Archive for the ‘Luke 2’ Category

Divine Audacity   1 comment

Above:  Annunciation to the Shepherds, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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First Service (Christmas Eve)

Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

Second Service (Christmas Dawn)

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 97 (LBW) or Psalm 2 (LW)

Hebrews 1:1-9

John 1:1-14

Third Service (Christmas Day)

Isaiah 62:10-12

Psalm 98

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:1-20

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Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light.

Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence

and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory;

through your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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Almighty God, you have made yourself known in your Son, Jesus, redeemer of the world.

We pray that his birth as a human child will set us free from the old slavery of our sin;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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O God, as you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ,

grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,

may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our judge;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

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The Christian observance of Christmas began in the West, in the 300s.  At Rome, by 336, December 25 had become the beginning of the church year.  Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” (d. 604) wrote of three Christmas Masses–at St. Mary Major, at midnight; at St. Anastasia’s Church, at dawn; and at St. Peter’s, during the day.

Luke 2:1-20 is not historical.  I, as a student of history, cannot refute the evidence for this conclusion.  However, I embrace the prose poetry of Luke 2:1-20, for it speaks of a great truth:  Jesus, not the Emperor Augustus, was the Son of God and the savior of the world, regardless of what the Roman government and coinage claimed.

I have the sources and background to parce all the assigned readings.  Yet I choose not to do so in this post.  Instead, O reader, I invite you to frolic in divine audacity, evident in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as a baby (however that worked).  I invite you, O reader, to frolic in divine audacity, which continues to influence lives and societies for the better.  I also invite you, O reader, to frolic in the mystery of divine love, to feel comfortable leaving the mystery mysterious, and to respond favorably to God daily, in gratitude.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY:  THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN JOZEF IGNAZ VON DÖLLINGER, DISSDENT AND EXCOMMUNICATED GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF THOMAS CURTIS CLARK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST EVANGELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Fidelity and Spiritual Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXI

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Luke 8:16-21; 11:14-36

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In the Gospel of Luke, the Parable of the Lamp functions as an extension of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils.  Love and devotion to God accumulate within someone and draw others to God via that person.  The light shines.  Also, nobody has any secrets from God.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 355

The lamp in the parable had a spout, a cover, and a rounded body.  This was a small oil lamp.  It belonged on a lampstand, not under a bed or in a jar.  Theologically, a lamp stood for the light of God, shining in the darkness, in this parable.

The lamp is Jesus.  In other words, do not hide Jesus.

Luke 8:19-21, adapted from Mark 3:20-22, tones down the critique of Christ’s biological family.  In Mark 3, they think Jesus is out of his mind.  That, explicit in Mark 3, is absent in Luke 8.The Lucan version omits the relatives’ motive for seeking to speak with Jesus.  Therefore, the Lucan version presents them positively.  Nevertheless, the statement of fictive kinship carries over from the Marcan version.  The theme of hearing and doing, present in the Parables of the Sower/the Four Soils and the Lamp, continues here.  The biological family of Jesus functions as exemplars of hearing and doing in the Lucan version.

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox insistence on the perpetual virginity of St. Mary of Nazareth puzzles me.  Of course, given that I reject the Virgin Birth, perpetual virginity predictably puzzles me.  In the Greek language, brothers and sisters can also be cousins.  Or they can be brothers and sisters.

The Marcan version of the story fits well with that Gospel’s theme that supposed insiders are really outsiders, and vice versa.  The Lucan version of the story is consistent with that Gospel’s toning down of the Marcan theme, given that the Acts of the Apostles follows the Gospel of Luke.  So, the eleven apostles who survived the Gospel of Luke could not be dolts if their transformation in Acts was to be believable.  Furthermore, the depiction of the biological family of Jesus in Luke 8 flows from previous material, in which St. Mary knew who her (firstborn) son was, Luke 2:39-52 notwithstanding.

The challenge to we of today is to be members of Christ’s spiritual family, that is, to hear the word of God (what God says) and to keep it.

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“Master,” said John, “we saw a man who was casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following with us.”

But Jesus said, “Forbid him not, for he who is not with you is for you.”

–Luke 9:49-50, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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“He who is not for me is against me, and he who is not gathering with me is scattering.”

