Archive for the ‘John’ Category

Grace and Enemies   1 comment

Above:   The Death of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, by Gustave Dore

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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Numbers 16:1-5, 23-25

Psalm 55

Acts 14:8-18

John 2:23-25

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Scarcely had [Moses] finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah’s people and all their possessions.   They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation.  All Israel around them fled at their shrieks, for they said, “The earth might swallow us!”

And a fire went forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

–Numbers 16:31-35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The moral of the story is not to challenge the authority of Moses.

A recurring theme in the assigned readings for today is the presence of enemies.  The life of Jesus is constantly in peril in the Gospel of John.  One might imagine him repeating Psalm 55 frequently.

The enemies in Acts 14 include those who, out of ignorance and cultural conditioning, mistake Sts. Barnabas and Paul the Apostle for Zeus and Hermes, respectively, after the healing of a man lame from birth.  It is true that the residents of Lystra did not know what they were doing.  We read of Sts. Paul and Barnabas attempting to correct them, to no avail.  If we keep reading, we learn of the stoning of St. Paul by hostile Jews at Lystra, followed by the departure of the evangelists from the town the following day.

[Paul and Barnabas] warned [the disciples] that to enter the kingdom of God we must undergo many hardships.

–Acts 14:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Suffering for the sake of righteousness is an old and frequently perplexing pattern.  We ought to know that God never promised us lives of ease because of our piety, but that we would have divine companionship during such times of suffering.   We also have the model of Jesus, who suffered and died mightily, not because of his own sins, but those of others.  Suffering the consequences of one’s actions makes more sense, from a human perspective, does it not?  Just desserts are reciprocal, after all.

Yet, as we notice often, the just desserts seem not to arrive, at least not on schedule, as we define the schedule.   The righteous suffer and the wicked prosper; that is an ancient lament.  When we interject scandalous grace into the equation we learn that some of wicked might repent.  Maybe we want them to suffer, not repent.  Perhaps we seek the wrath, not the forgiveness, of God for our enemies.  If so, are we not on their moral level?  Should we not dwell on a higher moral level?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/devotion-for-proper-10-ackerman/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part V: Scorned Wisdom   1 comment

blind-man

Above:  A Blind Man, 1914-1918

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2008005687/)

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 8:1-17 (May 30)

Ecclesiastes 9:1-17 (June 1)

Psalm 36 (Morning–May 30)

Psalm 120 (Morning–June 1)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–May 30)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–June 1)

John 9:1-23 (May 30)

John 9:24-41 (June 1)

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Some Related Posts:

John 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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A poor man’s wisdom is scorned,

And his words are not heeded.

–Ecclesiastes 9:16b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

That passage fits the experience of the blind man in John 9.  Even with his new vision he understood Jesus more clearly than any of our Lord’s critics.  Their ideology blinded them to reality, for they thought that they knew how God worked, and Jesus, by his life and deeds, contradicted that understanding.  So, like people who did not want to be confused by facts, they doubled down on their ideology.  It was safe and familiar.

Their ferocity in the story reveals something else.  Such meanness and anger indicated that these men were trying to convince themselves of what they said.  They could not pretend for long that what had happened had not occurred, so they looked for alternative explanations.  And they committed injustice in the process.

Among the most dangerous people are defensive ones.  I have learned that lesson by living and by monitoring the news.  And the combination of defensiveness with a disregard for objective reality is more dangerous, especially in the news media and in the corridors of power.  Good decision-making requires, among other things, a firm grounding in objective reality.

As for the rest of us–those not in power–a firm grounding in objective reality matters very much.  And how we treat others–cruelly or not–matters to them.  May we refrain from harming others to make ourselves feel good or better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-31-and-june-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part XIX: Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy   2 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

John 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (at http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/).  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

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 THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part VI: Support   1 comment

Above:  A Samaritan Synagogue

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005009686/PP/)

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 6:14-30 (February 10)

Job 7:1-21 (February 11)

Psalm 19 (Morning–February 10)

Psalm 136 (Morning–February 11)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–February 10)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–February 11)

John 2:1-12 (February 10)

John 2:13-25 (February 11)

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Some Related Posts:

John 3-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/seventh-day-of-epiphany/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twelfth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Job needed friends.  He got Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite instead.  Alas for Job!  And he lamented the lack of support.  I would prefer strangulation too; at least it would get me away from those alleged friends.

