Archive for the ‘Luke 6’ Category

Deeds and Creeds VII   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART III

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James 2:1-26

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Do not rob the poor because they are poor,

nor crush the needy at the gate;

For the LORD will defend their cause,

and will plunder those who plunder them.

–Proverbs 22:22-23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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If I were inclined toward theft, I would steal from the wealthy, not the poor, for the same reason Willie Sutton (1901-1980) robbed banks:

That’s where the money is.

Robbing the poor is counter-productive.  Yet many tax codes do just that; they fall more heavily on the poor than on the wealthy, in percentage of income.  The poor cannot game the system, but the wealthy can.

James 2:1-18 reminds me of Proverbs 22:22-23, which I hear read before James 2:1-18 every Proper 18, Year B, in The Episcopal Church.  Both passages speak of proper and improper attitudes toward the poor.

Do not curry favor with the rich, we read.  James 2:1-13 refers to its context.  One may envision a rich man–a Roman nobleman–clad in a toga and wearing a gold ring.  Only a member of that class had the sight to dress in that way.  Such a man was also seeking political office.  To curry favor with such a man was to seek the benefits he could bestow.

Yet members of the wealthy class also dragged Christians into courts of law.  If the rich man in question was on the bad side of Emperor Domitian (reigned 81-96), the Christian congregation allied with that wealthy man suffered imperial wrath, too.

Recall James 1:27, O reader:  Care for the widows and orphans, and keep oneself uncontaminated from the world.

God has decreed the poor the most valuable people (1 Corinthians 1:27).  Jesus taught that the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God (Luke 6:20).  The Gospels teach that the first will be last, the last will be first, and those serve are the greatest.  God disregards and contradicts human social hierarchies.

The audience of the Epistle of James consisted of Jewish Christians, marginalized within their Jewish tradition.  They knew about the Law of Moses and its ethical demand to take care of the less fortunate.  Apparently, some members of that audience had not acted in accordance with those common commandments.

St. Paul the Apostle addressed Gentiles.  The author of the Epistle of James addressed Jews.  St. Paul understood faith and works to be a package deal, hence justification by faith.  The author of the Epistle of James used “faith” narrowly, to refer to intellectual assent.  Therefore, he wrote of justification by works.  These two authors arrived at the same point after departing from different origins.  They both affirmed the importance of faithful actions.

We read of two scriptural examples–the near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19) and the hospitality of Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-23).  I stand by my criticism of Abraham in Genesis 22.  I refer you, O reader, to follow the germane tags, if you are inclined to do so.

None of that detracts from the summary of the faith-works case in the Epistle of James:

So just as the body without a spirit is dead, so faith is dead without deeds.

–2:26, Helen Barrett Montgomery, Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

That theme continues, in another context, in the next chapter.

The allure of status is strong; even Christians are not necessarily immune to its appeal.  The ultimate status that really matters, though, is heir of God.  No earthly political power has any say over that status.  Another germane status is bearer of the image of God.  All people hold that status inherently.  If we really believe that, we will treat each other accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Oracles of Divine Punishment, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART III

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Micah 2:1-13

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The more I read commentaries, the more I realize how frequently wordplay occurs in the Hebrew Bible.  Puns to not translate from Language A into Language B, of course.  Given my fondness for puns, these details appeal to me.  Consider Micah 2:1-3, O reader.  Powerful and corrupt people design or work (depending on translation) evil/evil deeds/evil and wicked deeds (depending on translation).  God plans misfortune/evil/disaster (depending on translation) in retribution.

The human evil in 2:1-3 consisted of flagrant violations of the Law of Moses.  These wealthy, powerful, and corrupt evildoers were coveting and seizing the fields and homes of peasants.  These greedy, already-wealthy people enriched themselves further at the expense of the less fortunate.  These terrible human beings, who had sinned against God and those they had defrauded, had judged and condemned themselves.  The Assyrians were about to swallow the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  Those greedy, corrupt, and powerful defrauders would lose everything then.  This text, applied to a later period and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, condemned greedy, powerful, and corrupt defrauders in the south.  They would lose everything when the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire took over.

These situations remind me of the Beatitudes and Woes (Luke 6:20-26) from the Sermon on the Plain.  This is the passage in which Jesus says that the poor–not the poor in spirit–the poor will receive the Kingdom of God.  The translation of Luke 6:24 in The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) fits in with standard English-language versions of this verse.

