Archive for the ‘Luke 10’ Category

Jesus, Mary, and Martha   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, by Johannes Vermeer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXVII

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Luke 10:38-42

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July 29 is the Feast of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany in The Episcopal Church.

The Gospel of Luke has already established that following Jesus outweighs all other obligations.  In this context, we read of St. Mary of Bethany, a younger sister, listening to Jesus as a male disciple would.  One may imagine the older sister, St. Martha of Bethany, mindful of her hospitable duties, muttering under her breath,

Where is Mary? 

After all, somebody had to feed the guest and provide the hospitality.  St. Martha played her role.  St. Mary of Bethany was a female disciple of Jesus; she played her role.

We need Marys and Marthas.  The contemplative life is valid; may nobody disparage it without receiving due criticism in return.  The active life is also valid; may nobody criticize it without receiving due criticism in return.  Service and contemplation are valid spiritual paths.  However, expecting a square peg to fit into a round hole–as in expecting a contemplative to serve as one God is a way incompatible with that spiritual type–is unfair.

I have noticed a disdain for the Christian contemplative tradition within liberal, moderate, and conservative Protestantism alike.  I have heard many Protestants dismiss contemplative monastics as being useless.  Such Protestants have missed at least to major points and bought into the (Calvinist) Protestant Work Ethic.  They have forgotten that the Sabbath–a time of intentional non-productivity–is a way of emulating God.  Such critics have also missed the point Jesus made explicitly:  St. Mary of Bethany had chosen the better part, and she would not lose it because for her, listening to Jesus was the better part.

I defend both sisters.  As one who enjoys knowing that he has done something, I understand St. Martha’s concern.  As one with contemplative tendencies and the desire to study the Bible and even to write weblogs about it, I identify with St. Mary, too.  Critics of monastics need to reconsider their scorn for the contemplative tradition.  If these critics really affirm the efficacy of prayer, they ought to thank God for people who devote their lives to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

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The Greatest Commandment and the Parable of the Good Samaritan   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXVI

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Luke 10:25-37

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I have been writing Bible-based blog posts for more than a decade.  I have, therefore, written about Luke 10:25-37 at least seven previous times.

Therefore, I refer you, O reader to those posts, which bear the tag, “Parable of the Good Samaritan.” I do not feel obligated to repeat in this post all I have written about this parable in previous posts.

Every commentary I have read regarding the Parable of the Good Samaritan agrees that

Who is my neighbor?

is not the real question the man seeking to justify himself asked.  They agree that his actual meaning was,

Who is not my neighbor?

Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), properly push back against stereotypes of Judaism in Christian interpretations of the parable.  They point out that those who passed the man on the dangerous Jerusalem-Jericho road ignored the moral mandate in the Law of Moses regarding respect for corpses and love of neighbors.  Levine and Brettler also stress that the priest had left Jerusalem, and that ritual impurity was, therefore, a lesser concern for him than if he were headed the other way.

I accept those posts and add that they paint the people who did not help the man or respect what they guessed to be a corpse in an especially dark light.  Some people ought to know better and behave differently than they do, after all.

Jesus, having quoted the Torah and indicated his solidarity with the school of Rabbi Hillel, answered the question of the man seeking to justify himself really asked.  Jesus said, in so many words,,

All people are your neighbors.

Levine and Brettler agree.  They write that the issue is:

can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?

–123

Are you, O reader, and I more interested in justifying ourselves to ourselves and maintaining our stereotypes of others than we are in loving human beings, seeking the best for them, and obeying the moral mandates from God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

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Followers of Jesus   4 comments

Above:  Icon of the Ministry of the Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XV

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Luke 6:12-19; 10:1-24

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INTRODUCTION

Jesus had many disciples.  There were, for example the Twelve apostles (6:13), literally, persons sent out.  May we not forget the seventy(-two) disciples he sent out in 10:1-24.

Some numbers were simultaneously literal and symbolic:

  1. Twelve symbolized the restoration of Israel.  There had been twelve tribes of Israel, with ten of them lost to assimilation.  The Twelve apostles were the nucleus of the new people of God.
  2. Seventy or seventy-two (depending on the manuscript of the Gospel of Luke one believes) calls back to Numbers 11:16, 25.  One may recall the story.  Moses had selected seventy elders with whom to share his burden of leadership.  The spirit of God had fallen upon the seventy elders plus two other men.  According to Luke 10:1-24, Jesus was the new Moses, and his seventy or seventy-two other disciples helped to lead the new exodus.

