Archive for the ‘Isaiah 58’ Category

Divine Warnings to the Restored Community   Leave a comment

Above:  Illustration of a Spider Web (Isaiah 59:5)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 56:1-59:21

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Third Isaiah, First Zechariah, and Haggai had to explain why previous prophecies of heaven on earth after the end of the Babylonian Exile had not come to pass.  (I have already covered Haggai-First Zechariah.)  Third Isaiah spoke of sinful and rebellious people within Israel opposing God’s righteous rule.  According to Third Isaiah, the end of the Babylonian Exile was not the inauguration of heaven on earth.  No, it was a foretaste of heaven on earth.

Isaiah 56;1-59:21 comes from a time when many Jewish exiles remained in Babylonia (then part of the Persian Empire) and the situation in Judah was difficult.  The economy was bad and the drought was severe.  The material in Isaiah 56:1-59:21 emphasizes keeping the divine covenant in the context of community.  This covenant requires justice.  This covenant excludes corruption, idolatry, faithlessness, and superficial piety.  This covenant includes all who keep it–even foreigners and eunuchs (see Ezra 9; Ezra 6:21; Deuteronomy 23:2; Leviticus 21:16-23).  This covenant, therefore, moves beyond some of the exclusionary parts of the Law of Moses and welcomes the conversion of Gentiles.  This covenant entails keeping the Sabbath, by which one emulates God.

The Sabbath, in this context, had a particular meaning.  Keeping it indicated commitment to the ancestral faith, the faith to which the society was supposed to be returning.  Keeping the Sabbath was part of a just society, as well as a mark of freedom.  People were free to be their best in God.  Many did not want to pursue that goal.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of necessary compromises regarding Sabbath-keeping in Judaism in antiquity and the present day, I point out that some people have to perform certain work on the day designated in their tradition as the Sabbath.  I also affirm that keeping Sabbath, whichever day a tradition or an adherent to it does so, is necessary, proper, and beneficial.  Keeping Sabbath is not being productive.  Being productive should not be the greatest value or one of the greatest values in a society.  It is, actually, a form of idolatry when raised to that high a priority.  My worth as a human being comes from bearing the image of God, not in how productive I am (or can be) and how much I purchase (or can afford to buy).

God judges unrepentant sinners and helps the righteous and penitent, we read.  God balances judgment and mercy.  God could not ignore what the society of Judah was doing to itself, we read.  When Judahites oppressed each other, God could not pretend this was not occurring, we read.  Divine judgment and mercy are inseparable.  They are like sides of a coin.

Sadly, the warnings in Isaiah 56:1-59:59:21 remain relevant in 2021.   What we mere mortals do–collectively and individually–matters.  God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Introduction to Third Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART I

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Isaiah 24-27, 56-66

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Haggai prophesied in late 520 B.C.E.  First Zechariah, commissioned as a prophet in late 520 B.C.E., prophesied in 519 and 518 B.C.E.  Sometime after Jewish exiles began to return to their ancestral homeland in the late 530s B.C.E., Third Isaiah prophesied.  He grappled with difficult circumstances and ubiquitous disappointment, just as Haggai and First Zechariah did.  The reality on the ground did not match the descriptions of prosperity and paradise on Earth that some previous prophets had offered.  For example, the contrast between the pessimism of many returned exiles and the optimism of Second Isaiah (from circa 540 B.C.E.) was a gaping chasm.

Third Isaiah spoke of divine sovereignty and divine compassion for Israel.  He did this between 537 and 455 B.C.E., in the context of matters remaining difficult for Jews in their ancestral homeland, part of the Persian Empire.  The reforms of Nehemiah and Ezra, starting in 445 B.C.E. (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8:1-9:55) greatly improved the civic and spiritual life of the population.  Third Isaiah prophesied before these reforms.

