Archive for the ‘James 3’ Category

Building Up the Common Good, Part III   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART V

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James 4:1-17

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The Epistle of James, logically, is building argument.  The first chapter establishes the foundation.  Then each subsequent chapter builds on all that preceded it.  4:1 flows directly from 3:18, sensibly.  Peace is absent in 4:1.

The ideal of faith community in the Epistle of James is mutuality under God.  After all, the Church, then a small minority, had to stick together.  Obviously, the ideal was not the reality often enough that the author had to write what he did.  The “you” was plural; James was an epistle addressed to congregations, not a person.

Life is short.  Each of us is as a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow (4:14).  One may know that this intellectually yet not viscerally.  Death teaches one visceral truth.  I know this from experience.

Making long-term plans is a good idea; one may have a long term.  Or one may not.  Either way, one may our love for God and our brother and sister human beings define us as groups and individuals.  Society is people.  Members of a society influence it, just as it shapes them.  May that shape be love.  May that influence be love.  May we–as individuals and groups–care more about being loving than being right.  The quest for vindication is the trail of much destructive activity.

I cannot be at peace with God or anyone else unless I am at peace with myself.  I cannot love God or anyone else unless I love myself.  I can give only what I have.  Likewise, a faith community can give only what it has.  A faith community has only what it receives.

The words of James 4 hit home in another way.  Many nation-states lack internal unity in 2021.  Mutual recriminations abound.  Confronting that which one should confront is necessary and wise; not to do so is to violate 4:17.  Then there is sniping, much of it contrary to objective reality.  When ego defense enters the picture, prying an admission of error from the mistaken party may be impossible.  So, even in the face of evidence, people double down on their false assertions.  Peace is absent.

As much as I loved my grandmother (who died in August 2019) and my girlfriend (who died in October 2019), I am glad they did not live to see the COVID-19 pandemic.  It may have been too much for them to endure.  It feels like too much for me to endure some days.  I mourn the dead.  I mourn those who have fallen ill needlessly yet survived.  I mourn those who have died needlessly.  I mourn those who have lost their livelihoods and homes.  I mourn the loss of the sense of being able to trust the members of my community.

The Reverend Will Campbell (1924-2013) said:

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

I mourn that I find focusing on the first part of that statement easier than focusing on the second part thereof.

I have much company.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCO DE PAULA VICTOR, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CHURCHILL JULIUS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHRISTCHURCH, AND PRIMATE AND ARCHBISHOP OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILIE TAVERNIER GARNELIN, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF STANEK, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF JUDITH LOMAX, EPISCOPAL MYSTIC AND POET

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This is post #2600 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Posted September 23, 2021 by neatnik2009 in James 3, James 4

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Words Matter IV   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART IV

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James 3:1-18

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Harlan Ellison, my favorite curmudgeon, argues against the proposition that each person is entitled to his or her opinion.  He said:

No, you are entitled to your informed opinion.

Opinions not rooted in objective reality are unworthy of respect.

The first part of James 3 exists in the context of the second part of James 3.  Therefore, the section about controlling the tongue is really about jealousy and infighting, originally.  Internal struggles in the Church are as as old as the Church, sadly.

According to mythology, YHWH spoke creation into being.  Therefore, whenever one speaks, writes,  leaves a message on a social media outlet, or repeats or shares what someone else has said or written,  one creates something.  I am conscious of the power of my weblogs, which do not attract mass audiences.  Nevertheless, I know that some people are reading.  I attempt to make a positive contribution.  I see that some of my posts have influenced prayers at commencement ceremonies.  This makes me feel good.

Words matter.  They have power.  They can build up or tear down.  For good reasons, not all speech has constitutional protection in the United States of America.  Unprotected speech includes libel, slander, and incitement to violence.  When I read about bullying, I recall James 3.  We are all responsible to and for each other as we stand before God.  May we take care of each other.

Timeless principles are…timeless, for lack of a better word.  We mere mortals always apply them within circumstances; we always have circumstances.  Circumstances change and technology develops, but timeless principles remain.  In the age of COVID-19, spreading misinformation and damn lies about the virus, vaccines, masks, and horse deworming medicine is deadly.  When the definition of objective reality is a controversial matter, public health becomes politicized immediately.  And people die needlessly as the pandemic continues longer than necessary and damages economies.  Peace is difficult to find.

