Archive for the ‘Isaiah Other’ Category

Hesed, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising a Mute, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 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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Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;

that they, plenteous by bringing forth the fruit of good works,

may of thee be plenteously rewarded;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 229-230

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Isaiah 63:1-9

Psalm 33

Romans 8:24-39

Matthew 9:27-38

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Isaiah 63:1-9 is related to Isaiah 34.  Read Isaiah 34 before 63:1-9, O reader, for better understanding.

The readings from the Old Testament speak of God delivering Israelites from their enemies.  Isaiah 63:1-9 highlights the Moabites.

Jesus healed common and marginalized people in Matthew 9:27-38.  He restored them to their families and communities.  Those healings also signified the presence of the partially realized Kingdom of God.

The God of Romans 8:24-39 is not the God of Hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  No, the God of Romans 8:24-39 is not seeking to drop people into the pit of Hell.  Actually, the God of Romans 8:24-39 is faithful to the faithful.  Moral perfectionism is an impossible standard anyway.  In Christ, we read, Christians have an older brother.  And the Holy Spirit prays for Christians, making

God’s holy people…always in accordance with the mind of God.

–Romans 8:27b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Furthermore, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, who also prays for us.

The epistle reading ends with a glorious and familiar passage:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Grace is staggering, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LESSLIE NEWBIGIN, ENGLISH REFORMED MISSIONARY AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BATHILDAS, QUEEN OF FRANCE

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK OAKELEY, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GENESIUS I OF CLERMONT AND PRAEJECTUS OF CLERMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINT AMARIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JACQUES BUNOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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“Love Casts Out Fear….” IV   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, 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 God, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 9:2-7 (Anglican and Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 89:1-27 (Protestant and Anglican)/Psalm 89:2-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

1 John 4:7-21

Matthew 1:18-25

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On one level, at least, the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) refers to the birth of the future King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/735-698/687 B.C.E.).  The Bible is generally favorably disposed toward King Hezekiah, of whom one can read further in the following passages:

  1. 2 Kings 16:20;
  2. 2 Kings 18-20;
  3. 2 Chronicles 28:27;
  4. 2 Chronicles 29-32;
  5. Isaiah 36-39;
  6. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22; and
  7. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4.

We read in Ezekiel 34 that Kings of Israel and Judah were, metaphorically, shepherds–mostly abysmal ones.  Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4 lists Hezekiah as one of the three good kings, alongside David and Josiah.

The steadfast love of God is the theme that unites these four readings.  This faithfulness may be evident in the Davidic Dynasty, a particular monarch, Jesus of Nazareth, or an ordinary human being or community of such people.  Such divine fidelity requires a human faithful response.  Grace is free, not cheap.

The epistle reading holds my attention most of all.  I write you, O reader, to read it again.  The text is fairly self-explanatory.  There is no fear in love.  Anyone who professes to love God yet hates a human being lies about loving God.

These are hard words to hear or read.  I can write only for myself; I know the emotion of hatred.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  All of us are imperfect; God knows that.  We can, by grace overcome that hatred.  We all sin.  We all stumble.  But we can lead lives defined by love, by grace.

I can think of people who define their lives according to hatred and resentment.  These are individuals who leave chaos and destruction in their wake.  They are pitiable.  They need to repent.  And, according to our reading from 1 John, they do not love God.  May perfect love drive out their fear, for their sake and for ours.

And may perfect love drive out the remaining unreasonable, destructive fear in the lives of the rest of us.  I refer not to proper, cautious fear.  I write during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A certain level of fear is positive and responsible; it leads to behavior that protects everyone.  No, I refer to fear that leads to selfish, destructive decisions.  I refer to fear that defines certain people as expendable, subhuman, deserving of fewer civil rights and civil liberties than the rest of us, et cetera.  I refer to fear that works against the common good and drags everyone down.  I refer to fear to violates the image of God in anyone.  I refer to fear that violates the principle of mutuality, enshrined in the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  May the love of God in Christ fill your life and transform you daily more nearly into his likeness.  May you love like Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

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

THE FEAST OF ALBERT BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ABOLITIONIONST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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

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

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The Illness and Recovery of King Hezekiah of Judah, with the Embassy of King Merodach-Balaban of Babylonia   1 comment

Above:  King Merodach-Balaban of Babylonia

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART CII

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2 Kings 20:1-19

2 Chronicles 32:24-31

Isaiah 38:1-39:8

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My son, when you are sick do not be negligent,

but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you.

Give up your faults and direct your hands aright,

and cleanse your heart from all sin.

Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and a memorial portion of fine flour,

and pour oil on your offering, as much as you can afford.

And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him;

let him not leave you, for there is need of him.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 38:9-12, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Hezekiah of Judah (Reigned 729/715-698/687 B.C.E.)