Designating Isaiah 56-66 as Third Isaiah and Isaiah 24-27 as part of First Isaiah is commonplace.  Yet I follow the determination in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), for I define the prophesies of Third Isaiah as encompassing Isaiah 24-27, 56-66.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF NAPLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., AND HIS SON, DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR.; EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF MISSISSIPPI, AND ADVOCATES OF CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE TYRRELL, IRISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WNCHESTER

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The Golden Rule, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son

Image in the Public Domain

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For Ash Wednesday, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made,

and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent;

create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,

worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 144

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Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 37:1-11

Hebrews 12:1-14

Luke 15

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Sins and responsibilities are individual, collective, active, and passive.  Sins of omission are as real as sins of commission.  Personal peccadilloes are matters of legitimate moral concern, but obsessing on them to the extent of neglecting the moral imperative of moral, societal revolution in institutions is also sinful.  Giving to help the poor is good, but working to alter institutions that keep them poor is better.  Overemphasizing individual responsibility frequently leads to blaming victims and to overlooking systemic, baked-in inequality.  Challenging such systems is controversial, of course.

We–as individuals, towns, families, subcultures, societies, countries, et cetera–have a divine and moral mandate to combine piety and equality of opportunity.  We need to move beyond the obsession with salvation and address Biblical mandates related to judicial and economic justice.  Living according to the Golden Rule demands nothing less.

This post is a devotion for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  At this time of the ecclesiastical year we emphasize confession of sins, followed by repentance.  If we do not turn around when we ought to do so, we have at least one spiritual problem.  This Lent I invite you, O reader, to permit the radical call of the Golden Rule to change your attitudes and life.  May you correctly perceive the divine guidance as you do this.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Loving God and Keeping Commandments   Leave a comment

Above:   Sunrise

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Easter, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Mighty God, whose Son Jesus broke the bands of death and scattered the powers of darkness:

arm us with such faith in him that we may face both death and evil,

and overcome even as he overcame; in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Isaiah 58:6-14

1 Corinthians 15:35-50

John 15:1-17

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St. Paul the Apostle’s rumination about spiritual bodies and physical bodies is the odd reading this week, for it does not fit with Isaiah 58:6-14 and John 15:1-17.

May we avoid a Pietistic-Puritanical error by reading Isaiah 58 correctly.  This is NOT a matter of ritual versus true piety.  No, the issue is that the audience for Isaiah 58 was not even putting on airs of piety (read verses 105) while, for example, exploiting employees.  Torah piety teaches interdependence and mutuality, making no allowance or excuse for exploitation.  Torah piety (as in John 17) is manifest in keeping divine commandments–in loving God and one another.

Recognizing the divine mandate to so this is frequently easier than fulfilling it.  In any society many institutions work by violating this commandment.  Economic and political models and practices trample the Golden Rule.  Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that one tries seriously to live according to the ethics of Isaiah 58 and John 17, one encounters practical and great difficulty in succeeding.  The main problem is, for lack of a better word, the system.

May we, by grace, succeed as much as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Hypocrisy   1 comment

Above:  Burying the Body of Joseph

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 50:14-26 or Isaiah 58:1-14

Psalm 31:19-24

1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Matthew 21:10-27

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Avoiding hypocrisy entirely is impossible, but one can avoid it more often than not, by grace.  One can avoid it more today than tomorrow, by grace.

Hypocrisy is the topic that unites the assigned readings.

  1. Joseph’s brothers feared he might have been a hypocrite when he said he forgave them in Chapter 45.  He was no hypocrite.
  2. God, speaking through Third Isaiah, condemned the hypocrisy of fasting (as to appear pious) yet exploiting and otherwise harming people.
  3. The author of Psalm 31 feared lying, wicked people.
  4. Jesus took offense at the hypocrisy of the Temple establishment and Israel in general, hence the Temple Incident (as Biblical scholars call it) and the cursing of the fig tree.

May we of the current generation refrain from a variety of sins, such as anti-Semitism (per the account in Matthew 21) and self-righteousness.  Appearing pious yet exploiting people applies to many people in every time and place.  Hypocrisy is never the sole province of any group of people.

1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit exist to build up the body of Christ.  Yet how often do many of us seek to use the body of Christ or a portion thereof to build up ourselves?  Is that not hypocrisy?  God occupies the center; we do not.  If we think otherwise, we are mistaken.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 15, 1963

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/devotion-for-proper-23-year-a-humes/

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The Kingdom of God, Part I   1 comment

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Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children (1891)

W21597 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51

Matthew 18:1-7

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 58:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 18:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/devotion-for-december-27-and-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To repent is to turn around, to change one’s mind.  Apologizing for and acknowledging error are parts of the process yet one ought never to confuse those parts of the whole.  No, repentance is active.  And action is what Isaiah 58:1-12 advises.  The mandated deeds include helping the less fortunate and bringing about justice, in contrast to the rampant economic exploitation and judicial and political corruption.

