Archive for the ‘John 1’ Category

Living in Community, Part IV   4 comments

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, 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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Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Joshua 1:1-9

Psalm 91

Philippians 2:1-11

Luke 2:21-32

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George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), one of my great-grandfathers, was a Southern Methodist minister of the old school, including Pietistic condemnations of “worldly amusements” and of ritualism.  He was my opposite.  My great-grandfather also preached that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  This shocked me when I read his sermon notes, in his handwriting.  Jesus growing up in a Christian home would have surprised St. Luke, certainly.  Our Lord and Savior was Jewish, of course.  He grew up in an observant Jewish home that would have made Joshua, son of Nun, glad.

The essence of much of Judeo-Christian moral teaching is that one, by internalizing and living according to divine law, becomes one’s best possible self in this life.  This does not guarantee a life free of suffering, persecution, and economic hardship, of course.  In fact, one may have to endure much because of one’s piety.  The darkness has not conquered the light, and it has not ceased to try.

The focus in Philippians 2:1-11 is a moral and ethical living in a communal context, with Jesus as a model.  (We all know what happened to him, do we not?)  The following advice applies at all times and places, without any necessity for adjustment from cultural contexts not explicit in texts:

Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.

In other words, obey the Golden Rule and the Law of Love, the fulfillment of much of the Law of Moses.  Acting accordingly does not guarantee success in that moral and ethical endeavor, but it is a good start, at least.  Whenever I determine to build up others, I risk tearing them down if I choose the wrong strategy.  Looking to each other’s interests does not necessarily entail doing to them as they want, but it does necessarily involve doing to them as they need.  But what if I do not know what they need?  Good intentions alone are insufficient.

God requires us to be faithful, not successful.  May we heed divine guidance as we make decisions daily.  May we pursue proper goals via correct methods.  And may we succeed in these purposes, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, by grace.  May our lives be beacons of the grace of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Sons of God   3 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, 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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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 63:7-17

Psalm 2

Galatians 4:1-7

John 1:1-18

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God is faithful, we read.  Even when reality falls short of expectations, as when Hebrew exiles moved to their ruined, ancestral homeland, God is faithful.  When divine ire flares up and consumes imprudent rulers and assemblies, God is faithful.  When the darkness of the world proves incapable of overpowering the light of God, which the darkness cannot understand anyway, God is faithful.

The reading from Galatians 4 requires a spotlight, hence the focus of this post.

Pauline literature, whether of St. Paul the Apostle or merely in his name, uses two words many modern English translations render as “children.”  One word is literally “children” or “offspring,” with no gender specified.  The other word is literally “sons.”  Translating the Greek correctly and interpreting the texts in the context of the time and place is crucial to understand the texts accurately.

I am a good, self-respecting liberal.  As such, I accept much inclusive language.  As a pedant, I reject “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” as singular pronouns, for I respect the distinction between the singular and the plural too much to do otherwise.  Besides, one can use those words as plural pronouns–the only correct way to use them.  I also prefer precision in language, so I like to know when “men” refers to males and when it is gender-non-specific, replaced easily with words such as “people,” “mortals,” and “humankind.”

In St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, sons inherited; daughters did not.  St. Paul, using big letters (6:11), wrote that through Jesus, the Son of God, we can became sons of God, that is heirs–not servants, but heirs.  The apostle wrote of God’s inclusive love and grace that reaches out for everybody, although not all people will join the household and claim the inheritance.  St. Paul wrote that divine love and grace wiped out and cut across human societal categories, including gender, ethnicity, and slavery (3:26-38).

If the Pauline language of sons of God in Galatians offends our twenty-first-century sensibilities, we need to read deeply, not superficially, and to understand what he meant.  Then we need to thank God for extravagant love and grace that, via one method or another (Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit) creates opportunities we can never make for ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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A Glorious Mystery, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

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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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

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Trinity Sunday is the only feast on the calendar of Western Christianity solely about a doctrine.  Other feasts have events, as in the life of Jesus, attached to them.

The three persons (“masks,” literally, in Nicene terminology) of the Trinity are present in the assigned readings for this feast.

  1. Proverbs 8 offers Sophia, the divine wisdom personified as a woman.  Sophia influenced the Logos, identified as Jesus in John 1.  Portions of the text also sound as if they could refer to the Holy Spirit.  And does the Holy Spirit proceed from just the Father or from both the Father and the Son?  Trying to reason through the theology of the Holy Spirit makes my head hurt, figuratively, so I rarely delve too deeply into it.
  2. YHWH is God in Psalm 8.  God is unitary in Jewish theology.  We humans are, according to the text, literally, “a little less than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  “The gods” are members of the court of YHWH.  The Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim.
  3. Romans 5:105 mentions that the Holy Spirit does not act independently, and that it glorifies Christ.

By the way, “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of God” is feminine in Hebrew and Arabic yet neuter in Greek.  The Holy Spirit is technically an “it,” not a “he,” in the New Testament.

