Archive for the ‘Jeremiah I: 1-10’ Category

Spiritual Blindness, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church, being gathered together in unity by the Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name:

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the same Spirit,

one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 8:4-7

1 Peter 2:7-10

Luke 18:31-43

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The theme of rebellion against God unites the three assigned readings.  This is especially appropriate liturgically on the Sunday preceding Lent, with its focus on confession of sin and on repentance.

I advise you, O reader, to read all of Jeremiah 8, with its vivid poetic language about divine judgment.  That is collective punishment for collective sin.  Western civilization, with its individualism, gives short shrift to collective responsibility, sin, and punishment.  The Hebrew Bible is not a product of Western civilization, though.  Likewise, “you” is plural in 1 Peter 2:7-10.

The blind man in Luke 18:35-43 was more perceptive than the Apostles and the crowd at Jericho.  His story, set in contrast to 18:31-34 by the author of the Gospel of Luke, has long pointed out the spiritual blindness of the other people.

Spiritual and moral blindness is both collective and individual; they influence each other.  We, as members of society, are subject to societal influences.  But what is society but people?  When enough people change their minds, societal norms shift.  We, collectively and individually, need to move toward a state in which the Golden Rule is normative and nothing–not even citations of religious laws–is an acceptable reason to violate the Golden Rule.  This will not usher in the Kingdom of God, for only God can do that.  This will, however, create societies with less spiritual and moral blindness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 9:23-24

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 20:1-16

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The issue is not, “who is my neighbor?” but “can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?”

–Amy-Jill Levine in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011), 123

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Jesus’ interlocutor, the Jewish lawyer, holds a restrictive definition of “neighbor”:  his question, “Who is my neighbor” presupposes that some people are not neighbors.

–Michael Fagenblat, “The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics,” 542, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011)

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…the lawyer…attempted to save face by asking a further question, “Just a minute.  Exactly who is my neighbor?”…He was really asking, “How far does my responsibility go here?  What, in fact, constitutes neighborliness, and who qualifies to receive the love called for in the Law?”  He might have been asking, “What is the least I am required to do to get by?”…Jesus, however, turned in the other direction altogether and said, “You’re to think of yourself as a neighbor.”  The question isn’t, “Is such and such a person worthy of my love?” but rather, “Am I willing to take what I have, what I know, and what I can do and place all this at the disposal of another person’s needs or growth?”

–John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells:  The Parables (New York:  McCracken Press, 1993), 101-102, 105

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  God expects much of us and enables us to fulfill those expectations.  We usually experience God as the Holy Spirit, probably.  That, at least, is the theologically approved term, according to Christian orthodoxy.  I, without straying into heresy, note that the Greek word we translate as “person,” as in “First Person of the Trinity,” “Second Person of the Trinity,” and “Third Person of the Trinity,” means “masks.”

Our one acceptable glory is in God, who is generous, according to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  The workers must work, of course, but all receive a daily wage, even if they work a partial work day.  The Kingdom of Heaven, we read, is like that employment situation in the vineyard.  Contrary to the ubiquitous Dalman consensus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a reverential circumlocution, as Jonathan Pennington writes.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is the fully realized reign/realm of God on the Earth.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is apocalyptic.

God’s ways are not ours, overall.  They overlap occasionally, by accident, perhaps.  Extravagant divine extravagance, as in the parables, certainly contradicts the corresponding way of the world.  One function of the rhetoric of the Kingdom of Heaven is to point out the ways in which human patterns are deficient.

Go is generous, with standards for beneficiaries of grace to adopt.  We often prefer cheap grace, so we can blithely follow familiar patterns of thinking and behaving, without nagging moral qualms.  We are also frequently stingy certainly compared to God.  Often we are like the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10); we ask,

Who is my neighbor?

We really mean,

Who is not my neighbor?

Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors.  We do not like that answer.  Our ways are deficient.

They can be less so in this life, by grace, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Humility and Arrogance, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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A Light to the Nations VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Kent Lighthouse at Night

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Master of us all, you have given us work to do.

Also give us strength to perform it with gladness and singleness of heart;

and when it is completed grant us a place in your kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Jeremiah 10:1-7

Psalm 50

Acts 8:26-35

John 4:7-26

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We have a fine set of readings (as usual) this time.  My only negative comment regards not the portions of scripture themselves but the old lectionary itself; the lessons from Jeremiah, Acts, and John are too short.  One should read through Jeremiah 10:16, Acts 8:40, and John 4:42 for full effect.

God (in Jeremiah 10) and Jesus (in John 4) notably avoided condemning anyone.  (The condemnation came in Psalm 50 instead.)  God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, condemned idolatry and cautioned against practicing it, but proclaimed (in that passage) no punishment of practitioners of idolatry.  No, God did that elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.  And Jesus, scandalously speaking at great length to the Samaritan woman at the well, did not condemn her for anything.  No, he, like God in Jeremiah 10:1-16, encouraged repentance.  That strategy worked on the woman.