Those sins remain commonplace in contemporary societies, unfortunately.  Political corruption creates and perpetuates much poverty.  Wars lead to famines much of the time.  Judicial corruption imprisons people unjustly and places the poor accused at greater risk than the wealthy accused, who can accord bail and skilled attorneys.  Third Isaiah’s condemnations in 58:1-12 apply to my nation-state as much as they did to the kingdom in which he lived.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God, our Lord and Savior said, was as a powerless child, not anyone in a position of authority and prestige.  This profoundly counter-cultural message of nearly 2000 years ago remains just as subversive today as it was then.  God’s ways differ from dominant human standards of respectability and political legitimacy.  And witnesses from the Bible and times subsequent to its writing have reminded successive generations of our responsibilities to and for each other, especially the less fortunate and more vulnerable.  Such as these, Jesus said, are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

I like the Kingdom of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 14, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 58, Matthew 18, Psalm 51

Tagged with , ,

Mutuality in God I   1 comment

lent-banner2013-940x470

Above:  A Lenten Logo

This image is available on various websites.  Examples include http://pielover16.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-season-of-lent.htmlhttp://genyhub.com/profiles/blogs/lent-and-the-battlefield, and http://svccgilroy.wordpress.com/tag/lent/.

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The Collects:

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made,

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent.

Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of all our sins,

we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness

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

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

or

Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust

the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors.

Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us

to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son,

Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

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Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

–Psalm 51:10, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Philip H. Pfatteicher, the noted U.S. Lutheran liturgist, wrote:

The observance of Lent and Easter is characterized by the primacy of community, for baptism incorporates those who are washed in its life-giving water into the community of the faithful people of God.  Anciently, Ash Wednesday was not a time for confession but for excommunication, excluding sinners, for a time, from the community in this world so that they might return from their erring ways and not be excluded forever in the next world.  Later privatized notions led to the emphasis on the confession of one’s sins.

The name Ash Wednesday (dies cinerum) derives from the custom which seems to have originated in Gaul in the sixth century of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents.  In the tenth and eleventh centuries the custom was adopted voluntarily by the faithful as a sign of penitence and a reminder of their mortality.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), pages 223-224

I detect elements of both the original and modified meanings of Ash Wednesday in the assigned readings.  There are both judgment and mercy in God, who expects certain behaviors from us.  Rituals and fasts–good and spiritually meritorious practices when one engages them with a proper attitude–prove ineffective as talismans to protect one from divine punishment for sins.  To read these passages as dismissive of rituals and fasts as “externals,” as does the Pietist tradition, is to miss the point.  ”Externals,” according to Pietism, are of minimal or no importance; the individual experience of God in oneself takes precedence, minimizing even sacraments.  Although the Pietists are not entirely wrong, their underdeveloped sacramental theology is a major weakness and error.

No, the union of ritual and proper attitude in faithful community is of the essence.  Thus one cares actively for and about others.  Therefore the faithful prove themselves to be

authentic servants of God

–2 Corinthians 6:4a, The New Jerusalem Bible,

even in distressing circumstances.  Thus the faithful people of God glorify God in their words and deeds.  And whatever rituals their tradition embraces function for spiritual edification–as those the Law of Moses specifies were meant to do.

The original practice of Lent came from an understanding that what one does affects others.  This sense of mutuality, present in the Old and New Testaments, receives too little attention in the overly individualistic global West.  Rugged individualism, a great lie, is foreign to biblical ethics.  My branch of Christianity teaches the primacy of Scripture.  We are not Sola Scriptura people (in the broad sense of that term); no we are the tribe of the three-legged stool–Scripture, tradition, and reason.  We do, however, affirm the narrow meaning of Sola Scriptura:  Nothing outside of scripture is necessary for salvation.  My reason requires me to take seriously the communitarian ethic in the Bible and much of Christianity.  Thus I consider how my deeds and words affect my community, my congregation, and the world.

