Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 31’ Category

Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of Advent, 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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Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness,

and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life,

in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;

that in the last day, when he shall come again in his

glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 105

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 46

Hebrews 10:19-25

Matthew 25:1-13

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“Desist!  Realize that I am God!

I dominate the nations;

I dominate the earth.”

–Psalm 46:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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…for he is utterly dependable….

J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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Three themes dominate this group of four readings.  They are:

  1. the reliability of God,
  2. the sovereignty of God, and
  3. the balance of divine judgment and mercy.

In the full Biblical sense, to believe in God is to trust God.  Whenever someone asks me if I believe in God, I reply first by asking what he or she means by “believe in God.”  The second part of my answer depends on what the person means.  I am glad to answer honestly, but I need to know what the question really is.  I always affirm the existence of God.  That is insufficient, though.  I trust God most of the time.  I know the meaning of

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

–Matthew 9:24

Trusting God can be difficult, especially during times of distress.

I publish this devotional post during a time of global and national distress.  The COVID-19 pandemic, made worse by human irresponsibility (both collective and individual) is taking lives, damaging lives, and wrecking economies.  Right-wing populism, fueled by hatred and resentment, remains firmly entrenched in the mainstream of politics in many nation-states.  Misinformation and what Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) called “damn lies” spread quickly via the internet and other media.  Achieving a consensus regarding what constitutes objective reality has become increasingly difficult in this age of “alternative facts.”  Incivility is on the rise.

Affirming with my lips, pens, pencils, and computer keyboards that God dominates the earth and is utterly dependable is easier than internalizing that message.  Yet I think about Jeremiah, who watched homeland, reduced to vassalage to the Babylonian/Neo-Chaldean Empire, near its end at the hands of that empire.  I recall his documented struggles with God.  And I read a bold yet partially-fulfilled prediction in 31:31-34.

God is faithful, as we must be.  Collective and individual responsibility are Biblical virtues.  The parable in Matthew 25:1-13 reminds us of our individual responsibility.  It tells us that there are some spiritual tasks nobody can fulfill for us.  And mutuality remains a principle that carries over from the Law of Moses.

I consider the epistle reading.  Hebrews 10:19-25 is usually a passage assigned for Good Friday.  Scheduling this passage for the First Sunday of Advent makes much sense and fits with precedents.  One may detect, for example, the inclusion of the classical Passion Chorale (with words other than those for Good Friday) in some sacred music for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  One may recognize this motif in certain compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.  To think of the crucifixion near and at Christmas is appropriate.

The advice, set in the context of faith community, to build up each other and to provoke one another to love and good deeds is timeless and sage counsel.  It falls into the category of mutuality.  May we, collectively and individually, look out for each other and take care of each other.  May we seek to build up each other, not tear each other down.  May we bolster each other in healthy faith.  May we love according to the standard of the Golden Rule and 1 Corinthians 13.  May we succeed, by faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 421

THE FEAST OF JAMES MILLS THOBURN, ISABELLA THOBURN, AND CLARA SWAIN, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES TO INDIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COOKE AND BENJAMIN WEBB, ANGLICAN PRIESTS AND TRANSLATORS OF HYMNS

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God’s Second Call of Jonah, with the Repentance of the Ninevites   Leave a comment

Above:  Jonah, by George Fredric Watts

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JONAH

PART III

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Jonah 3:1-10

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Jonah 3 includes the humorous element of exaggeration.

  1. No ancient city was a three-days’ walk across.  Sorry, Jonah 3:3.
  2. Even the livestock repented.  (Jonah 3:7-8)

Jonah’s preaching in Nineveh deserves attention.

  1. The call to repent is absent.
  2. The message is brief:  “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”  The message does not explain why Nineveh will be “overthrown” or what the Hebrew word translated “overthrown” means.
  3. The Hebrew word we read as “overthrown” or “overturned” is its own antonym.  (Think, O reader, about “oversight” in English.  “Oversight” means both supervising and seeing, on one hand, and not seeing, on the other hand.) The germane Hebrew word indicates destruction in some texts, including Genesis 19:21, 25, and 29; Deuteronomy 29:22; Jeremiah 20:16; and 4:6.  Nevertheless, the same word indicates deliverance in other passages, including Deuteronomy 23:5; Psalm 66:6; and Jeremiah 31:13. 
  4. The scene, then, is one of Jonah preaching the destruction of Nineveh and of repentance causing the city’s deliverance.  The scene is one of Jonah undercutting his own message.  The scene is one of Jonah’s prediction mocking him.  The scene is one of penitent Ninevites undermining Jonah’s message.