–Luke 11:23, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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Critics of Jesus did not understand that God was acting through Jesus.  The healings Jesus performed indicated the presence of the Kingdom of God, not evil. Judgment would come for those who slandered Jesus.

Likewise, when Jesus had removed evil from someone, that person needed to become filled with the word of God (what God said), or else evil would return in greater quantity than it had been when Christ had expelled it.

Luke 11:27 calls back to 8:19-21.  Regardless of how blessed and pious Christ’s biological family was, those who listened to and heard the word of God were blessed, too.  Loyalty to God, present in Jesus, takes precedence over family ties–no disrespect to relatives intended.  This is good news for the vast majority of us not of the family tree of Jesus.

Cutting through the symbolism and Biblical allusions in Luke 11:29-36, the message of these verses is:

  1. Repentance is crucial,
  2. The faith of many Gentiles contrasts with the faithlessness of many Jews,
  3. God seeks to attract all people, and
  4. The Christian life involves the whole body and all human action.

Seeking signs indicates a lack of trust in God.  Receiving a sign and not understanding it indicates obliviousness, at least.  Recall the Johannine version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:1-14), O reader.  You and I may agree that it was an astounding sign.  Yet, recall the events of the next day, too.

Then they said to him:

“What sign, then, are you performing, so that we may see it and come to believe in you?  What work are you doing?  Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.'”  

–John 6:30-21, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

Those who asked that question had fined at the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

We need not seek signs; they are plentiful.  We need merely to pay proper attention, understand plainly, and behave and think accordingly, whoever we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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Growing Up to Be Jesus   2 comments

Above:  Christ Among the Doctors, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART V

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Luke 2:41-52

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THEY SAY HE’S S’POSED TO BE THE SON OF THE LORD,

BUT HE’S KEEPING JUST AS QUIET AS A MOUSE.

HE’S WAITING FOR A CALL FROM THE MAN UPSTAIRS,

BUT HE LIVES IN A ONE-STORY HOUSE.

–Tom Key and Russell Treyz, Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), 26

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The Lucan narrative skips from the infancy of Jesus to his late boyhood.  Jesus was twelve years old–not yet Bar Mitzvahed.

This story contains two major points that interest me:

  1. Jesus’s awareness of who he was in relation to God, and
  2. the depth of Christ’s knowledge and perception at that young age.

The question of why Jesus stayed behind in the Temple, instead of rejoining the caravan to Nazareth, without asking the permission of Sts. Joseph and Mary misses the point of the story.

Also, St. Mary’s lack of perception regarding Jesus seems odd, given what we have read so far in the Gospel of Luke.  Anyway, intellectual knowledge is not visceral knowledge.

The Church, via ecumenical councils, determined Christological orthodoxy.  The formula of Jesus being fully human and fully divine, with all the implications thereof, has, therefore, become part of the inheritance of Christian theology.

Both elements–human and divine–come to the fore here:

This brief account provides a window into what young Jesus must have been like.  One may reasonably wonder what the consensus regarding Jesus must have been when he was a child.  Yet one must avoid the ridiculous extremes of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, with Jesus’s bathwater healing a sick child, for example.  The Infancy Gospel of Thomas focuses on young Christ learning about responsibilities.  In superhero terms, one can apply Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker to the Jesus of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas:

With great power comes great responsibility.

I suppose that Jesus must not have blended in well while growing up.  I imagine neighbors looking askance at and muttering about what an oddball he was.  Despite the lip service many people give to marching to the beat of a different drummer, many of these same people prefer conformity.

I know; my stubborn refusal to conform–my insistence on being myself, not any one of the persons many other people me to be–has caused me much difficulty.  It contributed to the abortion of my doctoral program at the Department of History at The University of Georgia.

In a different sense than in the case of Jesus, each of us is a child of God.  In Pauline theology, the term for an heir of God is “son of God.”  Pauline writings also include the neuter “children of God” when inheritance is not an issue.

O reader, regardless of what others may say and do, strive to be the best possible version of yourself in God daily.  Be the person God created you to be, not the person anyone would feel comfortable with you being.  You exist for the glory of God and the benefit of others, not the maximizing of others’ comfort levels.

Toward this lofty goal, I offer some advice.  Generalizations are nice, but details are better:

  1. Strive to live by the Golden Rule.
  2. Before speaking or acting, ask yourself how your words or actions will affect others.
  3. Strive to leave the world and your patch of it better than you found it.
  4. Remain open to God’s surprises.  You will get some details right, if only by accident and the law of averages.  God’s judgment and mercy surpasses you, even on your best days.