But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

The Greek text can also mean:

But woe to you who are rich,

for you are receiving your consolation.

The wealthy, corrupt, and powerful defrauders of Micah 2 (regardless of timeframe)–before the Fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.E. or after 722 B.C.E. and before the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.–received their consolations.  Then the Assyrians or the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians took that consolation from them.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  In the case of Micah 2:1-11, divine mercy on the oppressed constituted judgment on the oppressors, who did not want to hear the words of divine judgment.

Micah 2:12-13 refers to the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Were these two verses original to Micah?  They may have come from a subsequent period.  Evidence of editors’ handiwork exists in the final version of the Book of Micah.  The main idea, whenever someone wrote 2:12-13, holds:  divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Micah 2:13 is ambiguous about the identity of the king.  Is he human, certainly of the House of David?  Or is God the king?  Exegetes disagree.  Study Bibles I consulted did not indicate a consensus position.

Micah 2 is unambiguous on another point, however:  God will not tolerate injustice.  The Book of Micah highlights economic injustice.  I live in a society in which the chasm separating the rich from the poor has been growing wider for decades.  In this context, I read Micah 2 and tremble.  Divine punishment assumes many forms, all of them unpleasant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CRISTOBAL MAGOLLANES JARA AND AGUSTIN CALOCA CORTÉS, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SAINTS AND MARTYRS, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1951

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False Significance and True Significance   Leave a comment

THE QUEST FOR FALSE SIGNIFICANCE IS A FORM OF IDOLATRY.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, “Master, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in; or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to see you?”  “In solemn truth I tell you,” the King will answer them, “that inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you had done it unto me.”

–Matthew 25:37-40, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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And lo, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

–Luke 13:30, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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The ethics and morals of Jesus of Nazareth shape my ethics and morals.  I am a professing Christian, after all.  

The increase in political extremism defined by hatred, xenophobia, nativism, and conspiracy theories concerns me deeply.  This is a global problem.  As one hears in this video clip, the “quest for significance” is one of the “pillars of radicalization.”  

We are dealing with idolatry.  Sin, in Augustinian terms, is disordered love.  God deserves the most love.  Many people, activities, ideas, et cetera, deserve lesser amounts of love.  Others deserve no love.  To love that which one should not love or to love someone or something more than one ought to do is to deny some love to God.  One bears the image of God.  One is, therefore, worthy of much love.  In fact, Judaism and Christianity teach that one has a moral obligation to love others as one loves oneself, assuming that one loves oneself as one should (Leviticus 19:18; Tobit 4:15; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 31:15; Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).  After all, the other human beings also bear the image of God.  Judaism and Christianity also teach people to love God fully, and link love of God and love of other people (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 22:36-40).  Therefore, true significance comes from loving God fully and loving God, as God is present in human beings, especially the “least of these.”

Two stories from 1 Maccabees pertain to my theme.  

In 1 Maccabees 5:55-64, two Hasmonean military commanders named Zechariah and Azariah sought to make a name for themselves.  They succeeded; they caused military defeat and won ignominy to define their names.  However, in 1 Maccabees 6:42-47, Eleazar Avaran acted selflessly, in defense of his oppressed people and the Law of Moses.  He died and won an honored name from his people.  Those who sought honor earned disgrace.  He who sacrificed himself gained honor.

I could quote or mention a plethora of Biblical verses and passages about the folly of seeking false significance.  The Bible has so many of them because of the constancy of human nature.  I could quote or mention more verses and passages, but to do so would be triply redundant.

Simply, true human significance comes from God, compared to whom we are all insignificant.  That significance comes from bearing the image of God.  The sooner more of us accept that truth, the better off the rest of us will be.  The social, societal, economic, and political costs of the quest for false significance to extremely high.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Wealth as an Idol   1 comment

Above:  Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

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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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Genesis 8:1-13 or Acts 26:1, 9-23, 27-29, 31-32

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-18

Revelation 3:14-22

John 8:31-47

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Laodicea was a wealthy city, a center of the refining of gold, the manufacture of garments, and the manufacture of a popular salve for eyes.  The church in that city was also wealthy, not on Christ.  Jesus said to keep his commandments.  St. Paul the Apostle relied on Christ.