Divine persistence can wear down human resistance  And God can work through us, despite ourselves.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNE STEELE, FIRST IMPORTANT ENGLISH FEMALE HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARTHA COFFIN PELHAM WRIGHT; HER SISTER, LUCRETIA COFFIN MOTT; HER HUSBAND, JAMES MOTT; HIS SISTER, ABIGAIL LYDIA MOTT MOORE; AND HER HUSBAND, LINDLEY MURRAY MOORE; U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF PETER TAYLOR FORSYTH, SCOTTISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

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Perplexing Readings   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are we not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/devotion-for-proper-23-year-c-humes/

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Hardness of Heart   2 comments

Above:  Christ Walking on the Waters, by Julius Sergius von Klever

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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O God, whose never-failing Providence ordereth all things in heaven and earth;

we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things,

and to give us those things which may be profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 196

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Jeremiah 31:23-25

Psalm 31:15-24

Romans 6:19-23

Mark 6:45-56

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Deliverance–both individual and collective–is a theme in the readings.  Deliverance may be from sins and their consequences.  It may be from illness or another form of distress.  Deliverance is of God in all cases.

The reading from Mark 6 contains echoes of the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus, walking on water, seems like YHWH, appearing on the waters (Job 9:8 and 38:16).  Jesus, meaning to pass by the  boat, seems like YHWH in Exodus 33:19, 22.  Our Lord and Savior’s self-identification echoes “I AM” (Exodus 3:13f).

Translations vary, of course, but the critique of the Apostles in the boat (6:52) in that they were hard-hearted or had closed minds.  This is the same critique Jesus had of the people who condemned him for healing on the Sabbath in Mark 6:3:5.

Mark 6:52

  • “…but their hearts were hardened.” (New Revised Standard Version, 1989)
  • “…their minds were still in the dark.” (J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972)
  • “…their minds were closed.”  (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985; The Revised English Bible, 1989)
  • …they were being obstinate.”  (Annotated Scholars Version, 1992)

Mark 3:5

  • “…he was grieved at their hardness of heart…” (New Revised Standard Version, 1989)
  • “…looking at them with anger and sorrow at their obstinate stupidity…” (The Revised English Bible, 1989)
  • “Then he looked angrily around at them, grieved to find them so obstinate….” (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)
  • “Then Jesus, deeply hurt as he sensed their inhumanity, looked around in anger…” (J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972)
  • “…And looking right at them with anger, exasperated at their obstinacy…” (Annotated Scholars Version, 1992)

Simply, hard-heartedness = dark-mindedness = closed-mindedness = obstinacy = obstinate stupidity = inhumanity, in the original Greek texts.

The Apostles receive much negative press in the Gospel of Mark.  The application of that pattern for we readers is a caution:  we, who think we are insiders, may be outsiders, actually.  We may be terribly oblivious.  We, who should know better, do not, while alleged outsiders are more perceptive than we are.  We need for God to deliver us from our hardness of heart, one of our sins, and itself a gateway to other sins, from which we also need deliverance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; AND SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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Coronavirus/COVID-19: Prayers   1 comment

I posted these prayers at GATHERED PRAYERS yesterday.–KRT

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ON THE OCCASION OF A DISASTER

Compassionate God, whose Son Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus:

Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and anguish,

comfort those who mourn,

strengthen those who are weary,

encourage those in despair,

and lead us all to fullness of life;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer,

who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God for ever and ever.  Amen.

Readings

Job 14:7-13 or Jeremiah 31:15-20

Psalm 60 or 130 or 80:1-7 or 23

Romans 8:35-38 or Revelation 21:1-7 or Romans 8:18-25

Luke 6:20-26 or Mark 13:14-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 733

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IN A TIME OF NATURAL DISASTER

O God, you divided the waters of chaos at creation.

In Christ you stilled storms, raised the dead,

and vanquished demonic powers.

Tame the earthquake, wind, and fire,

and all forces that defy control or shock us by their fury.

Keep us from calling disaster your justice.

Help us, in good times and in distress,

to trust your mercy and yield to your power, this day and for ever.

Amen.

–Andy Langford, in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), 509

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DURING A NATIONAL CRISIS

God of ages,

in your sight nations rise and fall,

and pass through times of peril.

Now when our land is troubled,

be near to judge and save.

May leaders be led by your wisdom;

may they search your will and see it clearly.

If we have turned from your way,

help us to reverse our ways and repent.

Give us light and your your truth to guide us;

through Jesus Christ,

who is the Lord of this world, and our Savior.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 818

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TIME OF CONFLICT, CRISIS, DISASTER

O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope.

Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance.

Where impossibilities close every door and and window, grant imagination and resistance.

Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination.

Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grand soaring wings and strengthened dreams.

All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 76

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TIME OF CIVIC MOURNING

God our creator, through whose providing care we enjoy all goodness and life,

turn our eyes to your mercy at this time of confusion and loss.

