Archive for the ‘Luke 10’ Category

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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The Sins of Racism, Nativism, and Xenophobia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, by Jenõ Benedek

Image in the Public Domain

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For Race Relations Sunday, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Great God and Father of us all:  destroy prejudice that turns us against our brothers.

Teach us that we are all children of your love, whether we are black or red or white or yellow.

Encourage us to live together, loving one another in peace,

so that someday a golden race of men may have the world, giving praise to Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 179

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Genesis 11:1-9

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 10:25-37

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The Second Sunday in February used to be Race Relations Day (or Sunday) in much of mainline U.S. Protestantism.  The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) included four prayers for “Social Justice and Brotherhood,” but Race Relations Day had come into being in time for The Book of Common Worship (1946), with its prayer of “Better Race Relations.”  Meanwhile, The Methodist Church (1939-1968) defined the Second Sunday in February as Race Relations Day in its Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), which included two prayers for the occasion.

The occasion still exists.  In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the Sunday preceding the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, is Race Relations Sunday.  The United Methodist Church calls that day Human Relations Day, to call the

Church to recognize the right of all God’s children to realize their potential as human beings in relationship with one another.

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), 423

The assigned passages of scripture contradict dominant ways of the world.

  1. The myth in Genesis 11:1-9 condemns human hubris and reminds we mere mortals how insignificant we are compared to God, regardless of how important we consider ourselves to be.  In verse 5, for example, we read of God having to “come down” just to see the city and the Tower of Babel.
  2. The list of sins in Colossians 3:1-11 is hardly comprehensive, but it need not be.  The main idea is not to act as to harm others and oneself, but to pursue Godly, constructive purposes instead.
  3. The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is multifaceted.  After one gets past respectable, religious people refusing to help the man, one learns that a Samaritan–a half-breed and a heretic–an outsider–helped.  The parable contains layers of meaning; one of them is that we need to look past our prejudices.

Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are examples of hubris, of failure to affirm the image of God in others, of hatred, and of mutually exclusive biases.  Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are also frequently successful political weapons.

May God have mercy on us all.  Even we who decry the sins of racism, nativism, and xenophobia are not exempt from those biases; we generally rein them in within ourselves, however.  We, as members of society, are also partially responsible for the sins of society, and we share in societal punishment.

May God have mercy on us all and lead our societies to repent of these sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Empowered by God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Landscape with the Thanksgiving of Noah, by Joseph Anton Koch

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, who never fails to help and govern those whom you bring up in your steadfast fear and love:

Keep us, we ask you, under the protection of your good providence,

and make us to have a perpetual sense of awe and love of your holy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 9:8-15

Psalm 2

Acts 4:8, 10-13, 18-20

Luke 10:1-11

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The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me, in the note on Genesis 9:8-17, of a Talmudic teaching.  All humankind has obligations to keep seven commandments.  To obey them is to win divine approval.  The seven commandments are:

(1) to establish courts of justice, (2) to refrain from blaspheming the God of Israel, as well as from (3) idolatry, (4) sexual perversion, (5) bloodshed, (6) robbery, and (7) not to eat meat cut from a living animal.

–Page 23

That is quite a list!  Keeping all of those commandments is, of course, impossible on human power alone.  In some cases, keeping some of them violates decrees of human authorities.  Merely committing a non-violent act of mercy outside that list might get one into trouble, as in Acts 4.

With certain notorious exceptions, most of us try to be good people, do we not?  Many of us do this in the name of God.  Nevertheless, many of us, while behaving righteously, in our imaginations, oppose those who, like the Apostles in Acts 3 and 4, commit non-violent acts of mercy.  We do not for like people, even those who behave mercifully, to challenge our authority and/or sense of order.  We might not merely leave them alone; no, we might interfere with them.  We need to get out of God’s way.

One can tell what kind of plant a tree is by its fruit.  By grace we can be good trees for God, instead of agents of obstructionism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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The Golden Rule, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without unconditional, sacrificial love are worth nothing.

Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without whosoever lives is counted dead before you.

Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 47

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 10:25-37

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God is the King, Psalm 47 reminds us.  Furthermore, the text states, all nations should acknowledge this reality.  Not only is this true, but so are the following statements:

  1. We depend on God for everything.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible for each other.
  4. We are responsible to each other.
  5. We are interdependent and dependent, not independent.
  6. We have no moral right to exploit one another.
  7. How we treat each other matters.
  8. Piety (or at least the appearance thereof) does not justify not helping each other.

Those statements, taken together, summarize the readings from Leviticus 19, Ephesians 4, and Luke 10 well.  To that list of statements I add another:  The identity of those who help us might prove so surprising as to be scandalous to many.

I notice the selective reading from Leviticus 19.  I have no desire to insult the deaf or to place a stumbling block before the blind, for example, so verse 14 does not disturb me.  Many other omitted verses also prompt me to respond with, “Of course that is a fine law.”  Some of them are timeless principles, but others are culturally specific examples of such principles.  The particulars of verses 9 and 10 might not apply at all times and in all places, but the commandment to provide for the poor remains.  I note, however, that verses 20-22 allow for slavery.  Furthermore, the wardrobe prohibition in verse 19 applies neither to priestly vestments (see Exodus 28:6 and 39:29) nor forbids mandatory fringes on Israelite clothing (see Numbers 15:37-40).  The wording of certain passages of the Law of Moses, taken out of context, makes those passages seem more cut-and-dried than they really are.

Biblical interpretation is a frequently complicated and subtle enterprise.  So as to avoid becoming lost in the proverbial forest and slipping into legalism, I side with the tradition of Rabbi Hillel:

That which is deplorable to you, do not do to your fellow; this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary; go and learn it.

We read in Matthew 5:17-20 that Jesus came to fulfill, not to abolish, the law.  The critique of scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew is that they do not keep the law properly.  We also read the following in Matthew 7:12:

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is the Golden Rule.  It means no slavery, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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

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With and Without Excuses   1 comment

Ruins at Chorazin

Above:  Ruins at Chorazin

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01110

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 23:1-16

Psalm 119:73-80

Luke 10:13-16

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I know, Yahweh, that your judgements are upright,

and in punishing me you show your constancy.

–Psalm 119:75, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The brief reading from Luke 10 follows Jesus sending the 70 (or 72) members of his outer circle on a missionary journey.  He concludes his instructions by commanding them to leave paces where they encounter rejection.

I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

–Luke 10:12, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In Luke 10:13-16 punishment for those who reject God and should have known better will be worse than the penalty for those who had no opportunity to know better.  The historical context is the spread of early Christianity, so Luke means the rejection of the Christian gospel.

The reading from Joshua 23 foreshadows much subsequent Biblical material.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile in the Hebrew Bible is that it resulted from habitual and widespread disregard for the Law of Moses, especially the principles against idolatry and economic injustice.  I cannot read Joshua 23 without thinking of Hebrew prophets thundering against judicial corruption, the exploitation of the poor, and the cynical use of sacred ceremonies as talismans meant to shield victimizers from the wrath of God.

With regard to certain theological propositions many people have  no way of knowing better, for the message has yet to reach them.  Nevertheless, the Golden Rule exists in almost all of the world’s religions.  Nobody has an excuse for violating that commandment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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