Archive for the ‘Luke 18’ Category

Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Saul and the Witch of Endor, by Benjamin West

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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1 Samuel 28:1-20 or Lamentations 2:1-13

Psalm 113

Romans 14:1-13, 17

Luke 18:9-14

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You must not let what you think good be brought into disrepute; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but justice, peace, and joy, inspired by the Holy Spirit….Let us, then, pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.

–Romans 14:16-17, 19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The context of Romans 14 is a communal one.  Food is a major topic.  Rather, what and how people think food–which food is acceptable to eat, for example–is a major topic.  Within that context, we read counsel to refrain from judging one another in faith community.  The cultural context of Romans 14 may not apply to one’s life, but the timeless principle does.

God commands us to care for and build up each other, especially the vulnerable, the poor, and the distressed.  If one keeps reading in 1 Samuel 28, one may notice that the necromancer/witch is concerned about King Saul, depressed.  The Law of Moses forbids exploiting people and teaches mutuality.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile is that consistent disregard for the Law of Moses led to the exile.  Psalm 113 tells us that God raises the poor from the dust and needs from the dunghill then seats him with princes.

When we turn to the Gospel lesson, we may ask ourselves which character we resemble more.  So we think more highly of ourselves than we should?  Are we so busy judging others that we do not see our true character?  Or do we know exactly what our character is and beg for divine mercy?  Conventional piety can function as a set of blinders.  Appearances can deceive.  Self-defense mechanisms that guard our egos can be difficult to break down.

God’s standards and categories are not identical to ours, despite some minor overlapping.  Many who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders, and visa versa.  That should inspire us to be humble before God and to avoid looking down our noses at others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/devotion-for-proper-27-year-c-humes/

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Wholeness in God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Zacchaeus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Almighty and most Merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us,

we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready, both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldst have done;

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

The Book of Worship (1947), 220

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Isaiah 44:21-28

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 18:35-19:10

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The textual context of the reading from Luke is the verge of Holy Week.  Luke 19:28-38 recounts the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Jesus was approaching Jericho in 18:35-43 and in Jericho in 19:1-10.  Reading these two stories together makes sense both thematically and narratively.

These are stories of healing and wholeness.  The beggar was blind and desperate for healing.  Zacchaeus, aware of his spiritual failings, sought to see Jesus, if only from a distance.  Perhaps Zacchaeus, a literal tax thief and a Roman collaborator, needed the push that Jesus provided to take the next step.  Zacchaeus moved from remorse to repentance.  He made plans to pay restitution at the rate of 400%, higher than the 120% rate Leviticus 6:5 required.  Zacchaeus chose to pay the rate of restitution for a slaughtered or sold sheep (Exodus 22:1 and 2 Samuel 12:6).

One may assume safely that Zacchaeus kept his word.

Healing and wholeness may be individual (as in Luke 18:35-19:10) or collective (as in Isaiah 44:21-28 and Ephesians 4:17-32).  Forgiveness of sins may also be individual (as in Luke 19:1-10) or collective (as in Isaiah 44:21-28).  Either way, renewal in mind and spirit is essential; healing and wholeness are impossible without this renewal.

Another feature common to Luke 18:35-43 and 19:1-10 is the intervention of Jesus.  The blind beggar was crying out for Jesus, but members of the crowd scolded him and told him to be quiet.  Jesus responded to the blind beggar, though.  And Jesus noticed Zacchaeus, spoke to him, and visited his house.  Oh, the scandal!  These acts were typical of Jesus, of course.

Who are you most like in Luke 18:35-19:10, O reader?  Are you most like the people scolding and shushing the blind beggar?  Are you most like Zacchaeus, trying to see Jesus without attracting attention to yourself?  Are you most the people scandalized that Christ visited the home of a notorious sinner?  Or are you most like Jesus, going where needed and acted as an agent of grace, healing, and wholeness?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

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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1 Samuel 26:2-23 or Lamentations 1:1-12

Psalm 112

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 18:1-8

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Never pay back evil for evil….Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17a, 21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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All of the lesson from Romans 12 explains itself and constitutes timeless advice about how to live in community.  I encourage frequent reading of it, followed by corresponding actions.  Details will differ according to circumstances, such as who, where, and when one is, of course.  The principles remain constant, however.

