Archive for the ‘John 1’ Category

Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, who commanded your apostles to go into all the world,

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

Let your name be great among the nations from the rising of the Sun

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

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

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Habakkuk 2:18-20; 3:2-4

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

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The assigned reading from 1 Peter is too brief.  One should, for full comprehension of 2:4-10, back up into chapter 1 and start reading.  We read that Gentile Christians are a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a temple all at once, via divine mercy.  With grace come obligations, of course.  We ought to put away

all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

–1 John 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Not putting them away is inconsistent with being a light to the nations.

1 John 2:3 affirms that God is good, in an echo of Psalm 34:8.  That segue brings me to Habakkuk.  Once again the assigned reading is unfortunately truncated.  The overall context of the Book of Habakkuk is the Babylonian Exile.  The text struggles with how to affirm the goodness of God in light of a violent and exploitative international order.  The author seems less certain than the man who wrote Psalm 52.  The central struggle of Habakkuk is timeless, for circumstances change and time passes, but certain populations experience oppression at any given moment.

I have no easy answer to this difficult question, nor do I aspire to have one.  God has some explaining to do, I conclude.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land was in full effect at the time of Christ.  A portion of the Jewish population sought a military savior who would expel the Romans.  Jesus disappointed them.  He did, however, astound St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All Jesus had to do was say he had seen the future Apostle under a fig tree.

This is an interesting section of John 1.  Every time I study 1:47-51 I consult resources as I search for more answers.  The Gospel of John is a subtle text, after all; it operates on two levels–the literal and the metaphorical–simultaneously.  St. Nathanael/Bartholomew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and follows him.  The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4 (one verse after nations end their warfare and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks) and in Zechariah 3:10 (one verse after God promises to remove the Israelites’ collective guilt in one day, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  The context of the confession of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew then, is apocalyptic; an ideal future in which God reigns fully on the Earth is the hope.  So as for Jesus seeing St. Nathanael/Bartholomew under a fig tree, that feat seems to have indicated to the future Apostle that possessed unique insights.

The apocalyptic nature of the vision of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew sitting under a fig tree is juicier material, though.  I also wonder how well the future Apostle understood the messiahship of Jesus at the time of his confession.  The answer is that he did so incompletely, I conclude.  I do not mean that as a criticism; I merely make a statement of what I perceive to have been reality.

The question of now to make sense of the divine goodness in the context of a violent and exploitative world order remains.  I offer a final thought regarding that:  Is not hope superior to hopelessness?  Deferred hope is still hope.

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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As the Dew   Leave a comment

Above:  Dew

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord God, you see that we do not put our trust in anything that we do.

Mercifully grant that by your power we may be defended against all adversity;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Hosea 6:1-3

Psalm 49

Colossians 1:21-29

John 1:19-30

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Deeds reveal creeds.

That is one of my favorite statements.  It is also consistent with the readings for this day.

On the surface Hosea 6:1-3 sounds good, does it not?  However, it is actually cynical, self-serving, and transactional, as the full context of the Book of Hosea reveals.  The setting of the Book of Hosea is the middle of the eighth century B.C.E., during the final period of strength of the northern Kingdom of Israel, shortly before its fall to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.  As one reads the book one finds strong condemnations of pervasive and repeated societal sins.  After one reads Hosea 6:1-3 one should continue reading.  In 6:4-11 alone God likens the goodness of the people to the dew in the morning (quickly gone) and states the principle of the primacy of morality over sacrifices.  Ritual acts, even ones God has commanded, are not talismans that protect us from the consequences of sins for which we are not sorry.

Actual repentance is something God welcomes, however.  It works toward the purposes of improving the quality of human lives and of glorifying God, in whom we can trust during evil days.  Cynical sacrifice offends, not glorifies, God, but sacrificing one’s ego, so as to walk humbly with God, is spiritually healthy.

To sin is literally to miss the mark.  One might sin while attempting to hit the target.  Alternatively, one might not even try.  In the former case, one needs to repent of having bad aim.  In the latter case, however, one is in a far worse situation.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”

–Luke 23:34a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus made that intercession at his crucifixion.  He was being quite generous of spirit.  Yes, many of the people for whom he prayed in that moment were ignorant of what they were really doing.  Others, however, did know exactly what they were doing.  They needed forgiveness also.