Counterpoints occur in John.  We being with John the Baptist, whose movement had fewer followers than that of Jesus.  John continued to point toward our Lord.  Then, in Chapter 4, Jesus commenced the longest recorded conversation in the canonical Gospels.  This conversation was with not only a woman–unheard of in many circles–but with a Samaritan woman–even more scandalous.  Many interpreters–out of mysogyny or tradition or both–have assumed that she had a dubious sexual reputation, but there is no textual proof for that.  She could, for example have been in a levirate marriage–legal under the Law of Moses.  Jesus helped the woman at the well.  I can only imagine what harm Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar would have wrought.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEASTS OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR; AND BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAMIEN DE VEUSTER, A.K.A. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/devotion-for-february-10-and-11-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part IV: Ideology   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (February 7)

Job 5:1-27 (February 8)

Psalm 97 (Morning–February 7)

Psalm 51 (Morning–February 8)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–February 7)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–February 8)

John 2:1-12 (February 7)

John 2:13-25 (February 8)

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A Related Post:

John 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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I have combined the readings for February 7 and 8 to keep Eliphaz the Temanite material together.  Doing this has another effect:  keeping miracle at Cana and the Johannine account of the cleansing of the Temple together.  Shall we proceed?

Job had bad excuses for friends.  Exhibit A is Eliphaz the Temanite, who defended his concept of God by insisting that Job must have done something to warrant suffering.  After all, in Eliphaz’s view, the good prospered and the bad suffered.  This was demonstrably false theology.  Just look around:  Truly bad people prosper and morally sound people suffer.  The Gospel of John, like all canonical Gospels, written from a post-Resurrection perspective, places a prediction of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of the text.  If Eliphaz was correct, Jesus should not have suffered.  But he did.  So Eliphaz was incorrect.

There is more to John 2:1-25.  The story of the miracle at Cana speaks of extravagance.  In Jesus, it tells us, was something new–well, old really–but new relative to the perspective of the people at the time–and unstinting.  This was not a rejection of Judaism; rather it emerged from Judaism.  Jesus was, after all, a practicing Jew.  Yet the cleansing of the Temple–placed at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in John, in contrast to the Synoptic chronology–did indicate a rejection of the Temple system, which placed undue burdens on those who could least afford them.  Money changers profited from the religious imperative to exchange idolatrous Roman currency before buying a sacrificial animal.  But Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice in time.

The character of Eliphaz the Temanite experienced cognitive dissonance over Job’s sufferings.  Eliphaz resolved that dissonance by doubling down on his ideology, even though evidence contradicted it.  The emergence of Jesus pointed to a new (to humans) approach to God.  In each case predictable conservatism clung to the old ways of thinking.  But the dogmas of the past were inadequate to the demands of the then-current reality.  Conservatism is not inherently bad; it is just not appropriate at all times and in all places.  The question concerns what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes a revolutionary is just what God ordered.

May our assumptions–especially those so deeply embedded that we do not think of them as assumptions–not prevent us from recognizing God’s ways of working.  And may these assumptions not blind us to our own errors.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/devotion-for-february-7-and-8-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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When God Acts   1 comment

Above:  Logo of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

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Isaiah 62:1-5 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

For the sake of Zion I will not be silent,

For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still,

Till her victory emerge resplendent

And her triumph like a flaming torch.

Nations shall see your victory,

And every kin, your majesty;

And you shall be called by a new name

Which the LORD Himself shall bestow.

You shall be a glorious crown

In the hand of the LORD,

And a royal diadem

In the palm of your God.

Nevermore shall you be called “Forsaken,”

Nor shall your land be called “Desolate”‘;

But you shall be called “I delight in her,”

And your land “Espoused.”