“Anger” comes from the Old Norse word for “grief.”  Anger flows from grief, literally.  Others may commit evil or some lesser variety of sin, causing us to suffer.  We may be properly sad and angry about that.  Human beings bear the image of God, not the image of doormats, after all.  Resisting evil is a moral imperative.  So is resisting evil in proper ways.  One cannot conquer evil if one joins the ranks of evildoers.

I have struggled with this spiritual issue in contexts much less severe than the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the time of the Babylonian Exile.  I have known the frustration that results from powerlessness as my life, as I have known it, has ended.  I have learned to read the angry portions of the Book of Psalms and identity with them.  I have also learned of the toxicity of such feelings.  I have learned the wisdom of obeying God and letting go of grudges, even when forgiveness has been more than I could muster.

After all, all people will reap what they sow.  Why not leave vengeance to God?  Why not strive to become the best version of oneself one can be in God?  Why not seek the support of one’s faith community to do so?  Why not support others in one’s faith community in their spiritual growth?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/devotion-for-proper-26-year-c-humes/

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Judgment, Mercy, and Ego   1 comment

Above:  The Pharisee and the Publican

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth;

enter not into judgment with thy servants, we beseech thee, but be pleased of thy great kindness to grant,

that we who are now righteously afflicted and bowed down by the sense of our sins,

may be refreshed and lifted up with the joy of thy salvation.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 152

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Malachi 3:1-6

Psalms 130 and 131

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 18:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  I do not pretend to know what that balance is, for I know I am not God.  Standards of behavior exist, however.  They include not practicing sorcery, committing adultery, swearing falsely, cheating workers of wages, and subverting the cause of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.  I wonder how many people ignore the mandate of economic justice and of protecting strangers, encoded into the Law of Moses, present in the books of the Hebrew prophets, and extant in Christian moral teaching, and consider themselves sufficiently moral.

Lists, such as the one in Malachi 3:5, are not comprehensive.  They are not supposed to be.  They do, however, prompt us to consider what, in our context, we would add to any given list, consistent with the lists from the Bible.  These lists, never intended to be comprehensive, contain timeless principles and some timeless examples, too.

Such lists condemn almost all of us, do they not?  As the author of Psalm 130 asked, if God were to count sins, who could stand?  Yet we know that divine judgment is real, as is mercy.

Recognition of total dependence on God is a principle in Judaism and Christianity, from the Law of Moses to the writings of St. Paul the Apostle.  Yes, we bear the image of God.  Yes, we are slightly lower than “the gods”–members of the divine court–usually translated into English as “the angels.”  No, we are not pond scum.  Yet we are also powerless to commit any righteousness other than what Lutheran theology categorizes as civic righteousness.  Civil righteousness is objectively good, but it cannot save us.

For many people, the main idol to surrender to God is ego.  People will go far to protect ego.  They will frequently disregard objective reality and continue to believe disproven statements to protect ego.  They will commit violence to protect ego sometimes.  Some people even slander and/or libel others to protect ego.

Yet, as St. Paul the Apostle, who knew about his ego, understood, ego was rubbish before Christ.

How much better would the world be if more people cared about glorifying God, not themselves?

I do not pretend to have reached a great spiritual height and surrendered my ego.  No, I continue to struggle with it.  I do know something, however.  I know from observation that giving power, from the church level to the national and global levels, to a person with either an inferiority complex or a raging ego is folly at best and doom at worst.  One with an inferiority complex will seek to build up oneself, not the church, country, world, et cetera.  An egomaniac will behave in the same way, with the same results.  People with balanced egos are the ones to work for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUCCOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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Private and Public Morality   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-14

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Titus 1:1-16

Luke 18:31-43

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Three ideas intertwine to the point of becoming inseparable in these assigned readings:  trusting God, having good public morality, and having good private morality.  Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Leaders receive particular attention in the readings from Habakkuk and Titus.  Injustice–social, economic injustice, to be precise–is rife while corrupt rulers pile up what is not properly theirs.  Furthermore, for a bishop (in the case of the reading from Titus) to teach properly, the home life cannot contradict spoken orthodoxy.

