Archive for the ‘James 1’ Category

Deeds and Creeds VI   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

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 19:1-26 or Ruth 3

Psalm 142

Revelation 20:11-15

John 14:15-31

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NSFW Alert:  “Feet” in Ruth 3 are not feet.  No, they are genitals.  The Hebrew Bible contains euphemisms.  In the case of Ruth 3, we have a scene that is unfit for inclusion in a book of Bible stories for children.

The Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust offers this analysis of the Book of Ruth:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contractions About Sex and Desire (2011), 33

Speaking or writing of interpretations you may have read or heard, O reader, I turn to Genesis 19.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look for “Sodom.”  Then read every verse listed.  You will find that the dominant criticism of the people of Sodom was that they were arrogant and inhospitable.  The willingness to commit gang rape against angels, men, and women seems inhospitable to me.

The author of Psalm 142 described the current human reality.  That author descried Christ’s reality in John 14:15-31.  Christ was about to die terribly.  Yet that same Christ was victorious in Revelation 20.

The standard of judgment in Revelation 20:14 may scandalize many Protestants allergic to any hint of works-based righteousness:

…and every one was judged according to the way in which he had lived.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is not a new standard in the Bible.  It exists in the Hebrew Bible.  Matthew 25:31-46 its people over the head, so to speak, with this standard.  The Letter of James keeps hitting people over the head with it for five chapters.  Deeds reveal creeds.  The standard of divine judgment in Revelation 20:14 makes sense to me.

So, what do I believe?  What are my creeds?  What are your creeds, really?  I refer not to theological abstractions, but to lived faith.  Theological abstractions matter, too.  (I am not a Pietist.)  Yet lived faith matters more.  Do we live according to the love of God?  God seems to approve of doing that.  Do we hate?  God seems to disapprove of doing that.

As St. Paul the Apostle insisted, faith and works are a package deal.  The definition of faith in the Letter of James differs from the Pauline definition.  Faith in James is intellectual.  Therefore, joining faith with works is essential, for faith without works is dead.  In Pauline theology, however, faith includes works.  If one understands all this, one scotches any allegation that the Letter of James contradicts Pauline epistles.

Deeds reveal creeds.  If we value one another, we will act accordingly.  If we recognize immigrants as people who bear the image of God, we will resist the temptation of xenophobia, et cetera.  Knowing how to act properly on our creeds may prove challenging sometimes.  Practical consideration may complicate matters.  Political actions may or may not be the most effective methods to pursue.

By grace, may we–collectively and individually–act properly, so that our deeds may reveal our creeds, to the glory of God and for the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/devotion-for-proper-24-year-d-humes/

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The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Bread Line, by Nicolae Tonitza

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Easter, 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, from whom all good things do come; grant to us thy humble servants,

that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be right,

and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 173-174

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Numbers 24:10-23

Psalms 135:1-18

James 1:22-27

John 16:23-33

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God is in control, despite appearances to the contrary.  The prophet Balaam could not speak anything other than what God commanded.  This upset the men men paying Balaam to utter blessings they wanted to hear.  The author of Psalm 135, praising God for being good, recounted instances of God smiting enemies of Israel.  Jesus went to the cross, but somehow he had already conquered the world.  Jesus also did not stay dead for long.

James 1:27 leads into a section (in Chapter 2) on respecting the poor with these words:

Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this:  coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I do not know about you, O reader, but I live in a society that does not respect the poor.  The Letter of James teaches that faith without works is dead, and that works reveal faith.  By that standard, my society does not respect the poor.   Even many of the poor do not respect the poor.  The teaching of various Hebrew prophets regarding such disregard for the impoverished concludes with divine judgment.

How is that for justice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Words Matter III   1 comment

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast promised for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Job 28:12-28

James 3:1-13

Luke 12:22-34

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Reading the Book of Job with proper understanding requires paying close attention.  For example, as in the poetic portion, one needs to keep in mind who is speaking.  If one of the alleged friends is speaking, read the words with more than a few grains of salt, so to speak.

