Archive for the ‘Isaiah 61’ Category

Precious to God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Tabernacle

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147:13-21 (LBW) or Psalm 147:12-20 (LW)

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

John 1:1-18

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Almighty God, you have filled us with the

new light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. 

Let the light of our faith shine in all that we do;

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

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, our Maker and Redeemer,

who wonderfully created and in the incarnation of your Son

yet more wondrously restored our human nature,

grant that we may ever be alive in him who made himself to be like us;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 19

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The people of God are precious to God.  All people are precious to God, of course.  I focus on the people of God in this post because that is the axis of the through line in the assigned readings.

The readings from Isaiah and the Psalms, in the context of the Babylonian Exile, speak of the vindication of the Jewish exiles.  Reading the first portion of Psalm 147 augments this theme.

Ephesians 1:5 refers to God having predestined certain people through Jesus Christ “for adoption toward him.”  Adopted children of God receive an inheritance.  The audience in the Epistle to the Ephesians was Gentile Christians.

John 1:14, in the Greek text (not necessarily in most English translations) speaks of the Word (Logos) of God–Jesus–pitching a tent in humankind.  This tent is the Tent of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).  John 1:14 contains echoes of Joel 3:7; Zechariah 2:10; Ezekiel 43:7; Sirach 24:8; and other passages.

When the Prologue proclaims that the Word made his dwelling among men, we are being told that the flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of the ancient Tabernacle.  The Gospel will present Jesus as the replacement of the Temple (ii.19-22), which is a variation of the same theme.

Raymond E. BrownThe Gospel According to John I-XII (1966), 33

The verb meaning “to pitch a tent” or “to dwell” occurs also in Revelation 7:15 (to refer to God’s presence in Heaven) and in Revelation 21:3:

He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.

God is present among us.  Do we notice?  God may seem thoroughly camouflaged, given the way the world is.  Yet God, who has long been present, will not depart.  People are precious to God.  Do we notice?  Do we consider others precious to God?  Do we think of ourselves as precious to God?

How we think of ourselves and others dictates how we treat others.  This underpins the Golden Rule.  This also underpins mutuality, a Biblical virtue.

So, how do we think of ourselves and others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BUNNETT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUANA MARIA CONDESA LLUCH, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HANDMAIDS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, PROTECTRESS OF WORKERS

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY RICHARD MATTHEWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ORGANIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post

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The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth   Leave a comment

Above:  View of Nazareth (1842), by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART IX

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Luke 4:14-30

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Each of the Synoptic Gospels includes an account of the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  The three accounts are not identical, especially regarding when the audiences rejected Jesus.  In this post, I focus on the Lucan account.

The version in the Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as possessing not only the Holy Spirit (a Lucan motif) but scribal literacy, as well.   The Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as being able to read and to navigate a scroll that lacked chapter and verse numbers, and to find the passages he had in mind.  (That is impressive!)  The Jesus of Luke 4:18-19 read Isaiah 61:1-2 then Isaiah 58:6.  (That is even more impressive!)  Scribal literacy required much advanced education.  Many scholars of the New Testament have debated how realistic this depiction of Jesus is.

That is a valid question, but not one I feel qualified to address conclusively.  I would not be surprised to learn that St. Luke possessed scribal literacy, though.

The point of rejection in Luke 4:28 was Jesus citing divine blessings on Gentiles from the Hebrew Bible.  What about this enraged the audience?

Interpretations vary:

  1. The rejection resulted from the villagers’ xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
  2. The rejection resulted from villagers resenting Jesus likening them to persecutors of old.
  3. The rejection resulted from Jesus’s refusal to provide his hometown with messianic blessings.

Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), reject (1) and propose (3).  They point out that Jews generally had positive relations with Gentiles and expected the redemption of righteous Gentiles (Zechariah 8:23).  That may be so.  However, I suppose that some Jews were ethnocentric and xenophobic.  I am a citizen of the United States of America, a nation with a strong tradition of welcoming immigrants and another strong tradition of practicing xenophobia and Nativism.  Jewish acceptance of righteous Gentiles (as elsewhere in the Gospel of Luke) need not rule out the ethnocentrism and xenophobia of certain Jews.  Likewise, neither Judaism nor Christianity are legalistic religions when people practice them properly.  Yet legalistic adherents, congregations, movements, and denominations of both religions exist.