Comfort this nation as we mourn;

shine your light on those whose only companion is darkness;

and teach us so to number our days that we may apply our hearts to your wisdom;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 77

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The Sins of the Fathers, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

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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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Exodus 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37

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The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

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Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Genesis 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-22-year-b-humes/

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Water   1 comment

Above:  Water in Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 31:7-14

Psalm 29

Acts 19:1-7

Mark 1:9-13

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Water is an element in all four readings for today.  There is, of course, the water of baptism–the baptism of Jesus and of the unnamed people in Acts 19.  Yahweh, “upon the mighty waters,” is like yet unlike Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god, in Psalm 29.  (Yet, of course, the presentation of God is quite different in 1 Kings 19:9-18, set after the killing of the priests of Baal Peor in Chapter 18.)  Finally, water is especially precious in the desert, as in Jeremiah 31.

God is tangibly present in each reading.  God is present in nature in Psalm 29, leading exiles out of exile through nature in Jeremiah 31, present via the Holy Spirit in Acts 19, and present in the flesh of Jesus in Mark 1.  God remains tangibly present with us in many ways, which we notice, if we pay attention.

One usually hears the theme of the Epiphany as being the Gospel of Jesus Christ going out to the gentiles.  That is part of the theme.  The other part of the theme is gentiles going to God–Jesus, as in the case of the Magi.  Today, in Mark 1 and Acts 19, however, we have the first part of the theme of the Epiphany.  The unnamed faithful, we read in Acts 19, had their hearts and minds in the right place; they merely needed to learn what they must do.

Acts 19:1-7 is an excellent missionary text for that reason.  The unnamed faithful, prior to their baptisms, fit the description of those who belong in the category of Baptism of Desire, in Roman Catholic theology.  As good as the Baptism of Desire is, baptism via water and spirit is superior.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/11/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Happy Advent and Merry Christmas   1 comment

Above:  Magnificat

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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Jeremiah 31:7-14

Luke 1:46-56

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

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Advent begins with foreboding and ends in joy.

The presence of texts related to exile (Jeremiah 31:7-14, for example) in Advent is notable.  The recollection of salvation history during Advent takes the church down the paths of exile and and exodus in glorious pericopes.  The image of Yahweh as a shepherd in Jeremiah 31fits easily with imagery of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

I have little to write about these assigned readings this week.  I could put on my academic hat, of course, but I prefer to wear the proverbial hat of a devotional writer at these times.  So I invite you, O reader, to read and internalize the poetry and the prose, and to let it inform who you become in God.

Happy Advent, and in a few days–for twelve days–Merry Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUPER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC POET AND JESUIT PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY DOWNTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MISSIONS STRATEGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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Schism and Reconciliation   1 comment

Above:  Wittenberg in 1540

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of the Reformation, celebrated first in the Brunswick church order (1528), composed by Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), died out in the 1500s.  Initially the dates of the commemoration varied according to various church orders, and not all Lutherans observed the festival.  Original dates included November 10 (the eve of Martin Luther‘s birthday), February 18 (the anniversary of Luther’s death), and the Sunday after June 25, the date of the delivery of the Augsburg Confession.  In 1667, after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Elector of Saxony John George II ordered the revival of the commemoration, with the date of October 31.  Over time the commemoration spread, and commemorations frequently occurred on the Sunday closest to that date.

The feast used to function primarily as an occasion to express gratitude that one was not Roman Catholic.  However, since 1980, the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement) and the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau have favored observing the feast as a time of reconciliation and of acknowledging the necessity of the Reformation while not celebrating the schism.

This perspective is consistent with the position of Professor Phillip Cary in his Great Courses series of The History of Christian Theology (2008), in which he argues that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism need each other.

I, as an Episcopalian, stand within the Middle Way–Anglicanism.  I am convinced, in fact, that I am on this planet for, among other reasons, to be an Episcopalian; the affiliation fits me naturally.  I even hang an Episcopal Church flag in my home.  I, as an Episcopalian, am neither quite Protestant nor Roman Catholic; I borrow with reckless abandon from both sides–especially from Lutheranism in recent years.  I affirm Single Predestination (Anglican and Lutheran theology), Transubstantiation, a 73-book canon of scripture, and the Assumption of Mary (Roman Catholic theology), and reject both the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  My ever-shifting variety of Anglicanism is sui generis.

The scandal of schism, extant prior to 1517, but exasperated by the Protestant and English Reformations, grieves me.  Most of the differences among denominations similar to each other are minor, so overcoming denominational inertia with mutual forbearance would increase the rate of ecclesiastical unity.  Meanwhile, I, from my perch in The Episcopal Church, ponder whether organic union with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is feasible and wise.  It is a question worth exploring.  At least we are natural ecumenical partners.  We already have joint congregations, after all.  If there will be organic union, it will require mutual giving and taking on many issues, but we agree on most matters already.

Time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people.

Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial,

defend them against all enemies of the gospel,

and bestow on the church your saving peace,

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

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

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 46

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 58

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Revelation 14:6-7

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-reformation-october-31/

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The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life   1 comment

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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