A recurring theme in this series of posts has been being a light to the nations.  This has been appropriate, given the theme of the Season after the Epiphany, with the message of Christ spreading to the Gentiles, or to the nations.

Find the good and praise it.

–Alex Haley

A light to the nations stands out among them; it does not blend in.  Neither is a light to the nations a reflexive contrarian.  No, such a light affirms the positive and names the negative.  It does so in the proper way, so as to avoid defeating divine purposes by making unnecessary scenes.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ, by its nature, offends many, but the record of Christian missionary efforts is sadly replete with examples of evangelists who, out of racism, ethnocentrism, and other faults, sabotaged their work and actively (yet accidentally) discouraged many people from coming to God.

May we be lights to the nations properly.  May we be like St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle), who, in Acts 8, engaged constructively with the Ethiopian eunuch.  May we be like Jesus, who, in John 4, spoke the truth gently and persuasively to the Samaritan woman.  May we draw people to God and encourage discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Hesed, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, look mercifully upon our infirmities,

and all dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Jonah 3:1-5

Psalm 21

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

John 12:20-36a

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These are the words of the LORD:

Let not the wise boast of their wisdom,

nor the valiant of their valour;

let not the wealthy boast of their wealth;

but if anyone must boast, let him boast of this:

that he understands and acknowledges me.

For I am the LORD, I show unfailing love,

I do justice and right on the earth,

for in these I take pleasure.

This is the word of the LORD.

–Jeremiah 9:23-24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Therefore, in the words of scripture,

“If anyone must boast, let him boast of the Lord.”

–1 Corinthians 1:31, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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1 Corinthians 1:18 interests me.  The Revised English Bible (1989) reads:

The message of the cross is sheer folly to those on the way to destruction, but to us, who are on the way to salvation, it is the power of God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989), however, renders that verse as follows:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The active agent in that instance of the passive voice is God, in whom we find not only the process (not event) of salvation but the only proper boast.

I take it as an article of faith that God wants all people to repent and to come to salvation.  Yet I am not a universalist, for I understand that many will refuse to do so.  I rejoice with Jesus when people, regardless of their ethnicity, seek him.  I stand with God in the theologically accurate yet fictional story of Jonah and his mission; enemies should repent.

God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways.  And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.

This displeased Jonah greatly, and he was grieved.

–Jonah 3:10-4:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The character of Jonah does not recognize the irony of lamenting divine compassion for national enemies as he acknowledges that God is compassionate and prays for death.  Jonah, like the authors of many psalms, including Psalm 21, does not want enemies to repent and receive forgiveness.  That is no reason to boast.

Would it not be convenient for us if God were compassionate only toward ourselves and people like us?  Perhaps it would be, but that sort of deity would not be one worthy of boasting about, would He?  Human wisdom is limited.  Human valor is finite.  Human wealth can do only so much, and we can take none of our wealth with us when we die.  God’s hesed–faithfulness, mercy, steadfast love, et cetera–is infinite, however.  It is also available to everyone.  Do we rejoice when sinners repent?  God does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Posted September 4, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 1, Jeremiah 9, John 12, Jonah 3, Jonah 4, Psalm 21

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Idolatry and Social Justice   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah, by Lorenzo Monaco

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-5

Isaiah 29:9-10, 13-16

James 1:12-16

Matthew 6:7-13

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David Ackerman has selected a cohesive set of readings for Ash Wednesday.

In Jeremiah 7 the prophet, delivering his Temple sermon, grouped social injustice, violence, economic exploitation, idolatry, adultery, and false oaths together.  Abandon these practices, Jeremiah decreed, and YHWH will return to the Temple.  The prophet’s words were immediately for naught, of course; the public did not repent–turn around.  A prediction of renewal of that divine-human relationship after the Babylonian Exile came in Isaiah 29, after the condemnation of a skewed view of that relationship, one in which one mistakes the potter for the clay.

The author of Matthew and James reminded their audiences that God does not tempt anyone.  Those writers also encouraged repentance before God.

I do not know anyone who opposes the idea of social justice.  I do, however, know people who understand that concept differently.  Invariably, somebody, acting in the name of social justice will commit social justice and probably be oblivious to that fact.  We humans do, after all, have social and personal moral blinders.  I like that Jeremiah 7 defines social justice in concrete terms. Nevertheless, even those standards are subject to disagreement regarding how best to avoid committing them.  So, of course, someone will invariably support an economically exploitative policy while genuinely opposing economic exploitation.

May God deliver us from being either oblivious to the demand for social justice, defined as how we treat each other–individually and collectively–or from our blind spots regarding how best to effect social justice.  May God also deliver us from all forms of idolatry, such as those that stand between us and social justice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-ackerman/

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Dependence on God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

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For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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