I invite you, O reader, to apply the same ethic to your life every day and to seek to be especially mindful of it during Lent.  These forty days are a wonderful season during which to nurture a good spiritual habit.  But, regardless of the meritorious spiritual habit you choose to focus on, may you succeed for the glory of God and the benefit of your fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF TE WHITI O RONGOMAI, MAORI PROPHET

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Consuming Fire, Part I   1 comment

bonfire

Above:  A Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Large_bonfire.jpg)

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6

or 

Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8

then 

Hebrews 12:18-29

Luke 13:10-17

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 16, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/

Proper 16, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Jeremiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-2/

Isaiah 58:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

Hebrews 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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

Luke 13:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/

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Many passages in the Bible speak of the imperative of obeying God.  Among them is Hebrews 12:18-29, which includes the promise of destruction for disobedience and concludes with

For our God is a consuming fire.

–12:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

That is scary, is it  not?

The Law of Moses is clear:  Anyone who works on the Sabbath day has earned a death sentence:

And the Lord said to Moses:  Speak to the Israelite people and say:  Nevertheless you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the LORD have consecrated you.  You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you.  He who profanes it shall be put to death:  whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin.  Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD:  whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.  The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant between Me and the people of Israel.

–Exodus 31:12-17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

(Fortunately this law does not apply to me, a Christian.  As I understand theology, the cultural details of the Law of Moses are not universal principles for all time.)

Jesus, a Jew, lived under occupation in his homeland.  One way the Jews of the time, a minority in the Roman Empire, retained and asserted their identity was to keep religious laws.  But there were Jewish sects, some of which disagreed with each other strongly, and therefore there was a multiplicity of interpretations of religious laws.  So, did Jesus violate the Sabbath laws when he healed on that day?  He did not think so, and I side with him:  Every day of the week is a good day to commit good deeds.

The readings for this Sunday speak of the imperative of repenting, literally turning around.  The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah (all the Isaiahs) decried a variety of sins, from committing idolatry to exploiting the poor economically.  Observing holy rituals did not fool God into thinking that perpetrators of these perfidious acts were righteous, the prophets said correctly.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus was corrupt, demanding offerings from those who could not spare the money.  Jesus, of course, opposed that system.

Another there running through these readings is one which becomes clearer after one reads the lections in their literary contexts:  Many of those who consider themselves religious insiders, people close to God, are fooling themselves.  And many of the alleged outsiders are really insiders.

The God of these readings is the deity who cares for the widows and the orphans, executes judgment for the oppressed peoples, and whose kingdom is like a large, uncontrollable, and frequently unwanted pest of a plant that gives shelter to a variety of species, not all of whom like each other.  This is the God who defines “insider” and “outsider” differently than many people do.  This is the God whose Gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.  This is the God I recognize in Jesus, who ate with notorious sinners, causing scandal.  This is the God each of us is called to follow.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) offers a fitting conclusion to this post.  In the Eucharistic rite, just after a reading from Scripture, the lector says

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

The congregation replies,

Thanks be to God.

With that in mind, I say

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church or just to one who reads this post.

Whether or not one who reads this post answers

Thanks be to God

sincerely reveals much about that person’s spiritual state.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/proper-16-year-c/

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Reconciliation, Divine and Human   1 comment

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

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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 everlasting 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:

Isaiah 58:1-59:3, 14-21

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 89:1-18 and 89:19-52 (Evening)

Luke 1:26-38

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 58-59:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

Luke 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-20/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-forgiveness-mercy-and-trust/

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…But your iniquities have been a barrier

Between you and your God….

–Isaiah 59:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The Lutheran daily lectionary I am following takes me to the Annunciation of Jesus today. And the reading from Isaiah matches that event well, for Third Isaiah writes of piety, sin, divine rebuke of the people, and reconciliation.  The sins include dishonoring the Sabbath and engaging in economic injustice.

