy; the stereotype of YHWH as more prone to smite than to act mercifully is misleading, as stereotypes are inherently.  Neither is the composite depiction of God in the New Testament that of a warm, fuzzy deity.  One might think of Lewis Black‘s joke that the difference between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that having a kid calmed Him down.  No, the truth of divine judgment and mercy is one we find in the balance of the two factors.  Furthermore, there is the issue of the Arian heresy.

Much of what we humans call the wrath of God looks like proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Actions and inactions have consequences, after all.  Simply put, that which we sow, we also reap.  When we have an opportunity to sow righteousness, may we do so.  Righteousness is a concrete standard; it boils down, much of the time, to how we treat one another.  Another factor in righteousness is how we behave when we are alone.

The reading from Matthew 18 emphasizes opportunities for repentance–literally turning one’s back on sin.  Judgment might come, but one can avert it by changing one’s mind and ways.  In Jewish and Christian ethics we humans are responsible for and to each other as we stand together before God, upon whom we depend completely.  Facilitating repentance is one of our occasional responsibilities to each other; may we take it seriously, not write people off.  May we value restoration.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Delusions of Righteousness   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR GOOD FRIDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, we ask you to behold this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content

to be betrayed and given into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 102

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 6

Hebrews 10:4-7, 10-23

Luke 23:33-38, 44-46

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The reading from Hebrews 10 ends too soon.  It should continue:

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

–Verses 24 and 25, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This brings me to two points:

  1. We ought to provoke one another to goodness and love, not to wrath and resentment, as we do so often; and
  2. We live in community (to which we are responsible), whether or not we like that reality.

Think about those who were complicit, O reader:  Did they not, in their own minds, operate out of righteousness?  For some the rationale was national security, thus Jesus became a scapegoat.  For others the justification was divine law, mainly death and the penalty for blasphemy in the Law of Moses.  Yet Jesus of Nazareth was no blasphemer.  Neither did he threaten to lead an insurrection against Roman occupation.  Many people misunderstood Jesus.

We would do well to examine our motives and actions that flow from them, especially when we ascribe the quality of righteousness to them.  We might be correct on both counts (or just one), or we might be terribly mistaken and deluded.  As Christ prayed, may God have mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Scapegoating, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son has made

the instrument of shameful death to be to us the means of life and peace:

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

for the sake of the same your Son our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 98

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Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13

Psalm 6

Hebrews 9:11-14

John 11:47-53

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The old Methodist lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965) has two sets of readings for the same Sunday–Palm/Passion Sunday.  The older tradition is to treat the Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week as a synopsis of that week.  That is what we have here.  Tailoring the observance of this Sunday is to be Palm Sunday–simply starting Holy Week–is what we will have in the next post.

We have sad and blood-soaked readings, as we should for Passion Sunday.  Genesis 22 offers the horrible story of Abraham nearly killing Isaac, his son.  We read previously in Genesis of Abraham negotiating with God for the lives of strangers (18:22-33), but we do not read of him doing the same for the life of his son.  The author of Psalm 6 is a severely ill person pleading for continued life.  Hebrews 9:11-14 reminds us of the power of the blood of Christ.  We read of the plot to scapegoat Jesus in John 11:47-53.  This is consistent with Luke  23, which emphasizes the innocence of Jesus and therefore the injustice of his crucifixion.

A scapegoat saves Isaac in Genesis 22 yet another scapegoat dies at Calvary.  I recall reading about the ultimate failure of the plot of Caiaphas to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple, for I remember reading about the First Jewish War a few decades later.  Scapegoating is a generally nasty practice, one that usually seeks to pervert justice.  One lesson of the scapegoating and crucifixion of Jesus is that we ought to abandon the practice of seeking scapegoats.

Another lesson is that God can work through human perfidy to fulfill divine purposes.  In the Gospel of John the crucifixion of Jesus is his glorification.  The insidious plot of Caiaphas, therefore, works for a higher purpose, despite the intentions of the high priest.  That is a fine example of the sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Metaphors and Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be to us both a sacrifice for sin,

and also an example of godly life:

Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), pages 95-96

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Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 40

Hebrews 12:18-29

Matthew 17:1-9

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The safest language to use when writing or speaking of the nature of God is that of poetic metaphors.  God is like a father.  God is like a mother eagle.  God is like a consuming fire.  God is literally none of these, and each of them is insufficient for the task of describing God adequately.  No human language can accomplish that job.

Perhaps anthropomorphizing God is impossible for a human being, for each of us has a human perspective.  The Bible contains much anthropomorphizing of the divine.  A ubiquitous assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that God has some kind of physical (probably human) form.  Related to that assumption, as in Exodus 33:18-23, is that to see the divine face is, in the words of a note from The Jewish Study Bible-Second Edition (2014),

too awesome for humans to survive.

–Page 179

That sense of the lethal holiness of God is absent from stories of Abraham, who literally walked with God, according to Genesis.  That sense of the lethal holiness of God is also absent from all the stories of Jesus.

The reading from Exodus 33 occurs within a narrative setting.  Prior to it Moses is pleading with God, who is refusing to dwell among the Hebrews.  In Chapter 34 God renews the covenant.  Then, in the construction of the Tabernacle (to replace the tent pitched outside the camp in Chapter 33) occurs and the Presence of the LORD fills the Tabernacle.

There is never a bad time to recommit to God, of course.  The season of Lent is a liturgical time set apart to emphasize such matters.  We all need reminders, do we not?  Fortunately, the church calendar proves helpful in that regard.  May we respond faithfully year-round to God, whose compassion is great, who desires that all turn to Him, who balances judgment in mercy in ways we cannot imagine, whose nature eludes us, and who approaches us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

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

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

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

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

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