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The story of the illness and recovery of King Hezekiah, followed by the embassy of King Merodach-balaban of Babylonia should preceded the siege of Jerusalem.  Chronology is what it is.  The threat of King Sennacherib occurred in 701 B.C.E., according to ancient records.  King Merodach-balaban reigned in Babylonia from 721 to 710 B.C.E. and again for nine months in 703 B.C.E.  However, especially, in Isaiah 39, breaking chronology works well thematically.  The prediction of the Babylonian Exile immediately precedes Isaiah 40, with its prediction of the end of that exile.

As interesting as I find scholarly discussions of this material, I know that I ought not to miss the main ideas in the germane text.

  1. The power of prayer, joined with contrition, can lead to the change of a divine decision.
  2. The fates of King Hezekiah, the city of Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah were linked.
  3. Even good King Hezekiah had lapses in judgment.
  4. The Babylonian Exile had become inevitable.  At the time of this prophecy, the Kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  King Hezekiah was on the throne of Judah when Samaria fell.  Many refugees from the former northern kingdom had fled to Judah.
  5. King Hezekiah seems to have been more concerned with the immediate future than the fate of Judah at the end of the germane texts for this post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, APOSTLE TO THE FRISIANS; AND SAINT BONIFACE, APOSTLE TO THE GERMANS

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAWOOD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHRISTIAN FREDERICK HAYER, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND INDIA; BARTHOLOMEAUS ZIEGENBALG, JR., LUTHERAN MISSIONARY TO THE TAMILS; AND LUDWIG NOMMENSEN, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY TO SUMATRA AND APOSTLE TO THE BATAK

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The Attack and Defeat of Sennacherib   1 comment

Above:  Sennacherib on His Throne, by John Philip Newman

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART CI

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2 Kings 18:13-19:37

2 Chronicles 32:1-23

Isaiah 36:1-37:38

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For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves…

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,

because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;

he reproaches us for sins against the law,

and accuses us of sins against the law,

and accuses us of sins against our training.

He professes to have knowledge of God,

and calls himself a child of the Lord.”

–Wisdom of Solomon 2:1a, 12-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Hezekiah of Judah (Reigned 729/715-698/687 B.C.E.)

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This series of blog posts is nearly complete.  A set of plans for future Bible-based series exists.  One of the planned series is the prophets (major and minor), in roughly chronological order.  When I consulted resources and divided the Book of Isaiah in First, Second, and Third Isaiah, I transferred Isaiah 36-39, taken from 2 Kings, into this series.  

Sennacherib (reigned 705-681 B.C.E.) was the King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  He had a quarrel with Hezekiah, a former vassal of the empire.  King Hezekiah had to pay tribute to Sennacherib.  The Neo-Assyrian king, via an underling, presumed to know more about God and divine commandments than did King Hezekiah.  That underling also attempted to undermine King Hezekiah’s political support.  First Isaiah, conveying God’s message to King Hezekiah, offered comfort.  God had plans to end the Neo-Assyrian threat against Judah.  King Hezekiah continued to trust God in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.  God remained faithful.  The invasion force died.  Years later, so did Sennacherib.

Trusting God can prove challenging, especially in desperate times.  The presence of a large Neo-Assyrian invasion force seems like a dire circumstance.  I know the difficulty of trusting God in circumstances much less severe.  Trusting God is a sign of good character.  Trusting God liberates one to act out of one’s higher nature, not one’s lower nature.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, APOSTLE TO THE FRISIANS; AND SAINT BONIFACE, APOSTLE TO THE GERMANS

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAWOOD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHRISTIAN FREDERICK HAYER, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND INDIA; BARTHOLOMEAUS ZIEGENBALG, JR., LUTHERAN MISSIONARY TO THE TAMILS; AND LUDWIG NOMMENSEN, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY TO SUMATRA AND APOSTLE TO THE BATAK

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The Reigns of Kings Jotham and Ahaz of Judah   1 comment

Above:  King Jotham of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCVIII

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2 Kings 15:32-38; 16:1-20

2 Chronicles 27:1-9; 28:1-27

Isaiah 7:1-8:15

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Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hope for the wages of holiness,

nor discern the prize for blameless souls;

for God created man for incorruption,

and made him in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his party experience it.

–Wisdom of Solomon 2:21-24, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (Reigned 785-733 B.C.E.)

King Jotham of Judah (Reigned 759-743 B.C.E.)

King Ahaz of Judah (Reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.)

King Pekah of Israel (Reigned 735-732 B.C.E.)

King Rezin of Aram (Reigned 750-732 B.C.E.)