The second interpretation on the list comes courtesy of Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (1981), 538.  That villagers resented Jesus likening them to persecutors of old may be accurate.  Hearing negative comparisons rooted in the uncomfortable past angers people in the present day.  In the United States of America, many White people continue to chafe against criticism of pro-slavery secessionists of 1861 while professing to reject race-based slavery, what Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens boasted in March 1861 was the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy.

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.

–William Faulkner

I also suggest that more than one motivation may have played out in the Lucan account.

Accepting the traditional Christian interpretation–xenophobia and ethnocentrism–need not lead one down the path of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism.  Bigotry is a defense mechanism against dealing with one’s faults and failings anyway.  Be honest with yourself, O reader.  Do you not categorize some groups of people as being undesirable?  If they were to receive extravagant grace, would you become enraged?  Grace is scandalous; it does not discriminate.

Alternatively, how much of your identity is bound up with your ancestors?  If you learn that they were total bastards, does that anger you and threaten your ego?  If so, why?  You are not your ancestors.  Recall the previous post in this series.  God should be the source of your identity.  You are one of the apples of God’s eyes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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The Promise of the New Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Tiges (Isaiah 61:11)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 60:1-62:12

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Isaiah 60-62 is a lengthy poem of encouragement to Jerusalem (Zion), personified as a bereaved woman.  Jewish exiles are returning to Jerusalem, we read.

Certain themes are notable, some for their presence and others for their absence:

  1. There is no Davidic monarch in Third Isaiah.  In this respect, Third Isaiah disagrees with Haggai, First Zechariah, and First Isaiah.
  2. In the future, according to Isaiah 60:1-62:12, the Jewish nation will have royal and priestly status, and God will rule directly.
  3. A must society embodies the divine covenant and receives God’s blessing.
  4. Judah, in Isaiah 60:1-22, is superior to its neighbors.  The theme of reversal of fortune exists here.  So do national concerns, overriding universalism of any variety.  We read of Gentiles transporting Jewish exiles to Judah, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and bringing silver and gold.  This image contrasts with First Isaiah (2:1-4), in which Gentiles stream to Jerusalem to learn God’s ways.
  5. Isaiah 61:1-9 applies the jubilee year (Leviticus 25:10), by which farmers forced into indentured servitude could regain their land, to the nation.  The time to start over had come.
  6. The predicted splendor of Jerusalem contrasted with the actual state of the city prior to 445 B.C.E. and the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8:1-9:55).  Isaiah 60:1-62:12 offered hope for a better future.

Hope is essential.  These beautiful three chapters, replete with familiar passages, come from a particular context.  If one takes these chapters and passages out of context, one misses much of their meaning.  The central message is timeless, not bound by context, though.  That meaning is that God is faithful.  God has promised to act.  God will act.  Keep the faith.

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 Third Vision and First Oracle of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VIII

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Zechariah 2:1-13 (Anglican and Protestant)

Zechariah 2:5-17 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The third vision (2:1-5/2:5-9, depending on versification) is of the man with a measuring line.  This vision predicts a time when Jerusalem will be boundless, with the Divine Presence/Glory as its fiery wall.  This vision of First Zechariah contradicts Ezekiel 45:1-6 and 48:15-20, in which the ideal, future Jerusalem has a measurable length and width.  In Isaiah 60-62, another vision of the ideal, future Jerusalem, the city has tone walls.

Upon your walls, O Jerusalem,

I have set watchmen,

Who shall never be silent

By day or by night.

–Isaiah 62:6a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If I were a Biblical literalist, these discrepancies would bother me.  But I am not, and they do not.

Either way, God is the defense of Jerusalem, we read.

The oracle in 2:6-13/2:10-17 (depending on versification) refers to

the land of the north

–Babylonia (Joel 2:20; Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 10:22), then part of the Persian Empire.  One may recall that:

  1. Jewish exiles returned to their ancestral homeland in waves, and
  2. Not all Jewish exiles chose to return.

God is active in 2:13/2:17 (depending on versification).  We read of a world order seemingly at peace in the wake of the Persian conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet some forms of stability, although perhaps long-term, are counterfeit at worst and temporary at best.  Even the relatively benign empires fall short of divine high standards.

The future vision of First Zechariah is inclusive:

Many nations will give their allegiance to the LORD on that day and become his people, and he will dwell in your midst.