A grandson of a parishioner at my much died recently.  The grandson died of COVID-19, which he contracted from his father, who had refused to get vaccinated.

Misinformation, obliviousness, and damn lies claim lives sometimes.  Make your speech count for the good, O reader.  And take care of your relatives, friends, and neighbors.  By doing so, you will take care of yourself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILANDER CHASE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF OHIO, AND OF ILLINOIS; AND PRESIDING BISHOP

THE FEAST OF C. H. DODD, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, JULIA ANNE ELLIOTT, AND EMILY ELLIOTT, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF JUSTUS FALCKNER, LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF STEPHEN G. CARY, U.S. QUAKER HUMANITARIAN AND ANTIWAR ACTIVIST

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Posted September 22, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 1, Genesis 2, James 3

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Introduction to the General Epistles   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART I

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This post opens a new series, one about the General (or Catholic or Universal) Epistles.  This category dates to circa 325 C.E., from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea.

MY GERMANE OPERATIONAL BIASES AND ASSUMPTIONS

Know, O reader, that my academic background is in history.  I think historically, regardless of the topic du jour.  The past tenses constitute my usual temporal perspective.  Some people tell me that I ought not to think this way when considering the Bible or a television series that ceased production years or decades ago.  These individuals are wrong.  I defy them.

Some people tell me that the historical backgrounds of Biblical books do not matter or are of minimal importance.  The messages for today is what matters, they say.  The messages for today do matter; I agree with that much.  Yet the definition of those messages depend greatly on the historical contexts from which these texts emerged.  With regard to the General Epistles, whether one assumes relatively early or relatively late composition affects the interpretation.

I operate from the assumptions that (a) James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude are pseudonymous, and (b) they date to relatively late periods.  These two assumptions relate to each other.  The first assumption leads to the second.  In terms of logic, if x, then y.  Simultaneously, internal evidence supports the second assumption, which leads backward, to the first.

CONTEXTS

The General Epistles, composed between 70 and 140 C.E., came from particular societal and political contexts.  The Roman Empire was strong.  Religious persecutions of Christianity were mostly sporadic and regional.  Christianity was a young, marginalized, sect (of Judaism, through 135 C.E.) unable to influence society and the imperial order.  Christian doctrine was in an early phase of development.  Even the definition of the Christian canon of scripture was in flux.

I, reading, pondering, and writing in late 2021, benefit from centuries of theological development, ecumenical councils, and the definition of the New Testament.  I, as an Episcopalian, use scripture, tradition, and reason.  I interpret any one of these three factors through the lenses of the other two.  I, as a student of the past, acknowledge that scripture emerged from tradition.

The importance of theological orthodoxy was a major concern in the background of the General Epistles.  That made sense; ecclesiastical unity, threatened by heresy, was a major concern for the young, small, and growing sect.  Yet, as time passed and the Church’s fortunes improved, the definition of orthodoxy changed.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (notably Origen) were orthodox, by the standards of their time.  After 325 C.E., however, some of these men (notably Origen) became heretics postmortem and ex post facto.

Orthopraxy was another concern in the General Epistles.  Orthopraxy related to orthodoxy.  The lack of orthopraxy led to needless schisms and the exploitation of the poor, for example.  As time passed and the Church became dominant in parts of the world, the Church fell short on the standard of orthopraxy, as defined by the Golden Rule.  As Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), an excommunicated modernist Roman Catholic theologian, lamented:

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

Lest anyone misunderstand me, I affirm that theological orthodoxy exists.  God defines it.  We mere mortals and our theologies are all partially heretical.  We cannot help that.  Salvation is a matter of grace, not passing a canonical examination.  Also, the Golden Rule is the finest standard according to which to measure orthopraxy.  Orthopraxy is a matter of faithful response, which grace demands.  Grace is free, not cheap.

BRIEF INTRODUCTIONS FOR EACH OF THE GENERAL EPISTLES

The Epistle of James dates to 70-110 C.E.  The analysis of Father Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) suggests that composition in the 80s or 90s was probable.  The “epistle,” actually a homily, used the genre of diatribe to address Jewish Christians who lived outside of Palestine.  James is perhaps the ultimate “shape up and fly right” Christian text.  James may also correct misconceptions regarding Pauline theology.