We have encountered the the themes of exile and exodus in Luke-Acts already.  Was the ministry of Jesus an exodus?  Was living under Roman occupation a form of exile?

Think about it, O reader.

THE TWELVE

Comparing the names of the Twelve, according to the canonical Gospels, yields superficially different names in some lists:

  1. The Synoptic tradition lists St. Bartholomew; the Johannine tradition lists St. Nathanael.
  2. Tradition associates St. Matthew Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27f), as the same man, but both “Bartholomew” and “Matthew” mean “gift of God.”
  3. Tradition associates St. Bartholomew with St. Nathanael, as the same man.
  4. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark list St. Thaddeus.  The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles list St. Judas, son of James, instead.

None of this disturbs me; a person can have more than one name.  In the New Testament alone, I point to some examples:

  1. St. Simon (Peter), a.k.a. Cephas;
  2. St. (Joseph) Barnabas;
  3. St. (John) Mark; and
  4. (Joseph) Barsabbas, who nearly filled the vacancy Judas Iscariot left.

The scholarly debate whether the Twelve were literally twelve in number marginally interests me.  Besides, the burden of proof is on those who argue that the Twelve consisted of more than twelve men.  I prefer to shave with Ockham’s Razor.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Luke 10:1-16 and 10:17-20 bear a striking similarity to Luke 9:1-6 and 9:10.

“…the kingdom of God is very near to you.”

–Luke 9:9b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In other words, the partially-realized Kingdom of God is present.  The fully-realized Kingdom of God remains in the future tense, at least from a human perspective.  According to Realized Eschatology, the Kingdom of God does not arrive; it is.  Given that God exists outside of time, so does the Kingdom of God.  Certain events make the reality of the Kingdom of God more apparent and, in so doing, up the ante.  Consider the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  Upping the ante increases the consequences for rejection and heightens responsibility.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One has a responsibility to respond favorably to grace, which imposes demands.

MY COMPLEX FAITH

I have asked myself a hypothetical question:  Would I have followed Jesus if I had met him in person during his earthly life?  I have concluded that I do not know.  Hypothetically, I may have found him objectionable, given my hypothetical attachment to certain “received wisdom.”  Or, hypothetically, I may have been receptive to Jesus’s teachings.

I wonder because I am a complex human being.  My faith is complex, not simple.  On one hand, I have a rebellious streak a mile wide, so to speak.  I delight in poking my proverbial fingers into the equally proverbial eyes of authority figures.  They have it coming!  I am, obviously, neither an authoritarian, a conservative, nor a likely member of any cult.  However, I balance my rebelliousness with a healthy respect for order.  Rebellion must serve a constructive purpose; it must resist and hopefully destroy an unjust social and political order.  This is why Luke-Acts and Revelation appeal to me; they speak of God turning the upside-down social order right side-up.  The unjust human order must fall before the divine order can commence.

As I age, I simultaneously moderate and become more radical.  My theological approach moderates; I remain a liberal yet have moved slightly to the right.  Yet, as I continue to study the Bible and internalize its ethics and morals (read in historical and cultural contexts, of course), the more dissatisfied I become with the human order and the Religious Right (of whom I have never been a fan).  The radicalism of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus appeals to me.

So, I wonder how I, hypothetically, would have responded to Jesus in person.  I question whether I would have favored order and routine or whether I would have supported the creative destruction God brings.

I invite you, O reader, to ask yourself the same question and to answer it honestly.  Then take the result of that spiritual self-examination to God.

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF FAITH

I, as a Christian at the end of 2021, owe much to the earliest followers of Jesus.  I stand on their shoulders.  My faith exists in part because of their faith.

How many people will stand your shoulders of faith, O reader?  How many will stand on mine?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

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Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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The whole of Luke’s gospel is about the way in which the living God has planted, in Jesus, the seed of that long-awaited hope in the world.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 2

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The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a larger work.  The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume.  One can read either volume spiritually profitably in isolation from the other one.  However, one derives more benefit from reading Luke-Acts as the two-volume work it is.

Each of the four canonical Gospels bears the name of its traditional author.  The Gospel of Luke is the only case in which I take this traditional authorship seriously as a matter of history.  One may recall that St. Luke was a well-educated Gentile physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul the Apostle.