My advice regarding the Trinity is to frolic in its glorious mystery, not to try to understand it.  One cannot understand the Trinity.  Attempts to do so have frequently yielded or reinforced heresies.  I try not to commit any of these.

How can God simultaneously be on the Earth, getting baptized, in Heaven, and descending from Heaven?  That is a mystery.  We can accept the findings of early Ecumenical Councils Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, et cetera) while bowing in humility before God, who loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-c-humes/

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Ecological Sins   Leave a comment

Above:  Earthrise (1968), by William Anders

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second 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 Heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty:

open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works,

that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness;

for the sake of him by whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Genesis 1:1-5

1 John 1:1-4

John 1:1-5

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I am a Johannine Christian; the theology of the Gospel of John drives my faith.  According to that theology, “the Word” is Jesus, not the Bible.  Furthermore, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus.  Eternal life, or as the Synoptic Gospels call it, the Kingdom of God, begins on this side of Heaven.

On the old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970, this Sunday is a time to remember to be mindful of the natural world.  Reading the beginning of the myth in Genesis 1 makes sense on such an occasion.  The beginning of the prologue to the Gospel of John fits well, too.  Besides, the start of Genesis is the model for John 1:1-18.  We read that the natural world came into existence through the Word.  The prologue to 1 John, in which “the Word” is the Gospel message, otherwise fits thematically with the prologue to the Gospel of John.

Being respectful and mindful of the natural world, although consistent with proper spirituality, can also be a selfish, purely reasonable attitude.  Soiling our nests is counter-productive, after all.  We fail to be respectful and mindful of the natural world at our peril and that of members of subsequent generations.  This is concrete, not abstract; the climate is changing around us at a pace faster than scientists predicted just a few years ago.  The natural world, of which we are part and in which our species evolved, is God’s world.  We are stewards, not owners, of creation.  We are, overall, bad stewards, for we are visiting the consequences of our ecological sins on members of generations already born and not yet conceived.

May God forgive us and help them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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Living the Incarnation, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, whose glory angels sang when Christ was born:

grant that we, having heard the good news of his coming,

may live to honor thee and to praise his holy name;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-9

Colossians 1:9-20

John 1:1-18

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Without resorting to the errors of Pietism, I ponder the Incarnation and ask a basic question:  So what?  That is an essential question in many fields, especially history, my chosen discipline.  “So what?” is also germane to theology.

Answering that question with regard to the Incarnation is easy:  The Incarnation is something we have an obligation to live.  Grace is free yet not cheap.  Living the Incarnation can prove costly; just consult accounts of persecutions and martyrdoms from antiquity to the present time.  The Word, having become flesh and having dwelt among us, requires us to respect the dignity of our fellow human beings.  Doing that and insisting that society do the same will offend many people all across the political spectrum.

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

Archbishop Helder Camara (1909-1999)

To have enough imagination and trust in God to ask how much better–more charitable, equitable, peaceable, et cetera–the world can be is one way to live the Incarnation.  Society is merely people; when enough people change their minds, society changes, too.  We, in our collective lives, can come closer to living the Incarnation, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHOROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XII   1 comment

Above:  The Negev 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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Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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A Light to the Nations IX   2 comments

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Feast of the Epiphany, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who by the leading of a star revealed thy newborn Son to those far off:

mercifully grant that we who know thee by faith, may in this life glorify thee,

and in the life to come behold thee face to face,

through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Matthew 2:1-12

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I am an unapologetic pedant.  I wince whenever I hear or read people use “viable” in lieu of “feasible.”  I know that signs above express lanes in grocery stores should read

10 Items or Fewer,

instead of the ubiquitous

10 Items or Less.

The misuse of “impact” in lieu of verbs such as “influence” and “affect,” minus the traditional physicality (either a collision or becoming wedged in somewhere) is an assault on proper English.  Likewise, the use of “impacted” for “affected,” as well as “impactful,” are inexcusable.  Any use of “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” other than as plural words bothers me, for I respect the distinction between the plural and the singular.  And I know that Magi and shepherds never belong together in manger scenes.  If we reconcile the accounts from Matthew 2 and Luke 2 (a dubious proposition, according to many New Testament scholars), we must place about two years (Matthew 2:16) between them.

The Feast of the Epiphany is, on one level, about the Gospel of Jesus Christ going out to the goyim.  On another level, it is about the goyim coming (in the case of the magi, traveling) to Christ.  The reading from Isaiah 60, with the full reversal of exile and the goyim going to Jerusalem, fits into this theme well.  The Gospel of Christ is unveiled, plain to see, and like a light shining in the darkness, which has yet to understand and overpower it (John 1:5).

I stand within a theological tradition that affirms Single Predestination.  God predestines some people to Heaven and uses the witness of the Holy Spirit to invite the others.  The damned are those who condemn or have condemned themselves; God sends nobody to Hell, but everyone.  This theology is consistent with the Epiphany.  The Jews are the Chosen People, yes, but we Gentiles are like limbs grafted onto the tree of Judaism.

Will we, like the magi, obey God?  Or will we, like Herod the Great, pursue our own agendas instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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