As I have written many times, deeds reveal creeds.  To quote Proverbs, as a man thinks, he is.  And as one thinks, one does.  God is like what God had done and does, in Jewish theology.  Likewise, we are like what we have done and do.

Are we like the Laodicean congregation?  Are we lukewarm?  Are we comfortable, resting on our own laurels and means?  Do we have the luxury of being that way?  (FYI:  “We” can refer either to congregations or to individuals.)

Wealth is not the problem.  No, wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to wealth are not morally neutral.  To the extent that a person or a congregation may rely on wealth, not God, one makes wealth an idol.

There was once a man who owned a large tract of land.  He enjoyed boasting about how much land he owned.  One day, the landowner was bragging to another man:

I can get in my truck early in the morning and start driving around the edge of my property.  Late in the day, I haven’t gotten home yet.

The other man replied,

I used to have a truck like that, too.

The Bible burst the proverbial balloons of those who trust in their wealth, not in God.  Aside from Revelation 3:14-22, one may think readily of the Gospel of Luke and various Hebrew prophets, for example.  One may also quote 1 Timothy 6:10 (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls to any number of fatal wounds.

One may also quote Luke 6, in which the poor are blessed (verse 20), but the rich are having their consolation now (verse 24).

Wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to it are not.  May we always trust in God and acknowledge our duties to one another, in mutuality, under God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF EDGAR J. GOODSPEED, U.S. BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

THE FEAST OF W. SIBLEY TOWNER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/devotion-for-proper-16-year-d-humes/

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Economic Justice and Fundamental Neighborliness   Leave a comment

Above:  Lazarus ad the Rich Man, by Frans Francken the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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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, the Strength of all them that put their trust in thee;

mercifully accept our prayers;

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do good thing without thee,

grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments,

we may please thee, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 184

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Isaiah 41:1-18

Psalm 103

Acts 2:42-47

Luke 16:19-31

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Several themes paly out in the four assigned readings.  These include:

  1. The sovereignty of God,
  2. The persistence of idolatry,
  3. The imperative of repentance, and
  4. Mutuality in faith community.

However, the nearly unifying theme is the divine mandate of economic justice.  God does not forsake the poor and the needy who seek water and find none (Isaiah 41:17).  We read in Acts 2:42-47 that the earliest members of the church in Jerusalem took care of each other economically.  And we read that the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31 did not care about the poor man at his gates.

Various Hebrew prophets condemned the exploitation of the poor.  We read more about the Lukan theme of reversal of fortune in Luke 6:20b-21, 24-26:

Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be filled.

Blessed are you who are weeping now, for you shall laugh….

But alas for you who are rich, for you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have plenty to eat now, for you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who are laughing now, for you shall mourn and weep.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

The problem with wealth in the parable was the rich man’s attachment to it, paired with his lack of compassion.  He exhibited signs of conspicuous consumption in a society with a gaping class divide and a majority population that was impoverished.   This rich man could have afforded to act on behalf of the poor at his gate, at least.  Even in death, he still thought of the poor man as a servant, at best.

The rich man’s attachment to wealth and his willful obliviousness to the plight of the poor man at his gate were forms of idolatry.  George Buttrick diagnosed the rich man’s root sin as a lack of “fundamental neighborliness” in 1928.

Economic justice is a manifestation of “fundamental neighborliness.”  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parish Soup Kitchen, by George Elgar Hicks

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday Before Lent, Year 2

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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 favorably to hear the prayers of thy people;

that we, who are justly punished for our offenses,

may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name;

though Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 136

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Ezekiel 3:4-11

Psalm 86

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 5:1-16

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Some people are hopelessly stubborn; they refuse to heed wisdom.  They persist in telling God and those who speak for God to go fly a kite, so to speak.  They persist in behavior that harms even members of their community and congregation.

Taking the Holy Eucharist improperly has long been a topic for theologians and denominations.  Many of them have resorted to an excessive, Donatistic emphasis on doctrine as the litmus test for partaking of that sacrament.  Some still do.  I, as an Episcopalian, am, according to some denominations with congregations in my town, one of the theologically and doctrinally impure.  Therefore, if I were, theoretically, to take communion in any of those denominations, I would violate the rule of closed communion.  I favor open communion.  That is how “impure” I am.

