Archive for the ‘Isaiah 5’ Category

Missing the Point, Part I   1 comment

archery-target

Above:  Archery Target

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 32:28-47 or Isaiah 5:18-30

Psalm 74

Matthew 12:22-37 or Luke 11:14-23

1 John 3:8-15 (16-24); 4:1-6

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Ah,

Those who call evil good

And evil good;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who present bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

Ah,

Those who are so wise–

In their own opinion;

So clever–

In their own judgment!

–Isaiah 5:20-21; TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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But the Pharisees on hearing this remark said, “This man is only expelling devils because he is in league with Beelzebub, the prince of devils.”

–Matthew 12:24, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

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Missing the point is a recurring theme in the assigned readings for Proper 5.  Psalm 74, an exilic text, asks why the Babylonian Exile has occurred.  Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 5 answer the question; faithlessness, evident in idolatry and rampant in institutionalized social injustice is the cause.  Certain opponents on Jesus accuse him of being in league with Satan when he casts out demons (in the Hellenistic world view).  However we moderns classify whatever Jesus did in exorcisms, that is not a point on which one should fixate while pondering the texts from the Gospels.

How often do we fail to recognize good for what is evil for what it is because of any number of reasons, including defensiveness and cultural conditioning?  How often do we become too lax or too stringent in defining sin?  I recall a single-cell cartoon.  A man is standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The apostle tells him,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Falling into legalism and condemning someone for playing bridge or for having an occasional drink without even becoming tipsy is at least as bad as failing to recognize actual sins.

1 John 3:18-20 provides guidance:

Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action.  This is how we shall know if we belong to the realm of truth, and reassure ourselves in his sight where conscience condemns us; for God is greater than our conscience and knows all.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Love does not object when Jesus cures someone on the Sabbath or any other day.  (Consult Matthew 12:1-14) for the Sabbath reference.)  Love does not seek to deny anyone justice, as in Isaiah 5:23.  Love does not compel one to seek one’s own benefit at the expense of others.  Love is not, of course, a flawless insurance policy against missing the point, but it is a good start.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-5-year-d/

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Faithfulness and Faithlessness   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d/

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Exploitation   1 comment

Widow's Offering

Above:   The Widow’s Offering

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:8-23

Psalm 113

Mark 12:41-44

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Exodus 23:6-8 commands:

You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes.  Keep far from a false charge; do not bring death on those who are innocent and in the right, for I will not acquit the wrongdoer.  Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clearsighted and upset the pleas of those who are in the right.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That passage functions as background for the lection from Isaiah 5 and the lesson from Mark 12.  In both cases the poor suffer from institutional injustice.  The explanation of Isaiah 5:8-23 is straight-forward and inside the text.  In the case of Mark 12:41-44, however, one needs to read verses 38-40 also:

In his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers.  The more severe will be the sentence they receive.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

In that immediate textual context we read of the widow and her two coins.  The scriptures record words yet not tone of voice, so I have to rely on context to interpret the passage.  My reading of the pericope is that Jesus, without condemning the widow, did not praise her either.  No, I think, he spoke mournfully, condemning corrupt and proud scribes and the broader corruption present at the Temple.

People create, maintain, and influence societies, cultures, and institutions, which, in turn, influence them.  May we function as agents of God’s salt and light in the world, leaving it better than we found it, especially for the poor and other vulnerable people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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In the Same Boat   1 comment

Men in Boat

Above:  Men in Boat (1860), by Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-20362

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 45:1-9

Psalm 100

Acts 9:32-35

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Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

–Psalm 100:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Acknowledging that the LORD is God entails, among other things, living accordingly.  Psalm 14:1a and 53:2a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) tell us that

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

The standard English-language translation from the Hebrew text is close to the rendering in The Revised English Bible (1989):

The impious fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

The difference in translation is mostly in the second half of that passage.  The issue in Psalms 14 and 53 is practical atheism, not the denial of the existence of God.  Belief in God, in the Biblical sense, is trust in God, not mere affirmation of divine existence.  Thus the benighted man/impious fool operates under the mistaken idea that God does not care.  Actually, God cares deeply, especially about how we mortals treat each other.

Land was a patrimony and therefore a matter of great importance in Biblical times.  A member of one generation held it in trust for heirs.  Yet monarchs evicted legitimate landowners and seized land some times.  This is the matter in Ezekiel 45:8b-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

My princes shall no more defraud My people, but shall leave the rest of the land to the several tribes of the House of Israel.

Thus says the Lord GOD:  Enough, princes of Israel!  Make an end of lawlessness and rapine, and do what is right and just!  Put an end to your evictions of My people–declares the Lord GOD.

References to such evictions occur in 1 Kings 21:1-16; Isaiah 5:8; and Micah 2:2.

The timeless message here is that nobody has any right to improve his or her financial position by victimizing others, especially the powerless and the less powerful.  Climbing the ladder of success by kicking others off it is immoral.

St. Simon Peter’s healing of Aeneas, a man bedridden with paralysis for eight years, built up Aeneas, restoring him to health and community.