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.,. “give or take five to ten years,” as Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) wrote in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  Luke-Acts, having a Gentile author, includes evidence that the audience consisted of Gentiles, too.  The text makes numerous references to the inclusion of Gentiles, for example.  Two of the major themes in Luke-Acts are (a) reversal of fortune, and (b) the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  The smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. inform the present tense of the story-telling.

Many North American Christians minimize or ignore the imperial politics in the New Testament.  In doing so, they overlook essential historical and cultural contexts.  Luke-Acts, in particular, performs an intriguing political dance with the Roman Empire.  The two-volume work unambiguously proclaims Jesus over the Emperor–a treasonous message, by Roman imperial standards.  Luke-Acts makes clear that the Roman Empire was on the wrong side of God, that its values were opposite those of the Kingdom of God.  Yet the two-volume work goes out of its way to mention honorable imperial officials.

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

  1. This weblog is contains other blog posts covering Luke-Acts, but in the context of lectionaries.  I refer you to those posts.  And I will not attempt to replicate those other posts in the new posts.  Finding those posts is easy; check the category for the book and chapter, such as Luke 1 or Acts 28.
  2. I know far more about the four canonical Gospels, especially in relation to each other, than I will mention in the succeeding posts.  I tell you this not to boast, but to try to head off anyone who may chime in with a rejoinder irrelevant to my purpose in any given post.  My strategy will be to remain on topic.
  3. My purpose will be to analyze the material in a way that is intellectually honest and applicable in real life.  I respect Biblical scholarship that goes deep into the woods, spending ten pages on three lines.  I consult works of such scholarship.  However, I leave that work to people with Ph.Ds in germane fields and who write commentaries.
  4. I am a student of the Bible, not a scholar thereof.
  5. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian who places a high value on human reason and intellect.  I value history and science.  I reject both the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture for these reasons.  Fundamentalists think I am going to Hell for asking too many questions.  I try please God, not fundamentalists. I know too much to affirm certain theological statements.
  6. I am a sui generis mix of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theological influences.  I consider St. Mary of Nazareth to be the Theotokos (the Bearer of God) and the Mater Dei (the Mother of God).  I also reject the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception with it.

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Getting Off Our Values and Getting to Work   3 comments

Above:  The Importune Neighbour, by William Holman Hunt

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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Judges 19 (portions) or Jeremiah 13:1-11

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 4:13-25

Luke 10:38-11:13

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We have quite a collection of readings this Sunday!

  1. Judges 19 gives us a tale of rape, death, dismemberment, and the prelude to genocide, played out in Judges 20 and 21.
  2. Stay away from God’s bad side, as in Jeremiah 13 and Psalm 94.
  3. Romans 4 reminds us of the importance of living according to faith.
  4. The executive summary of the lesson from Luke is to learn from Jesus (even to violate social conventions to do so) and to act according to those teachings.

Judges 19, the first portion of a section spanning chapters 19-21, contains enough material for many posts, given its background, its literary contexts, and the ink many exegetes have spilled regarding the story.  However, my purpose in this post entails reading Judges 19 in the context of the other lessons.  One note from The Jewish Study Bible (2nd. ed.) offers a useful sentence:

The story depicts a unified society, sensitive to the problems of ethics and serving the LORD.

–536

The society Jeremiah critiqued was insensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  On the other hand, St. Mary of BethanySt. Paul the Apostle, and the author of Psalm 94 were sensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  So was St. Martha of Bethany, also insistent on being a good hostess who offered proper hospitality, a Biblical virtue.

Prayer comes attached to action in Luke 11:9-13.  That is an important lesson:  pray then, as able, act to effect positive change.  Self-serving politicians who offer “thoughts and prayers” after terrible events then do nothing, even though they have the power to do so, make a mockery of the teaching in Luke 11:9-13.  One of the lessons my father taught me is that prayer should have feet whenever possible.  Be salt and light in the world, Jesus still commands us.

I recall an editorial from a Roman Catholic periodical during the middle 1990s, when many politicians beat the drum of “family values” with more words than deeds.  As I remember, the title of the editorial was,

GET OFF YOUR VALUES AND GET TO WORK.