The Lucan narrative jumps ahead again after 2:52.  One need not speculate wildly about what Jesus did all those years left off the page.  (Many have.)  I suspect the truth of the matter is mundane–nothing to write home about, to quote an old saying.  This may be significant; God is present in mundane details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF KANTY, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARBEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCHWING, U.S. ORGANIST AND MUSIC EDUCATOR; “THE GRAND OLD MAN OF MARYLAND MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BALDWIN, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Births and Infancies of St. John the Baptist and Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART IV

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Luke 1:47-2:40

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The stories of St. John the Baptist and Jesus continue to intertwine in the earliest chapters of the Gospel of Luke.  Foreshadowing continues, too.  We read that Jesus and St. John the Baptist came from devout Jewish families, as well.

As we–you and I, O reader–march through the Gospel of Luke, I will address a topic a breach initially in this post.  One unfortunate tradition within Christianity distances Jesus from Judaism.  This erroneous tradition places our Lord and Savior in opposition to Judaism.  This tradition exists within my family tree.  I have some of the hand-written sermon notes of the Reverend George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), my great-grandfather and a minister in the North Georgia Conference of the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  I have the book in which he wrote that Jesus

grew up in a Christian home.

Rather, one should understand Jesus within the context of Judaism.

Luke 2 poses historical problems:

  1. No such census occurred.  No empire-wide census took place during the reign of the Emperor Augustus.  Quirinius, who became the Governor of Syria in 6 C.E., did preside over a provincial census, though–in 6 C.E., ten or so years after the birth of Jesus.
  2. No Roman census required such movement of populations.

To quote a spiritual mentor of mine:

What is really going on here?

Theology is going on here:

  1. St. Luke introduced a divine plan that culminated in St. Paul the Apostle preaching in Rome in Acts 28.  The plan launched with the fictional empire-wide census.
  2. The angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus was an imperial proclamation.  Officially, Augustus was the savior of the world and the Son of God; currency proclaimed this.  The angels sang for Jesus, not Augustus.  Jesus was greater than Augustus.
  3. The text set the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God in opposition to each other.
  4. Luke 2:7 created a reason to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, with its Davidic connection.
  5. The text, in doing so, portrayed the Roman Empire negatively.  The text also depicted Augustus as a pawn of God.

Luke 2:7 may not refer to an inn.  The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the germane Greek word as “dwelling-place.”  This is a reference to a two-story home in which the people lived upstairs and the animals were downstairs.  In this scenario, the scene is of a crowded home, in which St. Mary gave birth downstairs, away from the in-laws.

I knew nothing about this alternative translation and interpretation as a child.  In the rural United Methodist congregations in which my father served, I learned that the “inn” was an inn–a caravansary, to be precise.  I also suffered through nativity plays that depicted the innkeeper as a brusque, unsympathetic figure.  To be fair, my father defended the innkeeper for not turning out paying customers.

Likewise, “manger” can also be “stable.”

In the play Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the birth of Jesus occurred in an abandoned trailer behind the Dixie-Delite Motor Lodge, about two miles outside Gainesville, Georgia.  Joe Davison and Mary Hagler were en route to Atlanta for a federal tax audit.

Notice, O reader, the parallelism between 1:28 and 2:40, regarding divine favor.  The Gospel of Luke is a theological and literary work.  It has a structure that indicates much thought and effort.  It is, as the prologue says, “an orderly account.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK TEMPLE AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, CIRCA 250

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEMETRIUS A. GALLITZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST; “THE APOSTLE OF THE ALLEGHENIES”

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Two Annunciations and a Visitation   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART III

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Luke 1:5-46

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Consensus among scholars of the New Testament holds that the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke are the that work in miniature.  Luke 1 and 2 introduce themes the rest of that Gospel develops.

Luke 1:5 grounds the audience in time and place.  We read the name of the Roman client king:  Herod (the Great).

Herod the Great (r. 37-48 B.C.E.) married into the Hasmonean Dynasty and founded his own.  The Herodian Dynasty held power (under the Roman aegis) until 70 C.E.  Herod the Great, the Governor of Galilee (47-37 B.C.E.), became the King of the Jews in 37 B.C.E.  He had authority in Judea and Galilee.