The issue in Corinth had a particular context.  The Eucharist was still a communal meal in a house church.  Members of the congregation came from a variety of economic backgrounds.  Poorer members depended partially on food wealthier members provided.  Denying those vulnerable members of the church what they needed was wrong.  So was mistaking the Eucharist for an opportunity to drink too much.

The lectionary committee’s choice to schedule the Beatitudes from Matthew 5 was odd.  The Beatitudes and Woes from Luke 6 would have been better.  “Blessed are you who are poor” would have fit better than “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

The poor are always with us.  A combination of factors, from sound economic policy to good decisions, can raise many of them out of poverty.  Yet, even under the best of circumstances in the human order, the poor will always be with us.  Helping them is the wise, ethical course.  Blaming and scorning them is not.  Neither is criminalizing poverty, another matter of policy.

I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The economic damage of that virus is severe.  May governments and other institutions play their part in doing what they can–rebuilding systems and infrastructures so that the opportunities for the economically devastated to lead better lives will exist.  May the post-COVID-19 economic order be just.  And may we, as individuals, do what we can.  May we have proper attitudes, with actions to match.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMASZ SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF MARYRS OF EL MOZOTE, EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 11-12, 1981

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Tobit’s Thanksgiving to God   Leave a comment

Above:  Judas Maccabeus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART X

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Tobit 13:1-14a

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There is much going on in this reading.  Quickly, the Theory of Retribution, prominent in the Book of Tobit, recurs.  So does the Biblical theme of divine judgment and mercy being in balance.  Also, Tobit has two final testaments (Tobit 4:3-21 and 14:3-11), reminiscent of Moses in Deuteronomy 31-32 and 33.  Community and repentance are other evergreen themes.

I am most interested, however, in another aspect of this reading.  Jerusalem (Tobit 1:3-9) returns to the story.  I read the verses about Jerusalem in the Book of Tobit in the context of the Hasmonean rebellion (contemporary or nearly so to the composition of the Book of Tobit), not in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  I detect echoes of Hebrew prophecy and ponder how pious Jews living in the Hellenistic world related prophecy from prior centuries to their present day.  I also wonder if the anonymous author of the Book of Tobit expected the restoration of Jerusalem or wrote after the rededication of the Temple.

The Book of Tobit teaches the importance of faithful community.  Christian fundamentalism tends to be hyper-individualistic.  It teaches Jesus-and-Meism.  The Bible is not hyper-individualistic, though.  No, it teaches mutuality.  I cannot become my best self unless you, O reader, can become your best self, and vise versa.

The purpose of the book[of Tobit] is to move its readers from despair to prayer.

The Catholic Study Bible (1990), RG210

Sinking into despair is easy.  Hoping for better times can seem like setting oneself up for disappointment.  Trusting God can seem like a fool’s errand.  In other words,

Blessed are those who expect nothing;

they will not be disappointed.

Yet the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-26), on which that quote riffs, teach lived prayer, not despair.  They teach hope.  They teach trust in God.

So does the Book of Tobit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER HOTOVITZKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1937

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR; AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; AND FRANZ GRUBER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC TEACHER, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Objecting to Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Near the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Massachusetts

Image Source = Google Earth

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For the Twenty-Third 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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 228

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Hosea 10:12-11:12

Psalm 146

Philippians 3:7-21

Luke 12:49-59

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We read of the imperative of following God’s way, not our way.  Our way leads to, in words from Hosea 10:13, reaping iniquity and eating the fruits of treachery, having plowed wickedness.  Rather, we ought to sow righteousness and reap the fruits of goodness (Hosea 10:12).  In concrete terms, sowing righteousness means emulating YHWH.  In Psalm 146, YHWH keeps faith with the wronged, defends the cause of the oppressed, feeds the hungry, liberates prisoners, opens the eyes of the blind, uplifts those bend double, loves the just, protects the strangers, reassures the fatherless and the widows, and overturns the domination of the wicked.  Those sound like make many enemies, often among the conventionally religious, who should know better.

Jesus made enemies every time he healed on the Sabbath.  He made enemies every time he woke up after a good night’s sleep.  Christ made enemies because he had a pulse.

We Christians, who profess to follow Jesus, tread the way of the cross, if we really are doing what we should.  We, like St. Paul the Apostle, will make enemies by pursuing righteousness.  Ironically, many of these foes may identify themselves as Christians.  Intra-Christian persecution is a shameful and indefensible tradition.  Other persecution may originate from outside the Christian faith.  Either way, persecutors may imagine that they are positive figures doing what is necessary for the greater good.  Villains frequently think they are heroes.