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The contrast between Kings Jotham (father) and Ahaz (son) of Judah was striking.  Jotham was pious, but Ahaz went all-in for idolatry.  Jotham was a capable monarch, but Ahaz reduced the Kingdom of Judah to a vassal state of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Syro-Ephraimite War occurred in the context of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram sought to force the Kingdom of Judah to join their coalition against Assyria.  King Ahaz refused to do so, however.  Therefore, the Kings of Israel and Aram wanted to depose him and to replace him with a monarch who would join their coalition.  The Syro-Ephraimite War was the context of Isaiah 7:1-8:15, a text many, if not most, Christians read seemingly in reference to the birth of Jesus and not in historical context.  King Ahaz turned not to God but to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians conquered Aram in 732 B.C.E.  They also reduced the Kingdom of Israel to vassalage.  A decade later, the Assyrians added Israel to their empire.

The Chronicler included material absent in 2 Kings.  He told the story about Judean prisoners of war in Israel and of the prophet Obed’s warning that Israelite tactics against Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War angered God.  The appeal to Leviticus 25:39-43, 46, worked.  The prisoners of war received aid and went home; they did not become slaves.

A theme present in the germane readings from 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah is the imperative of trusting God and keeping the commandments.  We need to avoid prosperity theology, a heresy.  Keeping God’s laws does not necessarily lead to health, wealth, and security.  In fact, obeying God may lead to death, poverty, and insecurity, depending on circumstances.  The myriad number of martyrs attests to this.  The example of Jesus also attests to this.  However, being on God’s side is preferable to opposing it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHÜTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF HALFORD E. LUCCOCK, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDELEINE OF JESUS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JESUS

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Exile, Liberation, and Lamentation   5 comments

Above:   The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

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 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:14-37

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There is good news and there is bad news.

The readings from the Hebrew Bible hail from different times.  Psalm 80 is a national lament from the final days of the northern Kingdom of Israel.  One may recall that the theology written into much of the Old Testament regarding the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles was that persistent, collective sin had brought them on.  Isaiah 64 comes from the Third Isaiah portion of the Book of Isaiah, after return from the Babylonian Exile.  The text, which one understands better if one reads Isaiah 63 first, indicates collective disappointment with the shambles the ancestral homeland had become.

Good news follows bad news in Mark 13.  In a passage that obviously invokes the descent of “one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7, Jesus will return.  Yet one also reads a note of caution (“Keep awake.”) in the context of language to which one can correctly add,

or else.

St. Paul the Apostle anticipated that day was he wrote to the argumentative congregation in Corinth.  Before he pointed out their faults he remined them that God had granted them awareness of the truth regarding God and Jesus Christ, as well as the means to speak of that truth.

The two great themes of the Hebrew Bible are exodus and exile.  When exile ends, we may find that we have new problems.  Yet we can rely on God, who continues to perform loving, mighty acts.  Will we accept divine liberation, or will we exile ourselves?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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This is post #2000 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Judgment and Mercy, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Halstead & Company, Beef & Pork Packers, Lard Refiners & Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01454

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

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 64:1-9

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 7:14-23

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The end of the Babylonian Exile, according to a portion of prophecy, was supposed to bring about paradise on Earth for returning exiles.  It did not.  Third Isaiah, after recounting some mighty acts of God in Isaiah 63, immediately asked where God was and why such mighty acts were absent.  The recorded divine response (in Isaiah 65) cataloged national sins and insisted that the divine promise remained.

God, ever an active agent, dispenses both judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment terrifies and divine mercy amazes.  The centrality of Christ, certainly a figure of mercy, also functions as a defining agent of the terms of judgment.  On one hand we have the atonement and unity in Christ.  On the other hand, however, we have those who refuse to participate in that unity, with all its moral requirements, both individual and collective.  As C. H. Dodd wrote, the Incarnation, good news, made more apparent what was already true, and those who rejected Christ were worse off for having done so.

The author of the Gospel of Mark (let us call him “Mark,” for the sake of convenience) included an aside to the reader or hearer of Chapter 7; he wrote that Jesus pronounced all foods clean.  The dating of the Markan Gospel (either shortly before or after 70 C.E., most likely) aside, that news flash about food laws did not reach many early Jewish Christians.  It also countermanded the condemnation of those who ate pork in Isaiah 64.  Moral impurity was an internal matter, Jesus said.

That principle applies both individually and collectively.  Human nature is what it is, for both good and ill.  That simple statement does not constitute an excuse for any bad behavior and improper inaction, of course.  Besides, grace is available to help us become better people, societies, families, et cetera.  We are imperfect, but we need not be shamelessly sinful and degraded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Building Up the Common Good, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Scenic View of Desert in Spring

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 35:1-10

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

James 5:7-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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In Isaiah 34 we read of God turning the territory of the enemies of Judah into a desert.  In Chapter 35, however, we read of God transforming a desert–making waters burst forth in it–so that exiles from Judah may return to their ancestral homeland in a second Exodus on a highway God has put in place for them.  Judgment for some is an occasion of mercy for others.  The restoration prayed for in Psalm 80 becomes a reality.