In Chapter 27, Job complained that God had deprived him of justice.  This was consistent with Chapters 1 and 2, in which God permitted “the Satan,” in the Book of Job, God’s loyalty tester–an employee–to test Job.  Two posts ago in this series, we read James 1:12-18, in which the author insisted that God does not tempt/test anyone.  In Job 1 and 2, God permitted the testing of Job.  Was this a distinction without a difference?

Elihu (alleged friend #4) replied with conventional piety in Chapter 28.  The alleged friends assumed that Job must have sinned, for they thought that God would not permit the innocent to suffer.  In Job 28, Elihu compared God to a miner and likened wisdom to silver.  The beautiful prose about the preciousness of wisdom, meant to condemn Job as a fool and a sinner, actually defined the titular character as a sage, ironically:

[God] said to man,

“See!  Fear of the Lord is wisdom;

To shun evil is understanding.”

Words matter.

The words of Elihu and other three alleged friends of Job were part of an intervention.  They meant well, but were wrong.

To mean well is insufficient.  Good results are the proof in the proverbial pudding.

May we seek to use our words for the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of others–to build them up, not to tear them down.  There is room for strong criticism, a practice in which Jesus engaged.  As we seek to use our words for good effect, may we succeed, by grace.  May we trust in God, on whom we rely entirely, and not imagine that we must deprive others to help ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Lost and Found, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Lost Coin, by John Everett Millais

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, good shepherd of the sheep, who came to seek and to save the lost:

so lead thy church that we may show thy compassion to the helpless,

rescue those in peril, and bring home the wanderers in safety to thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 8:13-22

James 1:12-18

Luke 15:1-10

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To repent is to change one’s mind, literally.  A person repents when he or she changes his or her mind regarding a particular sin or set of sins, thereby resolving not to repeat it or them.  We read of God changing the divine mind–usually away from judgment and toward mercy–throughout the Bible, especially the Hebrew Bible, as in Genesis 8:21-22.

If we imagine that we are not lost, we need a spiritual awakening.  If we think we do not need to repent, we have to repent of that, as well as of our other sins.  You, O reader, and I are the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7 and the precious coin (worth about one day’s wages) on the earthen floor of the small, windowless house in Luke 15:8-10.  We are precious to God.

Is God precious to us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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Old Teachings   1 comment

Above:  Christ in the Synagogue at Capernaum, a Fresco

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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Job 3:1-26 (or 1:1-19) or Deuteronomy 5:6-21

Psalm 40

James 1:17-27

Mark 1:21-28

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And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying “What is this?  A new teaching!  With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

–Mark 1:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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One may legitimately question whether Christ’s action in Mark 1:21-28 constituted a teaching.  Assuming that it was, was it a new teaching?

Despite traditional Christian attempts to divorce Jesus from Judaism, one would have had a difficult time finding someone more Jewish than Jesus of Nazareth.  Judaism was not monolithic two millennia ago.  (Neither is it monolithic today.)  Jesus was a man of his culture, place, and faith.  With ease he quoted Deuteronomy, the various Isaiahs, and Rabbi Hillel.  There was continuity from the Hebrew Bible (as in the Ten Commandments, repeated in Deuteronomy 5) to Jesus.

There is much continuity from the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament.  The teaching to walk, not just talk, the talk, is present in both, as in the context of the Ten Commandments and the Letter of James.  The theme of trusting in God, who cares about us (as in Psalm 40), is also present in the New Testament.  As one considers the lilies of the field, one may recall that Job had a different opinion in Job 3.  If each of us lives long enough, each of us also sometimes thinks that God does not care about us.

Occasionally, at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, where I teach, someone from a campus ministry politely asks me if I believe in God.  I ask this person what he or she means, for the answer depends on the question.  Many people used “believe in God” to mean “affirm the existence of God,” but belief, in the creedal sense, is trust.  My answer is that I always affirm the existence of God and usually trust in God.