For the LORD takes delight in you,

And your land shall be espoused.

As a youth espouses a maiden,

You sons shall espouse you;

And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

So will your God rejoice over you.

Psalm 36:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,

your judgments are like the great deep;

you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,

and your salvation to the upright of heart!

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

About gifts of the Spirit, my friends, I want there to be no misunderstanding.

You know how, in the days when you were still pagan, you used to be carried away by some impulse or other to those dumb heathen gods.  For this reason I must impress upon you that no one who says

A curse of Jesus!

can be speaking under the influence of the Spirit of God; and no one can say

Jesus is Lord!

except under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There are varieties of gifts, but he same Spirit.  There are varieties of service, but the same Lord.  There are varieties of activity, but in all of them and in everyone the same God is active.  In each of us the Spirit is seen to be at work for some useful purpose.  One, through the Spirit, has the gift of wise speech, while another, by the power of the same Spirit, can put the deepest knowledge into words.  Another, by the same Spirit, is granted faith; another, by the one Spirit, gifts of healing, and another miraculous powers; another has the gift of prophecy, and other the ability to distinguish true spirits from false; yet another has the gift of tongues of various kinds, and another the ability to interpret them.  But all these gifts are the activity of one and the same Spirit, distributing them to each individual at will.

John 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Two days later there was a wedding at Cana-in-Galilee.  The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also among the guests.  The wine gave out, so Jesus’s mother said to him,

They have no wine left.

He answered,

That is no concern of mine.  My hour has yet to come.

His mother said to the servants,

Do whatever he tells you.

There were six stone water-jars standing near, of the kind used for Jewish rites of purification; each held from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants,

Fill the jars with water,

and they filled them to the brim.

Now draw some off,

he ordered,

and take it to the master of the feast,

and they did so.  The master tasted the water now turned into wine, not knowing its source, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  He hailed the bridegroom and said,

Everyone else serves the best wine first, and the poorer only when the guests have drunk freely; but you have kept the best wine til now.

So Jesus performed at Cana-in-Galilee the first of the signs which revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Isaiah 62:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Corinthians 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-a/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

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Once I read a story which might be apocryphal.  There was, in the days prior to the time of Prohibition in the United States, a certain woman who traveled along the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) lecture circuit and spoke of the evils of alcohol.  God, she said, wanted people to abstain from it all times. She completed her remarks and asked if anyone had any questions.  One young man raised his hand.  The speaker called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

She replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

The readings for this Sunday speak of ways in which God acts.  In Isaiah God will act in a spectacular fashion to restore exiles.  As one who has read certain other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures knows, some people objected to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, its walls, and the Temple.  1 Corinthians 12:1-11 contains an explanation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  All of them are manifestations of God yet the variety of them offends certain conformists.  And Jesus turning water into wine in John 2:1-11, his first miracle in that Gospel, caused discomfort for many advocates of temperance.  Once, years ago, I watched a documentary about Jesus movies.  The program mentioned a silent film from the United States.  Scenes from the wedding feast at Cana were there, but with an explanation about the use of wine in biblical times.

When God acts we might become uncomfortable.  That is our problem, not any indication of a fault with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSE, CARMELITE NUN, AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Priorities, Misplaced and Otherwise   2 comments

Above: Samuel Anoints David, Syria, 3rd Century C.E.

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1 Samuel 16:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to Samuel,

How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.

Samuel said,

How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.

And the Lord said,

Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.

Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said,

Do you come peaceably?

He said,

Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.

And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought,

Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.

But the Lord said to Samuel,

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said,

Neither has the Lord chosen this one.

Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said,

Neither has the Lord chosen this one.

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse,

The Lord has not chosen any of these.

Samuel said to Jesse,

Are all your sons here?

And he said,

There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.

And Samuel said to Jesse,

Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.

He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said,

Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and my staff–

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

my whole life long.

Ephesians 5:8-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

For once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.  Live as children of light–for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.  Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it says,

Sleeper, awake!

Rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.