The First Epistle of Peter, composed in Rome between 70 and 90 C.E., is a text originally for churches in northern Asia Minor.  The majority scholarly opinion holds that First Peter is a unified text.  A minority scholarly opinion holds that 1:3-4:11 and 4:12-5:11 are distinct documents.

The Epistle of Jude, composed between 90 and 100 C.E., may have have come from Palestine.  Jude was also a source for Second Peter, mainly the second chapter thereof.

The Second Epistle of Peter is the last book of the New Testament composed.  Second Peter, probably composed between 120 and 140 C.E., addresses a general audience in eastern Asia Minor.  The second chapter expands on Jude.

The First Epistle of John is not an epistle.  No, it is a homily or a tract.  First John, composed circa 100 C.E., belongs to the Johannine tradition.  Anyone who has belonged to a congregation that has suffered a schism may relate to the context of First John.

The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John (both from circa 100 C.E.) may have written First John.  Or not.  “The Elder” (the author of Second and Third John) speaks down the corridors of time in the contexts of ecclesiastical schisms and personality conflicts.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

I invite you, O reader, to remain with me as I embark on a journey through the Epistle of James first.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARENCE ALPHONSUS WALWORTH, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER; CO-FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE (THE PAULIST FATHERS)

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE RODAT, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF VILLEFRANCHE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DALRYMPLE MACLAGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Sixth Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Zechariah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART X

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Zechariah 5:1-4

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

The sixth vision (5:1-4) was of a flying scroll about 30 feet long and about 15 feet wide.  The scroll was about the size of the portico of the Great Hall of the First Temple (1 Kings 6:3).  The purpose of the curse on this remarkable scroll was to remove all crime–namely, theft and perjury–from the land.  There was no room such transgressions in the ideal society to come–in either Judah or the world, depending on the translation of 5:3.

Zechariah 5:1-4 get us, O reader, into the realm of curses.  I, as a modern person grounded in science, give them barely a thought, except to dismiss them as superstitions.  I do not think, therefore, as the authors of Zechariah 5:1-4; Judges 17:2; Numbers 5; and Deuteronomy 29:19 did.  The importance of a curse, Biblically, relates to that of an oath.  (See Leviticus 5:20-24; Proverbs 29:24; Exodus 22:9-11/22:8-10; Judges 11:29-40; Matthew 5:33-37; et cetera.)  The importance of curses also relates to that of blessings, as in Numbers 27:1-45; Numbers 22-24; et cetera.

The emphasis on maintaining the integrity of the community of Zechariah 5:1-4 is a timeless principle, though.  May more people act according to mutuality, one of the pillars of the Law of Moses.

The importance of blessings, curses, and oaths in the Bible points to another timeless principle:  words matter.  Notice the mention of perjury in Zechariah 5:1-4, O reader.  One may recall Daniel 13, the story of Susanna, in which perjury almost cost an innocent woman her life.  The penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses is:

If the witness is a false witness, and has falsely accused the other, you shall do to the false witness just as that false witness planned to do to the other.  Thus you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 19:18b-19, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

For more commentary about the importance and power of words, read James 3:1-12.  That which the author of that epistle wrote goes double or triple in the age of social media.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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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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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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Words Matter II   2 comments

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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 11:7-20 or Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Psalm 43

James 3:1-13

Mark 2:13-28

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Words matter.  They can inflict pain, even when one imagines oneself to be acting righteously, as in the case of Zophar the Naamathite, who proceeded from a false assumption while lecturing Job on repentance.  Words can call others to discipleship.  Words can remind one  of the divine mandate on individuals and societies to care for the less fortunate.  Words can reach the throne of God.

Words can create justice or injustice; they make the future.  May we, being mindful of the power of words, trust in God and strive to use these tools for the common good and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2019 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN AND COFOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Words Matter I   3 comments

(ESPECIALLY IN WHAT PASSES FOR POLITICAL AND SOCIAL DISCOURSE)

Given the dehumanization and demonization of many people who think one way by many who disagree with them (hardly a new problem, yet amplified by social media, the increased tribalization of politics, and the most recent rise of fascism and unapologetic racism, nativism, and xenophobia across the world), I could make yet another statement denouncing all these patterns.  I choose, however to quote a passage from antiquity–one far more eloquent than I am capable of being.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement.  All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body.  When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will we can direct the whole animal.  Or think of a ship:  large though it may be and drive by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses.  So with the tongue; it is small but its pretensions are great.