So it is with us, collectively and individually.  Sometimes we know what we are doing when we sin; at other times we do not.  Either way, we need to repent and to receive forgiveness.  Our goodness should never be temporary, like the dew.

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 Colossians 1, Hosea, John 1, Luke 23, Psalms I: 1-76

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A Light to the Nations IV   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map of the World, 1726

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-62077

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

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Eternal God, who by the birth of your beloved Son Jesus Christ gave yourself to humankind,

Grant that, being born in our hearts, he may save us from all our sins,

and restore within us the image and likeness of our creator,

to whom be everlasting praise and glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 2

1 John 4:9-16

John 1:1-14

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The most probable identity of the servant of God in Isaiah 42:1-9 is the people of Israel themselves.  They, the Chosen People, have the responsibility to be a light to the nations, or Gentiles.  This is a light the subjects of Psalm 2 oppose; the light of God is not a priority for them.  Another proposed identity for the servant in Isaiah 42 is the Messiah.  This fits well with John 1:1-14 and 1 John 4:9-16.  We can also discern from 1 John 4 that faithful Gentiles get to share with Jews and the Messiah in being a light to the nations.

The light we are supposed to share is one that places the spotlight on God, not on ourselves.  As the Westminster Catechisms state, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  Discipleship entails humility before God.  May we shed light on God humbly, unabashedly, and dutifully, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Posted August 29, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 4, Isaiah 42, John 1, Psalm 2

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The Glory of the Lord, Part I   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will.

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid all changes of this world, our hearts

may be fixed where true joy is found,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 33:12-17 (Friday)

Exodus 33:18-23 (Saturday)

Psalm 97 (Both Days)

Revelation 22:6-9 (Friday)

John 1:14-18 (Saturday)

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The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

–Psalm 97:5-16. The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 97 is consistent with the concept of divine glory in the Hebrew Bible.  God is invisible, but evidence of divine mighty acts is visible.  YHWH is an active player on the stage of human history.

Moses, interceding on behalf of the Israelites between the infamous Golden Calf (Golden Bull, really) incident (Exodus 32) and the restoration of the covenant (Exodus 34), asked not only to know what God wanted him to do but to see God’s Presence, or, as some versions translate the Hebrew word, glory (33:18).  God consented to the first request and to a partial view of the divine Presence/glory, for a full view would be fatal to humans.  The connection to Exodus 32 was that the Golden Calf/Bull was, for those who adored it, a physical stand-in for God, who became angry yet held back from destroying such a stiff-necked people (33:3).

In the Gospel of John Jesus was the physical embodiment of divine Presence/glory, which was evident in his deeds as well as in his resurrection.  Even though Moses had a close relationship with God, Jesus was more intimate with YHWH.  And many people saw, met, and interacted with Jesus.  They saw God, but many of them did realize that.

Often we seek God and settle for substitutes, which can only prove inadequate.  John of Patmos reported a vision in which he fell down to worship an angel, who rebuffed the effort immediately:

You must not do that!  I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book.

–Revelation 22:9b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Among the themes in the Gospel of John is that Jesus, the physical embodiment of the divine Presence/glory, came into the world and encountered much rejection.  Many people preferred an inadequate glory instead.

Many people still do.  How many of them know this about themselves?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCOIS FENELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Unexpected Agents of Grace   1 comment

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body of your Son,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Something Old, Something New   1 comment

Josiah

Above:  Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:1-7 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 35:20-27 (Friday)

2 Chronicles 36:11-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 71:1-6 (All Days)

Acts 10:44-48 (Thursday)

Acts 19:1-10 (Friday)

John 1:43-51 (Saturday)

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I find my security in you, LORD,

never let me be covered with shame.

You always do what is right,

so rescue me and set me free.

Listen attentively to me and save me.

Be my rock where I can find security,

be my fortress and save me;

indeed you are my rock and fortress.

My God, set me free from the power of the wicked,

from the grasp of unjust and cruel men.

For you alone give me hope, LORD,

I have trusted in you since my early days.

I have leaned on you since birth,

when you delivered me from my mother’s womb.

I praise you continually.