Whatever we do to each other is what we do to ourselves.  If we keep others”in their place,” seemingly to improve our circumstances, we really hurt ourselves, for we doom ourselves to monitor others instead of pursuing proper opportunities.  May we build each other up in the name of Jesus Christ, enabling each other to become the people we can become in God, for the glory of God and the benefit of the whole.  To use a cliché, we are all in the same boat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living to Glorify God   1 comment

Prophet Isaiah--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Isaiah, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:11-17 (Thursday)

Isaiah 6:1-4 (Friday)

Psalm 30 (Both Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Thursday)

Revelation 4:1-11 (Friday)

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Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

–Psalm 30:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The author of Psalm 30 was certainly a supporter of God.  That characterization did not apply to the drunks in Isaiah 5 on the indecisive church at Laodicea.

In contrast to those examples stand Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4, visions of divine glory.  The proper response to that glory is utter humility which praises God and asks how best to glorify God in one’s life.  That is, to use the language of Revelation 3:14-22, being hot for God.

The Larger Westminster Catechism begins:

Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The Constitution of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1963-64, page 49

That is a fine statement of principle, but how does it properly translate into actions?  The answer to that question depends on who one is, where one is, and when one is.  May each of us, regardless of our circumstances, glorify God as effectively as possible in them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 5, Isaiah 6, Psalm 30, Revelation of John

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Of Grapes and Fruit   1 comment

Watchtower in Vineyard

Above:  A Watchtower in a Vineyard, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06021

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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 5:1-7

Psalm 63:1-8

Luke 6:43-45

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O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is not water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)

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That is what a good grape from Isaiah 5:1-7 and a good fruit from Luke 6:43-45 would say.  Unfortunately, the grapes are wild and the fruits are bad in those readings.

The excellent translation of Isaiah 5:7 from TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), attempting to bring the effect of the Hebrew wordplay into English, rings inside my head:

For the vineyard of the LORD of Hosts

Is the House of Israel,

And the seedlings He lovingly tended

Are the men of Judah.

And He hoped for justice,

But beheld, injustice;

For equity,

But behold, iniquity!

Social justice in the context of community, with responsibility of people to and for each other, and with all people accountable to God, is an essential part of the Law of Moses.  I wonder, in fact, why I did not learn this growing up in the church–in a series of parsonages, actually.  I had to learn this truth from a book after joining a Historical Jesus reading group in Athens, Georgia.  In fact, much of my adult spiritual pilgrimage has consisted of abandoning what I learned as a child, for most of it was either wrong or woefully incomplete.

God commands us to live in love, to love each other as we love ourselves.  Love of this variety leaves no room for any form of prejudice or animosity, or for any other obstacle to practicing the Golden Rule.  This is a lesson I understand more intellectually than viscerally, but I continue to struggle with it.  This is progress, at least, in my effort to cooperate with God to be a good grape and a good fruit.

May you, O reader, strive to be a good grape and a good fruit also.  May you succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 19, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 5, Luke 6, Psalms II: 42-72

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Dressing Up Darkness as Light   1 comment

Little Rock 1959

Above:  A Racist Rally at the State Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas, August 20, 1959

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-19754

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:15-24

Psalm 29

John 15:18-20, 26-27

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The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

–Psalm 29:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ah,

Those who call evil good

And good evil;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who prevent bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

–Isaiah 5:20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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I am a student of history, especially that of the ecclesiastical variety.  Much of that content troubles me.  In my library I have documents justifying perfidy in the name of Jesus and more broadly in the name of God.  I think of a sermon, “God the Original Segregationist” (1954), which the minister continued to sell via mail as late as 1971.  I think also of sermons defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible.  And I own a reprint of an article from the magazine of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1960 arguing that no Roman Catholic should serve as the President of the United States.

I consider my family tree, which includes a slaveholder and Georgia state senator who, in the 1860s, complained in writing to Governor Joseph Brown that the state had drafted his (the senator’s) slaves’ labor yet been slow to compensate the senator for their work.  My relative was a deacon of the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, Fort Gaines, Georgia.  I assume that he thought of himself as a good Christian.

Fortunately, overt racism has fallen out of favor in many quarters, but covert racism remains ubiquitous.  Slavery, furthermore, has few prominent defenders of which I am aware in American Christianity.  Nevertheless, some prominent American Evangelicals defended the Crusades–orgies of violence, religious intolerance, and even some cannibalism–with much energy recently.

Dressing up darkness as light is an ancient sin which remains contemporary.  Even many who condemn slavery commit homophobia.  Some are malevolent, saying openly that homosexuals ought to have fewer civil rights and liberties than heterosexuals.  Certain malevolent homophobes go as far as to advocate executing or imprisoning homosexuals.  Others, however, act out of outdated mindsets based on erroneous assumptions and are not malevolent.  They are still wrong, of course.

The biblical call to justice, present in the works of the prophets and elsewhere requires us to reject the forms of bigotry we have learned from cultures.  To love our neighbors as we love ourselves and act toward them as we would have them behave toward us entails laying aside our negative biases and recognizing the image of God in them then acting accordingly.  This can prove risky when cultures, governments, and social institutions perpetuate bigotry and discrimination.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world–therefore the world hates you.

–John 15:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I have learned negative biases and unlearned some of them.  The main difficulty when dealing with one’s assumptions is trying to recognize one’s moral blind spots, especially those which are socially unacceptable.  Defense mechanisms interfere with this process, perpetuating the illusion that one is holier than one actually is.  Yet a faithful pilgrimage with God requires that one, by grace, face oneself honestly.  Hopefully this will result in an accurate self-appraisal and lead to repentance, that is, changing one’s mind, turning around.  That can be difficult, but it is possible via the power of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-saturday-before-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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