Consider calendars, O reader.  Judaism had its calendar.  The Romans had their calendar, which started with the founding of Rome–on the B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A/D. scale, 753 B.C.E./B.C.  The B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A.D. scale dates to what we call the 500s C.E./A.D., when St. Dionysius Exiguus introduced it.  I notice that he miscalculated, for St. Dionysius attempted to place the birth of Jesus one week before the beginning of the year 1 Anno Domini (In the Year of Our Lord).  Yet Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  Consider the account of the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).  I contend that a tyrant who had been dead for three years could not have ordered that slaughter.  I conclude, therefore, that St. Dionysius miscalculated.

I use “Before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) because I refuse to refer to the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ.”

Much happens, on the surface and beneath it, in these verses.  Some of these are:

  1. We read the identification of St. John the Baptist with Elijah (verse 17), indicating eschatological expectations regarding Jesus.
  2. St. Elizabeth is reminiscent of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.
  3. The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) is the model for the Magnificat.
  4. We read that St. John the Baptist will go before “him” (verse 17), indicating YHWH, not Jesus.
  5. We are also supposed to think of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15 and 17).
  6. Being disturbed or afraid when encountering an angel is a Biblical motif.
  7. The Holy Spirit is a major theme in Luke-Acts.  It makes its Lucan debut in 1:35.
  8. In Hebrew angelology, there are seven archangels.  1 Enoch 19:1-20:8 names them:  Gabriel, Suru’el, Raphael (who features in the Book of Tobit), Raguel, Michael, Uriel (who features in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra), and Sarafa’el.  An alternative text of 1 Enoch mentions another name, Remiel.  Seven, being the number of perfection, may be symbolic.  Or Remiel may be an alternative name for one of the archangels.
  9. The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune is prominent in the Magnificat.
  10. I recommend consulting Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah--Updated Edition (1993), 358-360, for a detailed, line-by-line breakdown of the Magnificat, with citations from the Hebrew Bible, 2 Esdras/4 Ezra, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, and the Psalms of Solomon.
  11. Childlessness was, in the culture, always the woman’s fault, regardless of biology.
  12. St. John the Baptist was certainly just kicking (1:41).  Unborn children kick.
  13. Verses 5-56 are about what God did and how people responded.

Underneath it all is a celebration of God.  God has taken the initiative–God the Lord, the saviour, the Powerful One, the Holy One, the Merciful One, the Faithful One.  God is the ultimate reason to celebrate.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke–A Daily Devotional (2018), 89

I agree.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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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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The Persecution of Egyptian Jews   Leave a comment

Above:  The Hippodrome of Alexandria, Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 3 MACCABEES

PART III

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3 Maccabees 2:25-4:21

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Ptolemy IV, the bête-noire of our story, returned to Alexandria after the incident in Jerusalem.  He imposed a poll tax on Jews and punished those who refused to worship Dionysius.  This recalled, in the minds of the original audience of 3 Maccabees, Antiochus IV Epiphanes introducing the worship of Dionysius in Jerusalem (2 Maccabees 6:7).

The historicity of the poll tax in 3 Maccabees 2:25-33 is dubious, according to extant ancient records.  The poll tax in 2:25-33 cannot have any relationship to either one of the only two registrations (those of 220-219 B.C.E. and 206-205 B.C.E.) during the reign of Ptolemy IV.  The census in Luke 2:1-7 shares the same historical dubiousness.  I move along to 3 Maccabees 3, for I know better than to expect unvarnished history from a work of theology.

Jews had Gentile allies, fortunately.  King Ptolemy IV lied about the Jews; he cast them as traitors and ordered their executions.  Jews, gathered forcibly at the hippodrome, awaited their deaths.  In the meantime, they performed hard labor.

Nevertheless, Ptolemy IV was experiencing frustrations.  According to the story, God had spared many Jews in the countryside near Alexandria by causing royal scribes’ ink and paper to run out, thereby preventing the completion of much paperwork.

3 Maccabees is a work that emphasizes God’s faithful love for diaspora Jews.  God loves diaspora Jews as much as Jews in the homeland, the book teaches.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED-GLASS WINDOW MAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND, 1940

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARNOLD BLAISDELL, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINCA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

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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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