–Zechariah 2:11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Zechariah 2:11/2:15 (depending on versification) anticipates Third Isaiah’s liberal attitude:

The foreigner who has given his allegiance to the LORD must not say,

“The LORD will exclude me from his people.”

–Isaiah 56:3a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

These inclusive attitudes contradict Ezekiel 44, which excludes foreigners from the predicted Second Temple.

I, as a Gentile, prefer inclusion in God’s kingdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER SCHMORELL, RUSSIAN-GERMAN ORTHODOX ANTI-NAZI ACTIVIST AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSECKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; HIS TEACHER, JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; AND HIS SON, JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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A New Beginning   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2

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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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O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 47

Romans 12:1-5

John 1:35-51

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We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

The Reverend Will Campbell (1924-2013)

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If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.

–Pope Francis, The New York Times, November 29, 2020

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Know, O reader, that I have been a serious student of the Bible for most of my life.  (And I feel much younger than my chronological age.)  Muck knowledge of the contents of the Bible has been academic and theoretical, not that there is anything wrong with that.  I have long been an academic and an intellectual, after all.  Living has added the visceral aspect of knowledge to that which has been purely academic and theoretical.  Abstract sympathy for those who grieve has given way to empathy with them, especially during holidays, when families traditionally gather.  Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made the theme of a fresh start in Isaiah 61:1-3 and Romans 12:1-5 more potent in my mind than the many previous times I read those passages.

Scripture is what it is.  How we mere mortals relate to it depends greatly on our experiences.

Some seemingly dry academic material is appropriate, however.

The speaker in Isaiah 61:1-3 was Third Isaiah.  Exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland.  They had learned that the reality on the ground fell far short of their high hopes.  Much despair set in.  Third Isaiah used language derived from Leviticus 25:10.  There would be a fresh start, a new beginning.

“To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor….”

–Isaiah 61:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Year of Jubilee was supposed to occur every 50 years.  People who had become indentured servants were supposed to go free.  Land lost since the previous Year of Jubilee was supposed to return to its proper owners.  The only actual Year of Jubilee documented in the Bible occurred in Nehemiah 5, after the return from exile.

Romans 12 brings us to the theology of bodies in the thought of St. Paul the Apostle.  We who carry assumptions born of Greek philosophy quickly assume that a body is a vessel for a soul.  To apply this assumption to Pauline theology is to err.

St. Paul, like many other Jews, believed that a person is a body, not that a person has a body.  This was a holistic understanding of the self.  This holistic view applied to the body (individually) and to the body (as a group of people in faith community, as in Romans 12:5).

I have read commentaries as I have sought to understand what amazed St. Nathanael/Bartholomew in John 1:48f.  I have read a series of educated guesses from brains better than mine.  The author of the Gospel of John (“John,” whoever he was) kept the text vague in this passage.  He made his point, though; Jesus astounded St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  Then St. Nathanael/Bartholomew followed him.

Psalm 47 reminds us that God is the king of all the Earth.  Accepting that can be difficult at times.  Nevertheless, not accepting it is not a feasible alternative for me.  I must have hope, after all.

I must have a basis of hope that a fresh start is possible.  Otherwise, I will collapse into despair.  Otherwise, I will cease to have any spiritual grounding.  In an age when “none” is the fastest growing religious affiliation, the lack of spiritual grounding is a sort of plague.

Then there is a literal plague, COVID-19.  It has laid bare the best and the worst in human nature.  Mainly, as far as I can tell, this coronavirus has confirmed that we humans are naturally selfish bastards who easily fall into delusions that kill us and each other.

Human nature is constant.  So is divine nature.  As Martin Luther advised, we need to rely on the faithfulness of God.  We need a fresh start, a new beginning.  God can provide one, fortunately.

To return to the beginning of this post, the Pope is correct.  We human beings need to emerge from this pandemic less selfish than when we went into it.  We need to allow the pain of others to touch us.  The first step of compassion is to get beyond oneself.

I know better than to expect a change in human nature.  The study of history and theology combines with experience to make me skeptical of excessive optimism.  But, with regard to God, optimism is justifiable.  God has been faithful.  God is faithful.  God will remain faithful.