The Law of Moses forbids exploitation.  This teaching informs Judeo-Christian orthodox morality all the way from both Testaments to current times.  Yet many professing, conventionally devout Jews and Christians somehow justify exploitation.  Fortunately, many other Jews and Christians condemn exploitation in words and deeds.  Their witness is consistent with the Law, the prophets, and Jesus.

Jesus died at the hands of an unjust system of a violent empire.  It dominated with fear and intimidation.  Jesus, however, exposed that empire for what it was by being better than it was.

Can we see that?  Can we also see the link between public and private morality, as well as the connection between them and trusting in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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Destiny IV   1 comment

Above:  Jesus and the Rich Young Man

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church,

being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and

the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Genesis 45:1-15

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

Luke 18:18-30

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Whenever we ponder destiny, we must, if we are to be thorough, contemplate at least three factors:  God, other people, and ourselves.  The Joseph Epic in Genesis (Chapters 37, 39-50) shows all three.  It demonstrates that God works through the decisions of others, sometimes contradicting the desires of those others.  The Joseph Epic also shows that God works independently.

The greatest spiritual gift, we read in 1 Corinthians, is love.  It builds people up, laughs with them, weeps with them, endures with them.  Love forgives.  It seeks the best for others and is sad when they reject the best.

St. Augustine of Hippo defined sin as disordered love.  He understood that God deserved the most love, and that loving people, objects, wealth, et cetera more than one should constituted idolatry.  St. Augustine must have been contemplating the reading from Luke 8, among other texts, for the story of the man overly attached to his wealth fits easily into the theologian’s definition of sin.

For many people attachment to wealth is not an option, but all of us have attachments.  Our attachments may be to the tangible or to the intangible or to both, but they are no less at risk turning into idolatry, if they have not already done so, than the rich man’s attachment to his wealth.

He made his choice.  He chose his destiny.

What choice will I make?  What choice will you, O reader, make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Repentance and Restoration, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Onesimus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,

and art wont to give more than wither we desire or deserve:

pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy;

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125-126

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Hosea 14:1-9

Philemon 4-20

Luke 18:9-14

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Repentance–national in Hosea 14, individual in Luke 18 and Philemon–is the essence of these readings.

The Letter to Philemon has long been a misunderstood text.  Since antiquity many have cited it to justify reuniting runaway slaves with their masters–obviously a misinterpretation, given verse 16.  Onesimus may even not have been a slave, for the correct translation of verse 16 is

…as if a slave,

not the usual

…as a slave.

And Onesimus may not have been a thief either, according to a close reading of the text.

According to tradition, by the way, Philemon heeded the letter’s advice; he freed Onesimus.  Both men became bishops and martyrs, furthermore.

Tax farming was an inherently exploitative system.  Not only did the collected taxes support the Roman occupiers, but tax collectors were not salaried bureaucrats.  No, they lived off what they collected in excess of Roman taxes.  They were literal tax thieves.  The tax collector in the parable knew what he was.  He was honest before God as he pleaded for mercy.  The Pharisee in the parable was proud, though.

As Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the retired Episcopal Bishop of Georgia, said, the Pharisees were the good churchgoing people of their day.

If we churchy people are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have more in common with the Pharisee than the tax collector of the parable.  We make our handiwork–spiritual, more than physical, probably–our idol.  Perhaps we imagine ourselves as being better than we are.

What would a sequel to the parable have been?  Would the tax collector have found a new profession?  Would the Pharisee have continued to be insufferably smug and self-righteous?

Repentance is active. Grace, although free, is far from cheap.  Perhaps it requires one to become a bishop and martyr, or to change one’s career.  Certainly it requires one to be humble before God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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