I (usually) trust in God, incarnate in the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings were mostly old, in continuity with the Hebrew Bible.  The Golden Rule and the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) are old, for example.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Complaining Pawns   1 comment

Above:  Chess Pawns

Photographer = Frank-Christian Baum

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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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Job 1:1; 2:1-10 or Deuteronomy 4:1-9

Psalm 39:1-8, 11-13

James 1:1-16

Mark 1:14-20

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Many who have walked the path of righteousness have suffered for doing so, as many still so.  Most of the twelve Apostles became martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist avoided martyrdom yet still suffered.  St. James of Jerusalem became a martyr.  St. Mark went to martyrdom, also.  Yet the theme of the goodness and presence of God has been a theme that has accompanied persecution and martyrdom since the times of the Bible.

How good is God, as the Book of Job, in its final, composite form, depicts the deity?  The author of the prose wrap-around explained the cause of Job’s suffering (a wager between God and the Satan, still an employee of God, in the theology of the time).  Job was a pawn.  The author of the prose wrap-around also thought that Job was correct to complain (42:7-9).

I agree with the author of Job 42:7-17; Job had every right to complain.  At least he was being honest with God.

Sometimes we feel like pawns as we move through life.  On some occasions we are.  When we are, we have every right to complain.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMAGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Gratitude, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth (and Last) Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who dost graciously give us the fruits of the earth in their season:

we offer thee humble and hearty thanks for these thy bounties,

beseeching thee to give us grace rightly to use them to thy glory and for the relief of those in need;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Jeremiah 23:1-4

James 1:12-18

John 6:5-14

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When I furvey the wondrous crofs,

On which the Prince of glory dy’d,

My richeft gain I count but lofs,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

–Isaac Watts, 1707, unaltered

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The generosity and faithfulness of God are extravagant.  Scarcity is a feature of human economic systems, but not of the Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, we all depend entirely on God, who is far more reliable than any human being.

Do we really believe this?  Do our actions indicate that we do?  Talk is cheap, but deeds reveal creeds.

Perhaps the most difficult sacrifice gratitude to God requires of many of us is that of ego.  Many of us imagine ourselves to be, so to speak, “all that and a bag of potato chips.”  In our social context perhaps we are, but not in the light of God.  Neither are we independent, self-sufficient, and self-made.  When we relinquish these delusions, assuming that we ever entertained them, we can recognize many reasons for gratitude to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in James 1, Jeremiah 23, John 6

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Deeds and Creeds II   Leave a comment

Above:   Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Image in the Public Domain

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

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May all our thoughts, O God, be guided by thy Word and ruled by thy Spirit:

that we may have among us the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 56:6-8

James 1:22-27

John 16:22-33

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Grace is free, not cheap; it requires much of its recipients.  God, who loves us, redeems us, but we have responsibilities.  A partial list, compiled from the assigned readings, follows:

  1. To honor the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:6),
  2. To control one’s use of words and one’s temper (James 1:26),
  3. To help the less fortunate (James 1:27), and
  4. To keep oneself uncontaminated by the world (James 1:27).

Without falling into Puritanical and Pietistic excesses of rejecting “worldly amusements” such as playing checkers, playing chess, and reading great literature, keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world is difficult.  We do live in it, after all; of course it influences us.  Yet the world is not all bad.  We should accept the good and reject the bad.

Isaiah 56:6-8 pertains to those Gentiles who followed Yahweh.  We read that God accepted them as much as He did faithful Jews.  The operative standard in Isaiah 56, as in the Letter of James, is faithful conduct.  Deeds reveal creeds.

Talk is cheap and frequently deceptive.  What do our deeds reveal about what we really believe?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Gratitude, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Thanksgiving Day–The Dance, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 6-10 (17-20)

Psalm 65 or Psalm 65:9-14

James 1:17-18, 21-27

Matthew 6:25-33

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day.