Building up the common good was a theme in the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  That theme, consistent with the lesson from James 5, has never ceased to be germane.  When has habitual grumbling built up the common good or been even selfishly beneficial?  It certainly did not improve the lot of those God had liberated from Egypt.  The admonition to avoid grumbling has never meant not to pursue justice–not to oppose repressive regimes and exploitative systems.  Certainly opposing such evils has always fallen under the heading of building up the common good.

I do find one aspect of James 5:7-11 puzzling, however.  That text mentions the endurance of Job, a figure who complained bitterly at great length, and justifiably so.  Juxtaposing an admonition against grumbling with a reference to Job’s endurance seems as odd as referring to the alleged patience of the very impatient Job.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 is theological, not literal.  The recurrence of 14, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming David’s name, is a clue to the theological agenda.  The family tree, with surprisingly few named women in it (We know that women were involved in all that begetting.), includes monarchs, Gentiles, and three women with questionable sexual reputations.  That is quite a pedigree!  That genealogy also makes the point that Jesus was human.  This might seem like an obvious point, but one would do well to consider the other alleged sons of deities who supposedly atoned for human sins in competing religions with followers in that part of the world at that time.  We know that not one of these figures, such as Mithras, ever existed.  The physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, proving that he was no figment of imaginations, is a great truth.

We also know that the Roman Empire remained firmly in power long after the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The promised reign of God on Earth persists as a hope reserved for the future.  In the meantime, we retain the mandate to work for the common good.  God will save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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Compassion, Not Checklists   1 comment

Above:   A Checklist

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 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-christmas-ackerman/

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The Sin of Legalism   1 comment

christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-bethesda

Above:  Christ Healing the Paralytic at Bethesda, by Palma Giovane

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:

Isaiah 57:1-21

Psalm 102

John 5:1-18

James 1:1-16 or Ephesians 2:11-22 or Galatians 1:1-24

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Penitence is related to repentance.  Frequently, in everyday vocabulary, they become interchangeable terms, but they are different.  To repent is to turn one’s back on sin–sin in general and a particular sin or set of sins.  The theological focus on Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is repentance.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has done an excellent job of selecting appropriate texts for Ash Wednesday while avoiding the usual suspects.

  1. We read in Isaiah 57 that Judah needs to repent of idolatry.  We also read that judgment will ensue, but that mercy will follow it.
  2. The penitence in Psalm 102 is individual.  In that text the consequences of the sins have caught up with the author, who is in distress and pleading for mercy.
  3. James 1 advises us to rejoice and to trust in God during times of trial, not to yield to temptation during them.  We read that Jesus breaks down barriers between us and God and among us.  Why, then, do many of us insist on maintaining and erecting barriers, especially for others?
  4. Galatians 1 informs us that Jesus liberates us to serve, enjoy, and glorify God.
  5. In John 5 we read of Jesus liberating  man from a physical disability and intangible, related problems.  Then, we read, some strict Sabbath keepers criticize the newly able-bodied man for carrying his bed roll on the Sabbath.  I detect misplaced priorities in the critics.

Each of us has much for which to be pentitent and much of which to repent.  At this time I choose to emphasize legalism, which is a thread in some of the readings.  Legalism, in some cases, has innocent and pious origins; one seeks to obey divine commandments.  Out of good intentions one goes astray and becomes a master nit picker lost amid the proverbial trees and unable to see the forest.  Rules become more important than compassion.  This might be especially likely to happen when one is a member of a recognizable minority defined by certain practices.  Creating neat categories, thereby defining oneself as set apart and others as unclean, for example, can become quite easily an open door to self-righteousness.  It is a sin against which to remain vigilant as one notices a variety of sins in one’s vicinity.

The list of sins I have not committed is long.  So is the list of sins of which I am guilty.  The former does not make up for the latter.  The fact that I have never robbed a liquor store speaks well of me yet does not deliver me from my sins and the consequences thereof; it does, however, testify to what Lutheran theology calls civic righteousness.  Although I have the right to condemn the robbing of liquor stores, I have no become self-righteous and legalistic toward those who have.  They and I stand before God guilty of many sins.  All of us need to be penitent and to repent.  All of us need the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ.

I am no less prone to legalism than any other person is.  My inclination is to break down roadblocks to God, not to create or maintain them.  Nevertheless, I recognize the existence of certain categories and approve of them.  This is healthy to an extent.  But what if some of my categories are false? This is a thought I must ponder if I am to be a faithful Christian.  Am I marginalizing people God calls insiders?  Are you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ABRAHAM RITTER, U.S. MORAVIAN MERCHANT, HISTORIAN, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRTIER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND ECONOMIST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-year-d/

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