John 9:1-41 (New Revised Standard Version):

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him,

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus answered,

Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him,

Go, wash in the pool of Siloam

(which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask,

Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?

Some were saying,

It is he.

Others were saying,

No, but it is someone like him.

He kept saying,

I am the man.

But they kept asking him,

Then how were your eyes opened?

He answered,

The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.’”Then I went and washed and received my sight.

They said to him,

Where is he?

He said,

I do not know.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them,

He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.

Some of the Pharisees said,

This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.

But others said,

How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?

And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man,

What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.

He said,

He is a prophet.

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them,

Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?

His parents answered,

We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said,

He is of age; ask him.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him,

Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.

He answered,

I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.

They said to him,

What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?

He answered them,

I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?

Then they reviled him, saying,

You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.

The man answered,

Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.

They answered him,

You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?

And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said,

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

He answered,

And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.

Jesus said to him,

You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.

He said,

Lord, I believe.

And he worshiped him. Jesus said,

I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him,

Surely we are not blind, are we?

Jesus said to them,

If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains.

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I read little from evangelical writers, for almost nothing from that genre of nonfiction interests me.  (I have had some unfortunate encounters with self-described evangelicals over the years.  These are par for the course when one is an intellectual liberal with High Church (in my case, progressively Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic over time) leanings in the Bible Belt.  Yet Philip Yancey is one evangelical whose books I feel comfortable reading.  Two of these volumes are Soul Survivor and The Jesus I Never Knew.  In these books I have read that Yancey grew up in a Southern U.S. white culture in which Christian fundamentalism blended easily with overt racism.  His family’s church in Atlanta decided to open a Christian school very shortly after the 1954Brown v. Board of Education ruling, for example.  And, in the 1960s, when Yancey was slightly older, he went off to a Bible college where civil rights for African Americans were not considered important, but the length of a man’s hair (short) and of a woman’s skirt (long) were major priorities.  Yancey wrote that college administrators would not have admitted Jesus based on his haircut (too long), as artists have depicted it.

Cultural blinders are difficult to recognize, and every acculturated person has them.  Often these cultural blinders lead us to spiritual blindness, so that, even when we believe we are acting righteously, we deceive ourselves.  In 1962 the Presbyterian Church in United States (1861-1983), the old “Southern Presbyterian Church,” approved a revised Brief Statement of Belief.  The paragraph on total depravity follows:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

As one reads the four canonical gospels, one notices that many (not all) Pharisees come across as the bete noires of those compositions.  This is true of John 9:1-41.  At the time and place there was a common belief that physical difficulties resulted from sins.  These things could never just happen, could they?  That was the attitude.  So we have the case of Jesus, a man born blind, his parents, and some Pharisees.  Jesus gave the man sight, an act which vexed the Pharisees.  They spoke to the man’s parents, who referred them to their adult son.  The formerly blind man, not understanding the Pharisees’ agenda, asked naively if they wanted to follow Jesus, too.  (If this were a cartoon steam would rise from the Pharisees ears at that point.)  The Pharisees drove the man out, and he encountered Jesus again.  The Pharisees were spiritually blind, but the formerly blind man had clear spiritual vision.  And the Pharisees did not recognize their blindness.

1 Samuel reminds us that God looks on the heart, but that we humans are frequently superficial in our judgments.  Attractive people seem to rise to the top, do they not?  When physical beauty and handsomeness are paired with qualifications, talents, and skills, this is not a problem.  But I cannot help but think about the example of U.S. President Franklin Pierce (in office 1853-1857), who competes with Warren G. Harding and James Buchanan for the “worst president” slot in historians’ ratings.  The nicest statement I have read about Pierce is that he was the most handsome president.

David, 1 Samuel tells us, was not handsome, at least compared to his elder brothers.  No, he was ruddy.  But he had leadership skills, which were more important than his appearance.

By grace may we can approach more closely a state in which we see as God sees, and therefore follow Jesus.  May we lay aside our fixations on trivial religious matters, embrace goodness, and love one another.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SADHU SUNDAR SINGH, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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