By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness,

give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Year A

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Luke 17:11-19

Year B

Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 126

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 100

Philippians 4:4-9

John 6:25-35

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Luke 17:11-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/devotion-for-thanksgiving-day-u-s-a/

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Good Religion and Bad Religion   Leave a comment

Above:  Neighbors Sign, Athens, Georgia, October 12, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion.  Pure, unspoiled religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this:  coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

–James 1:26-27, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Theoretical arguments are marginally interesting to me, for I value the verdict of tangible results.  I, as a student of history-or religious and civil rights history in particular–know that innocuous-sounding slogans and talking points can conceal institutional immorality.

Local solutions to local problems,

for example, was, during many political campaigns of 1970 in the U.S. South an affirmation of de jure segregation of public schools (about to end), not of federalism per se.

During the last few days I have been immersing myself in the lives of saints, drafting 28 hagiographies (for July 21-August 13) in preparation for a few days of intensive blogging at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, the parent of this weblog.  Certain saints have lingered in my thoughts.  When Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) grew up in Talbotton, Georgia, he wondered how many church-going people could support Jim Crow laws.  Jordan (pronounced JER-dun) grew up to become a radical figure–a pacifist and a supporter of racial integration–in reactionary southwestern rural Georgia.  St. Dominic (c. 1170-1221), founder of the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans and the Black Friars, eagerly preached orthodoxy in the face of heresy while he deplored the Church’s use of violence against heretics.  Correct methods were essential to success, he said.

The relationship between one’s attitudes and one’s religion can be complicated.  Yes, one who is unapologetically bigoted might gravitate toward a racist, xenophobic, dare I say it–deplorable–theology.  And yes, one who is progressive might choose a liberal theology.  Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the power of religion to transform a person for good or for ill.  You, O reader, probably know or have known someone with whom you could get along easily before he or she had a conversion experience.  Likewise, religion can also make one one charitable in spirit and in deeds.

Staying true to my standard of tangible results, I assert that good religion makes one a better person–a loving, generally tolerant human being.  Good religion does not lead one to deny any person his or her basic human rights.  Good religion flows from the selfless, unconditional love of God.  Good religion makes one an agent of that love.  Good religion encourages decency.

I admit freely to the role of my background in formulating these thoughts.  I recall living in Alapaha, Georgia, from June 1989 to June 1991, when my father was the pastor of the Alapaha United Methodist Church in town and the Glory United Methodist Church a few miles outside of town.  One of our neighbors, as well as a parishioner, I remember, was Henry, an older man.  I cannot forget the day I overheard Henry announce that he was about to perform some “Afro-American engineering,” an undisguised racist term he used in lieu of the even more offensive “nigger rigging.”  I remember feeling uncomfortable as I heard those words and knowing that Henry should have known better.  I know, based on clear memories, that Henry was no outlier.

I, as a historian, understand that context matters greatly.  I, as a historian who, in academic writing, has quoted offensive statements, many of them containing slurs, grasp that the only morally acceptable way  to repeat some language is to quote it while making clear that I disapprove of the content of that quote.  I also know that Henry was not quoting.

Good religion does not make excuses for any prejudice directed at a human being or any population.  No, good religion recognizes the image of God in others.  Good religion follows a consistent ethic of divine love, regardless of where on the political spectrum that love places one.  Besides, terms such as liberal, conservative, reactionary, and revolutionary are inherently relative, having no fixed, timeless meaning with regard to policy proposals.

I, as a Christian, point to Jesus as the embodiment of good religion.  If I were to do otherwise, I would have only a pretense of a legitimate claim to call myself a Christian.  I recognize Jesus in his historical, socio-political-economic, and religious contexts as a figure still radical by contemporary standards, even in much of organized Christianity.

Good religion is a high calling–seemingly an impossible standard.  It is an impossible standard, relying on human strengths.  It is possible only via grace.  Each of us falls short of good religion in its fullness, and always will on this side of Heaven.  By grace we can do better, though.  May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, “APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOVE”

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSÉ DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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