Archive for the ‘Luke 2’ Category

A Covenant People, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Disputation with the Doctors, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, 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, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 49:5-23

Psalm 72:1-15, 17

Romans 12:1-9

Luke 2:40-52

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The call of God, in both Judaism and Christianity, entails both individuals and groups being lights to the nations.  We Christians have the responsibility to testify to the light that is Jesus, to point toward him.  We cannot do this alone; we need grace and communal context.  The Church is supposed to be a covenant people.  Each congregation is supposed to be a covenant people.  Faithful Jewish communities are supposed to be covenant peoples.

Covenant peoples bear the fruits of justice/righteousness (the same word in the Bible).  These fruits include the presence of economic equity, the lack of oppression, the absence of unnecessary violence, and the presence of an honest judiciary.  Abuse of power has no place in any covenant people.  Neither does assuming that one is better than other people.  Human mutuality and the recognition of complete dependence on God exemplify any covenant people.

The use of externally Jewish or Christian rhetoric to argue against characteristics of a covenant people constitutes a mockery of faith and the Kingdom of God.  Unfortunately, such rhetoric for that purpose remains ubiquitous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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Living in Community, Part IV   4 comments

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, Year 1

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

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

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Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

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

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Joshua 1:1-9

Psalm 91

Philippians 2:1-11

Luke 2:21-32

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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

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

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

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Empires and the Kingdom of God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For Christmas Day, 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 God, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

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

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-9

Psalm 132:6-17

Hebrews 1:1-12

Luke 2:1-20

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At least two themes unite these assigned readings:  justice/righteousness/equity and the conflict between the Kingdom of God and human empires and kingdoms founded on violence and exploitation.

If we back up into Isaiah 10 then read 11:1-9, we notice a contrast of images.  The mighty Assyrian Empire will not survive the wrath of God, who will cut it down and hack it away with iron.  The Assyrian Empire, likened to a majestic cedar of Lebanon, will fall, but a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse.  This shoot will be the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, righteously, in a manner that will create equity.  After all, “justice” and “righteousness” are translations of the same Biblical word.

Another translation of the same word is “vindication.”  Why not?  Certainly, the poor and the oppressed need vindication.

Luke 2:1-20 is theologically rich yet historically inaccurate.  First, as honest students of Roman antiquity attest, one cannot correctly state that all those men named at the beginning held office at the same time.  Second, that census is pure fiction, objectively.  So be it.  Besides, something much more interesting is playing out.  One notices it, if one has eyes to see and ears to hear.

According to the Roman Empire, founded on violence and exploitation, the Emperor Augustus (né Octavian) was the Son of God and the Savior of the World.  He had presided over the transformation of the Roman Republic, consumed by its terminal civil war, into the Roman Empire and over the founding of the Pax Romana.  Yet, as Tacitus wrote, peace in Roman imperial terms was a desert the Romans had created.

In Luke 2:1-20, the angels sang not to praise the counterfeit Son of God and Savior of the World, but to announce the birth of the genuine article.  The angels sang at the debut of a seemingly unlikely savior, a helpless infant.

One function of the apocalyptic theme in scripture is to criticize those people and institutions in power who violate divine principles of justice/righteousness/equity.  By extolling the virtues of an ideal ruler and government one calls necessary and proper attention to the glaring shortcomings of governments and institutions dependent upon violence and exploitation.  God will cut them down, no mater how formidable they may seem from a human perspective.  Empires, kingdoms, states, and administrations rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God, fully realized on the Earth, will endure.  That is an apocalyptic promise for which we wait faithfully.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TRASILLA AND EMILIANA; THEIR SISTER-IN-LAW, SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME; AND HER SON, SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT,” BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. CALDWELL, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 295

THE FEAST OF RUTILIO GRANDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Our Father’s Business   2 comments

Above:  Christ Among the Doctors, by Albrecht Dürer

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 61:1-3

1 John 1:1-2:2

Luke 2:41-52

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Third Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 61.  The Spirit of Yahweh is upon him, he tells us, to be

a herald of joy to the humble,

To bind up the wounded of heart,

To proclaim release to the captives,

Liberation to the imprisoned,

To proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor

And a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn–

To provide for the mourners in Zion —

To give them a turban instead of ashes,

The festive ointment instead of morning,

A garment of splendor and majesty instead of a drooping spirit.