May the aftermath of this pandemic be mostly positive, by grace.  May the human species have a new beginning, a fresh start.  May we accept this gracious offer from God.  May we take better care of each other and the planet.  May we awaken from our sinful slumber.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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A Covenant People, Part III   3 comments

Above:  John the Baptist in the Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 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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O God, the Father of all truth and grace, who has called us out of darkness

into marvelous light by the glorious gospel of Thy Son;

grant unto us power, we beseech Thee, to walk worthy of this vocation,

with all lowliness and meekness, endeavoring to keep

the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;

that we may have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 127

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Isaiah 61:1-6

Psalm 27

Romans 12:10-21

Luke 3:1-22

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Never pay back evil for evil.

–Romans 12:17a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The reading from Romans 12 offers some challenging instructions:

  1. Bless, not curse, one’s persecutors (v. 14).
  2. Refrain from repaying evil with evil (v. 17).
  3. Leave vengeance to God (v. 19).
  4. Conquer evil with goodness.  Do not let evil conquer one (vs. 20-21).

Justice is one matter and revenge is another, St. Paul the Apostle understood.  He did not counsel people to live as doormats.  In the context of faith community–a minority population, actually–St. Paul encouraged his audience to take care of each other as they consciously depended entirely on God.  He urged them to be morally superior to their enemies.

The road to evil begins with the delusion that one can and must do x because God either does not exist or care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53, as well as what I have written about them.)  This delusion opens the portal to an approach to life according to which the ends justify the means.

When we, individually and collectively, trust in God, we are free to be better people than those who seek to destroy us unjustly.  We are free to be our best selves and communities.  We are free to take care of each other, individually and collectively.  We are free to refrain from exploiting and making excuses for exploitation.  We are free to gaze upon the loveliness of YHWH and to awake each dawn in the temple of YHWH.  We are free to be a covenant people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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Our Father’s Business   2 comments

Above:  Christ Among the Doctors, by Albrecht Dürer

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Isaiah 61:1-3

1 John 1:1-2:2

Luke 2:41-52

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Third Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 61.  The Spirit of Yahweh is upon him, he tells us, to be

a herald of joy to the humble,

To bind up the wounded of heart,

To proclaim release to the captives,

Liberation to the imprisoned,

To proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor

And a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn–

To provide for the mourners in Zion —

To give them a turban instead of ashes,

The festive ointment instead of morning,

A garment of splendor and majesty instead of a drooping spirit.

–Verses 1b-3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Luke 4:16-30 Jesus quoted part of that passage in reference to his mission.  The backlash in his hometown was immediate.  Those closest to Jesus did not always understand him best (see Luke 2:41-52).

Good news in God is abundant.  God, in whom there is only light, loves us and has work for us to do.  God even equips us for that work.  Will we seek to discern what that work is then go about our father’s business?

Wanting to discern and discerning are different, of course; you probably know that well, O reader.  I can only write for myself, which is what I do here.  I know the frustration of denied vocations.  I know that the world needs X and that I excel at doing X, so I apply to do X yet never receive the opportunity to do X.  Am I failing to discern the work God has for me.  Perhaps.

Perhaps you, O reader, also know that frustration or are acquainted with someone who does or did.

May we human beings support each other in our vocations from God.  May we, by grace, recognize those vocations in each other and in ourselves.  And may we, helping each other, be about our father’s business, in all its varieties.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XII   1 comment

Above:  The Negev Desert

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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Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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Divine Mystery and Justice   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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For Trinity Sunday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and giver of the Holy Spirit.

Keep us, we pray thee, steadfast before the great mystery of thy being,

and in faith which acknowledges thee to be the one eternal God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 61:1-7

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 3:13-17

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In the spirit of Romans 11:33-36 I refrain from attempting to make logical sense of the Holy Trinity.  No, I am content to revel in the mystery of it.  Besides, even a cursory study of Trinity-related heresies, from Adoptionism to Arianism, reveals that they come from attempts to explain the Trinity.  The theology of the Trinity seems to have more to do with the objective nature of God anyway.

The better question is, how should we live sound Trinitarian theology?  A partial answer comes from Isaiah 61, channeled through Jesus, who quoted it at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19).  The Incarnation adds an element otherwise missing from Isaiah 61:1-9.  The passage, fulfilled in Jesus long ago, remains part of the collective calling of the people of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah 61, from the time of the return from the Babylonian Exile, continues to speak in contemporary times, and to have different shades of meaning than it did then.  God still loves and demands justice.

Attempting to understand the mystery of the Trinity may be easier than acting justly sometimes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DOUGLAS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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