Talk is cheap.  We need to get off our values and get to work.  After all, faith, in the theology of St. Paul the Apostle, is inherently active.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/devotion-for-proper-14-year-c-humes/

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Character, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Good Samaritan

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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Judges 16:17-31 or Jeremiah 11:1-14

Psalm 93

Romans 4:1-12

Luke 10:35-37

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Deeds reveal creeds.  Deeds also reveal one’s character, for good and ill.

Consider the Good Samaritan, O reader.

The term “Good Samaritan” seemed like an oxymoron.  Jews and Samaritans tended to be mutually hostile.  The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) stood in contrast to the hostile Samaritans in Luke 9:51-56, as well as to the priest and the Levite from the parable.  The ambiguity of the parable vis-à-vis their motivation for passing by on the other side has long invited readers and listeners to examine their motivations for not helping people in need.  Fear for one’s safety was  well-founded in the context of that road.  Or did at least one passer-by not care about the man beaten, robbed, and left for dead?  The Good Samaritan revealed his goodness in his deeds.

Our character, individually and collectively, is manifest in our deeds.  Many, like Samson, have little or no impulse control and can resist anything except temptation.  We read part of Jeremiah’s critique of his society.  If we are the people and cultures we ought to be, we praise God in words and deeds; we act faithfully and build up the poor and the vulnerable in the name of God.

May we do so, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF LUCY LARCOM, U.S. ACADEMIC, JOURNALIST, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/17/devotion-for-proper-13-year-c-humes/

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Character, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Samson

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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Judges 13:1-5, 24 or Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Psalm 92

Romans 3:1-10, 23-31

Luke 10:1-24

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All people are sinful, we read.  Societies and institutions are sinful.  The icing on the cake is the depressing reading from Jeremiah.  That is almost as somber as a movie by Vittorio De Sica.  Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), and Umberto D. (1952) are realistic and depressing works of art.

There is good news, however:  God can work through us.  God worked through the conventionally pious Psalmist, the frequently oblivious Apostles, and that idiot, Samson.  God worked through Jeremiah and St. Paul the Apostle.  God can work through corrupt institutions.  God can work through you and me, O reader.  God is sovereign.

That settles one question, but not another one.  No excuses for bad character and institutional corruption are valid.  Being an instrument of God does not exempt one from moral obligations.  Yes, God can work through scuz buckets, but being being a scuz bucket is still wrong.

May we, by grace, be the most moral instruments of God possible.  May our public and private morality be as close to the divine ideal as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-c-humes/

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The Confession of St. Martha of Bethany   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Raising of Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee:

mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

2 Corinthians 5:1-15

John 11:1-27

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Ezekiel 37, a favorite text at Easter Vigils, is about the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile, not the resurrection of the dead.  However, the other two readings do address the resurrection of the dead.

I choose to leave metaphysical speculations alone and focus on the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany:

I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who was to come into the world.

–John 11:27b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I wonder why the Church, which has established and maintained a feast day (January 18) for the Confession of St. Peter, has not done the same for the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany.

Many people have an unduly negative impression of St. Martha based on Luke 10:38-42.  John 11 should balance opinions of her, though.

Can we, in the depths of despair, maintain faith, as St. Martha did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Eternal God, who hast taught us that we shall life if we love thee and our neighbor:

help us to know who is our neighbor and to serve him, that we may truly love thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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Isaiah 45:14-22

Romans 10:8-17

Luke 10:25-37

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The scandalous generosity of God calls out to all people, not all of whom respond faithfully.  Many of them imagine in vain that they do.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the more frequently told stories from the Gospels.  It has become so familiar to many of us that the scandal of a good Samaritan (an outcast and a heretic) has become ho-hum for us.  We need to replace “Samaritan” with another term (such as “illegal immigrant” in my North American context in 2019) to grasp the scandal of the parable.  The substitute word will vary according to person, place, time, and other factors that determine contexts.

The questioner, seeking to justify himself, not to find wisdom and sound ethical counsel, asked,

But who is my neighbor?

His question was actually,

Who is not my neighbor?

That question, in other words, is,

Whom can I treat poorly with a good conscience?

Our Lord and Savior provided a timeless and frequently politically inconvenient answer, which I summarize as,

Everybody is your neighbor.  Love all your neighbors as you love yourself.

That answer should disturb politicians and voters left, right, and center everywhere and at all times, for it calls all of them to account.  Imagine, O reader, societies in which this principle is normative and in which violating it is socially unacceptable.  Those hypothetical societies sound wonderful, do they not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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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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