–Verses 1b-3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Luke 4:16-30 Jesus quoted part of that passage in reference to his mission.  The backlash in his hometown was immediate.  Those closest to Jesus did not always understand him best (see Luke 2:41-52).

Good news in God is abundant.  God, in whom there is only light, loves us and has work for us to do.  God even equips us for that work.  Will we seek to discern what that work is then go about our father’s business?

Wanting to discern and discerning are different, of course; you probably know that well, O reader.  I can only write for myself, which is what I do here.  I know the frustration of denied vocations.  I know that the world needs X and that I excel at doing X, so I apply to do X yet never receive the opportunity to do X.  Am I failing to discern the work God has for me.  Perhaps.

Perhaps you, O reader, also know that frustration or are acquainted with someone who does or did.

May we human beings support each other in our vocations from God.  May we, by grace, recognize those vocations in each other and in ourselves.  And may we, helping each other, be about our father’s business, in all its varieties.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Waiting for God III   Leave a comment

Above:  Simeon’s Song of Praise, by Aert de Gelder

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

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O God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ became man that we might become the partakers of the sons of God:

grant, we beseech thee, that being made partakers of the divine nature of thy Son

we may be conformed to his likeness;

who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and ever.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 40:1-11

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Luke 2:25-35

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Waiting can be difficult.

How difficult must waiting for the Babylonian Exile to end have been for many exiles born in a foreign empire?  How difficult must have been waiting for Simeon the priest?  And how great was the day they say that for which they had been waiting!

Each of us waits for at least purpose.  May it be a purpose of which God approves.  If it is, may we never lose heart.  May we always trust in, listen fo, and watch for God.  May we not become so fixated on something that we fail to recognize when God is working.  And may we, if God wills, see that goal of which God approves come to fruition.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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A Light to the Nations IX   2 comments

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Matthew 2:1-12

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

10 Items or Fewer,

instead of the ubiquitous

10 Items or Less.

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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Eschatological Ethics IV: Acting Justly While We Wait   2 comments

Above:  Desert Road

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 62:10-12

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:36-40

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The imagery of the road in Isaiah 62:10-12 reminds me of similar language from Isaiah 40:3-5, quoted in Luke 3:4-6.  The motif of a road, upon which people went into exile, becoming the thoroughfare for the return of their descendants, is no accident.  Neither is applying it to messianic expectation.  Notably in Isaiah 62, returning exiles travel that road home in the company of the Presence of God.

Yet the exiles were already home.  Their homeland, part of a Persian satrapy, did not meet their high expectations, as prophets had described the post-exilic circumstances.  Third Isaiah comforted disappointed exiles, assuring them that God was faithful, and that the prophecies had simply not come true yet.

We are still waiting.  We are still waiting for the fully realized rule of God on Earth.  We are still waiting long after the end of the Babylonian Exile and the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Waiting is frequently difficult to do patiently.  Sometimes justice demands impatience of us; patience is not always a virtue.  On other occasions, however, it is.  Part of wisdom is knowing when to wait.  Sometimes we must act while we wait.

While we wait for God to fulfill the promise of the Apocalypse of John, we have responsibilities to God, each other, and ourselves.  We must act morally, in private and in public.  We must obey the Golden Rule–an oddly offensive commandment, from more than one perspective.  We must acknowledge in words and deeds our total reliance on God, our human interdependence, and the absence of any moral right to exploit anyone.  We must build up each other.  Only God can save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

May we succeed, by grace.  Our efforts are necessary, of course, but they are also inadequate.  May we be faithful junior partners of God in the world, which is our neighborhood.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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