Christ, functionally, is a cause of dissension.  This reality is as old as the ministry of Jesus and as recent as the present day.  This reality reflects negatively on those who object to Jesus, not on him.

One may also recall other words from the Gospel of Luke:

Blessed are you when people hate you, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets….Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, 26, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

May we never take offense at Jesus and think of him as a proper cause of dissension.  After all, many distinctions properly cease to exist or matter in Christ.  Therefore, Jesus should be a means of unity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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The Communion of Saints, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Communion of Saints

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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Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

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O blest Communion!  Fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle; they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

Hallelujah!

–William Walsham How (1823-1897), 1854

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A saint, in terms of the New Testament, is a Christian.  The concept of Biblical sainthood is that being holy, as YHWH is holy (Leviticus 19:2).  Saints (in Daniel 7:18) will receive the Kingdom of God (yes, in the apocalyptic sense of the kingdom).

The backdrop of three of the four readings (except 149) is apocalypse, or rather, the expectation of the apocalypse–the Day of the Lord (in Hebrew Biblical terms) and the eventual (yet delayed) return of Christ in the New Testament lessons.  One function of apocalyptic language is to contrast the world order with God’s order, the Kingdom of God.  Luke 6:20-31 hits us over the head with this contrast.

  1. The poor are blessed and will inherit the Kingdom of God.  The rich, in contrast, are receiving their consolation.  (I belong to monthly book group focused on the historical Jesus and the early church.  According to what I have read, the correct translation is that the rich are receiving their consolation, not that they have received it.)
  2. The hungry are blessed and will be full.  Those who are full will be hungry.
  3. Those who weep are blessed and will laugh.  Those who laugh will mourn and weep.
  4. Those who endure hatred and exclusion on account of the Son of Man (a call back to Daniel) are blessed and should rejoice.  Those who enjoy respect share accolades with false prophets.
  5. The Bible never says to hate enemies, despite the impressions one may get from certain angry texts, especially in the Book of Psalms.  Nevertheless, love of enemies is a difficult commandment.  It is possible only via grace.
  6. The Golden Rule is a timeless principle present in most of the world’s religions.  Working around the Golden Rule is as ubiquitous as the commandment, unfortunately.

Christian saints are those who, trusting in Christ crucified, resurrected, and sovereign, follow him.  They bear the seal of the Holy Spirit and fight spiritual battles daily.  And when Christian saints rest from their labors, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gathers them up.

Think about saints you have known, O reader.  They probably infuriated you at times.  They were human and imperfect, after all.  (So are you, of course.)  They struggled with forces and problems you may not have been able to grasp.  And they struggled faithfully.  These saints did the best they could with what they had, as best they knew to do.  And they brought joy to your life and helped you spiritually.  You probably miss them.  I miss mine, too.

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-all-saints-day-year-c-humes/

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Human Potential in God, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Abraham

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday Before 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, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do;

mercifully grant that by thy power,

we may be defended against all adversity;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 139

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Genesis 18:16-33

Psalm 139:1-16, 23, 24

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Luke 6:27-49

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Character matters.  It is also destiny, as a wise saying reminds us.

This set of readings presents us with challenges.  We may prefer to say with the author of Psalm 139, in verses omitted from the lectionary,

Look!  those who hate you, Yahweh, have I hated,

and your challengers held in loathing.

With perfect hatred have I hated them,

they have been my foes.

–Translated by Mitchell J. Dahood (1970), verses 21 and 22

Praying for our enemies–loving them, praying for them, not about them–is truly challenging.  I do not pretend to have mastered it.

Even our enemies have the potential to repent and become agents of righteousness.  They possess spiritual gifts that, applied, can work for the common good.  Repentance remains an option.

I need, at least as much as anyone else, to remember not to write off people who work for iniquity and spew hatred.  After all, if I also spew hatred, how different and morally superior am I?

Character matters.  It is also destiny.  Others may doom themselves.  That is unfortunate, but I cannot make up their minds for them.  I can, however, make up my mind.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHN S. STAMM, BISHOP OF THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH THEN THE EVANGELICAL UNITED BRETHREN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF UMPHREY LEE, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND MINISTER OF SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY

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