It is reconciliation that I choose to write.  If is something which God has initiated and to which each of us has an obligation to respond positively.  Being aware of being in God’s presence and responding to it positively is as good a definition of prayer that I can muster.  This positive response entails personal, public, and social elements.  The love of God requires us to engage in economic justice, for example.  (See Isaiah 58:3f).  Loving one’s neighbor as oneself is an inherently social act, one which makes the world a better place.

Reconciliation between God and human beings, I am convinced, mandates, when possible, reconciliation (or just conciliation, if no re- is involved) between we mere mortals.  This hits home with me and reminds me of some of my shortcomings.  The best path I know to pursue in this matter is to forge ahead, confess my weakness, and trust God to help me become what I should be spiritually.  I am but dust; God knows that.  But this is not an excuse for not trying.

Whatever your reconciliation-related struggles are, O reader, I invite you to seek divine assistance in correcting them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

THE FEAST OF ERIC LIDDELL, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PRAETEXTATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROUEN

THE FEAST OF RASMUS JENSEN, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY TO CANADA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THALASSIUS, LINNAEUS, AND MARON, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Posted August 11, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 58, Isaiah 59, Luke 1, Psalm 89, Psalm 93

Tagged with

Jesus Calls Matthew   2 comments

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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Isaiah 58:9b-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

If you take away from the midst of you the yoke,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually,

and satisfy your desire with good things,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations,

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in.

If you turn back your foot from the sabbath,

from doing your pleasure on my holy day,

and call the sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the LORD honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

then you shall delight in the LORD,

and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm 86:1-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Incline your ear to me, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, O Lord,

for to you do I cry all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in mercy to all who call on you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;

listen to the cry of my supplication.

In the day of my trouble I call on you,

for you do answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

and bow down before you, O Lord,

and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things,

you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Luke 5:27-32 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

After this [healing a paralytic] he [Jesus] went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he left everything, and rose and followed him.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying,

Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?

And Jesus answered them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Over the years I have had encounters (often unpleasant) with religious know-it-alls, universally fundamentalist Protestants–often Southern Baptists and Church of God in Christers.  They have informed me that I think too much, ask too many questions, and that these tendencies have damned me to Hell.  Their narrow vision did not enable them to consider me part of the Christian spectrum.  Without even pretending to get along with them (for I do not know how to conduct an intelligent theological dialogue with one has consigned me to Hell), I am far more generous toward them they were toward me; they are Christians, too, as I define “Christian.”  Questions concerning damnation are sole province of God.  And some of my best theological discussions have been with those who have exiled themselves from organized religion (yet not Christian faith) after negative experiences; they were open to possibilities, not wedded to a rigid theology.

Jesus recognized great potential where others (in today’s reading, Pharisees) saw the damned and the undesirable.  Tax collectors were Roman collaborators and literal tax thieves–certainly despised people.  And Jesus thought of them as human beings who needed him.  So he reached out to them.  This caused a scandal.

May we who call ourselves Christians have enough courage to expand the boundaries of our thinking.  May we, by grace, see more nearly as God sees. When we look at people who differ from us as fellow children of God, bearers of the divine image.  May we dare to look past any tradition or other worldview which obstructs a divine viewpoint toward our fellow human beings.  And may we commit sacredly scandalous acts when those are appropriate.  Polite society tells us that those who lie with dogs rise with fleas.  This is true sometimes, but were the tax collectors dogs?  Did Jesus rise with fleas?  Are we more like Jesus or an unduly critical Pharisee clinging to tradition sincerely yet wrongly, out of faith?

Jesus said to follow him.  He did not say to affirm certain creeds in their entirety or to sign a written confession of faith.  No, Jesus said to follow him.  The path of Jesus is one of love of God, others, and self.  It leads to sacrifices, and sometimes to ignominy and martyrdom.  It is a narrow and difficult road, but it is the life-giving road, also.  Following Jesus is active; it is lived orthopraxy, not stale and merely intellectual orthodoxy frozen in the form of a creed, confession, or liturgy.  When lived orthopraxy is what it should be, it is indistinguishable from healthy orthodoxy.

So, let us follow Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUIDO DI PIETRO, A.K.A. FRA ANGELICO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARTIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLMAN OF LINDISFARNE, AGILBERT, AND WILFRID, BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER, PROTESTANT REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOTONIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

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