–Psalm 71:1-6, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The story of King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) exists in two versions, each with its own chronology.  The account in 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:37 is more flattering than the version in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  Both accounts agree that Josiah was a strong king, a righteous man, and a religious reformer who pleased God, who postponed the fall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The decline of the kingdom after Josiah’s death was rapid, taking only about 23 years and four kings.

Josiah’s reforms met with opposition, as did Jesus and nascent Christianity.  The thorny question of how to treat Gentiles who desired to convert was one cause of difficulty.  The decision to accept Gentiles as they were–not to require them to become Jews first–caused emotional pain for many people attached to their Jewish identity amid a population of Gentiles.  There went one more boundary separating God’s chosen people from the others.  For Roman officialdom a religion was old, so a new faith could not be a legitimate religion.  Furthermore, given the commonplace assumption that Gentiles making offerings to the gods for the health of the empire was a civic, patriotic duty, increasing numbers of Gentiles refusing to make those offerings caused great concern.  If too many people refused to honor the gods, would the gods turn their backs on the empire?

Interestingly enough, the point of view of much of the Hebrew Bible is that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell because of pervasive idolatry and related societal sinfulness.  The pagan Roman fears for their empire were similar.  How ironic!

The pericope from John 1 is interesting.  Jesus is gathering his core group of followers.  One Apostle recruits another until St. Nathanael (St. Bartholomew) puts up some opposition, expressing doubt that anything good can come out of Nazareth.  St. Philip tries to talk St. Nathanael out of that skepticism.  “Come and see,” he replies.  Jesus convinces that St. Nathanael by informing him that he (Jesus) saw him (St. Nathanael) sitting under a fig tree.  Father Raymond E. Brown spends a paragraph in the first of his two volumes on the Gospel of John listing a few suggestions (of many) about why that was so impressive and what it might have meant.  He concludes that all such suggestions are speculative.  The bottom line is, in the words of Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, is the following:

The precise meaning of Jesus’ words about the fig tree is unclear, but their function in the story is to show that Jesus has insight that no one else has…because of Jesus’ relationship with God.

John (2006), page 33

Jesus was doing a new thing which was, at its heart, a call back to original principles.  Often that which seems new is really old–from Josiah to Jesus to liturgical renewal (including the revision of The Book of Common Prayer).  Along the way actually new developments arise.  Laying aside precious old ideas and embracing greater diversity in the name of God for the purpose of drawing the proverbial circle wider can be positive as well as difficult.    Yet it is often what God calls us to do–to welcome those whom God calls insiders while maintaining proper boundaries and definitions.  Discerning what God calls good and bad from one or one’s society calls good and bad can be quite difficult.  May we succeed by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Works in Progress   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  Twelve Tribes of Israel

Scanned from an old Bible

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Psalm 72

John 1:[1-9] 10-18

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Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wonderful things.

And blessed be his glorious name for ever.

May all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen. Amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Jeremiah 31 comes from articles of consolation focusing on national reunification.  The exiles from Israel, the northern kingdom, will reunite with Judah, the southern kingdom, the text says.  God will turn mourning into joy.

The ten “lost” tribes are not lost, at least not in the sense that their locations are unknown.  The tribes scattered across Africa and Asia.  Most of them have not reunited with the main body of Judaism, although Jewish organizations have been working with some of these groups for the purpose of working toward that goal.  Then there is the case of the Ethiopian Jews, many of whom have relocated to the State of Israel, where they have to contend with racism, a high rate of poverty, and allegations of being insufficiently Jewish.  The prediction of Jeremiah 31 has yet to come true.  The continued passage of time will render its verdict on that prophecy.

The prologue to the Gospel of John is a glorious and profound text.  It, like Jeremiah 31:7-14 and Psalm 72, speaks of acts of God.  Some of these acts have yet to occur.  Yes, the tense in the prologue is past, but consider, O reader, the following passage, the following passage:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.

–Verses 12-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This continues, does it not?  But to all who receive him….  This will continue, will it not?  But to all who will receive him….

God has acted.  God is acting.  God will continue to act.  As the United Church of Christ says,

God is still speaking.

God has not finished speaking or acting, so who among the ranks of mere mortals knows or can know how God will surprise people next or behave in a non-surprising way?  The passage of time will reveal the answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/devotion-for-january-5-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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