What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark!  And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world.  It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell.  Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue.  It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom.  We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh.

–James 3:1-12, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Posted October 27, 2018 by neatnik2009 in James 3

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Eschatological Ethics III: Passing Judgment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Matthew 3:1-11

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Until God ushers in Matthew’s Kingdom of Heaven–the fully realized rule of God on Earth, replacing corrupt systems and institutions, the question of eschatological ethics remains current and germane.

We read some of St. Paul the Apostle’s advice in 1 Corinthians 4–pass no premature judgment.  We also read St. John Baptist’s critique of many Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3–

Brood of vipers.

I propose that St. John’s judgment was not premature, but based on evidence.

One might supplement St. Paul’s counsel with that of Christ in Matthew 7:1-5 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985):

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give will be the judgements you get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?  And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

One who knows the Bible well can think of examples of various Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and St. Paul issuing judgments, usually while speaking with authority from God.  However, one must, if one is to be intellectually honest, admit that some judgments are wrong, in more than one way.

“Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true.

–Titus 1:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Whether St. Paul affirmed that nasty statement about Cretans or someone writing in his name did remains a matter of scholarly debate.  The unfortunate statement exists within the canon of the New Testament, though.

Sometimes we must make judgments–ones based on objective evidence.  To call a spade a spade, so to speak; to condemn injustice; to speak truth to power; is a moral imperative.  True statements are neither slanderous nor libelous.  Cynical people and desperate partisans in a state of denial may call true statements “fake news,” but objective truth is never fake.  As John Adams observed,

Facts are stubborn things.

James 3:1-12 offers timeless advice regarding the use of the tongue; we have a moral duty to control it.  That counsel also applies to the written word and to social media.  Condemning the unjustifiable is appropriate, but ruining reputations and lives without evidence is always wrong.  It is also commonplace, unfortunately.

“Brood of vipers” indeed!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Psalms 41-43   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Psalm 41

Image in the Public Domain

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POST XVI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Reading the Book of Psalms from the beginning leads one to notice certain recurring themes.  In Psalms 41, 42, and 43, taken together, I notice certain motifs on which I have commented in previous posts.  They include the following:

  1. Being seriously ill and calling out to God for deliverance,
  2. Being the victim of malicious gossip,
  3. Seeking divine vindication,
  4. Wishing the worst for one’s enemies, and
  5. Trusting in God while wondering why God has permitted one to suffer so badly.

My previous comments on those themes stand.

I prefer instead to focus on the question of the translation of the opening of Psalm 41.  The rendering of the opening of that text in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is typical of most English-language translations:

Happy are they who consider the poor and the needy!

the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.

–Verse 1

In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) we read of one who is

thoughtful of the wretched.

The pious person in The Revised English Bible (1989)

has a concern for the helpless.

However, as Mitchell J. Dahood writes, slander, not helping the poor and needy/the wretched/the helpless, is a major concern in Psalm 41.  Therefore the Dahood translation of that verse reads

How blest the man prudent in speech,

in time of danger may Yahweh deliver him.

–Verse 2

One can read Dahood’s full case for this translation in Psalms I:  1-50 (1966), page 249.

Prudence in speech and writing is a virtue, is it not?  Indeed, one need not apologize for oratorical and written prudence.  Furthermore, the lack of prudence leads to troubles one could have avoided easily.  Yet a lack of prudence in speech and writing becomes (temporarily, at least) a political asset for some; it is allegedly plain spokenness.  The Dahood translation prompts me to think of James 3:1-12, a passage about the power of speech for positive and negative purposes.  That text needs no commentary, for it explains itself.

The slanderers of Psalm 41 are of the same ilk as the enemies of Psalm 42, the treacherous men of Psalm 43.  One temptation is, to use an old expression, fight fire with fire.  Although that strategy is effective in fighting literal fires sometimes, it is probably not the best spiritual practice most of the time.  How about trusting in God instead?  How about fighting fire with fire extinguisher instead?  How about, in the style of Jesus, forgiving one’s enemies?

This is difficult, of course.  Yet we need not operate under the delusion that we ought to be able to do it under our own power.  No, we rely on grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

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Posted August 9, 2017 by neatnik2009 in James 3, Psalm 41, Psalm 42, Psalm 43

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