Archive for the ‘Luke 7’ Category

Two Banquets, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Simon, by Dieric Bouts

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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O Lord, who never failest to help and govern those

whom thou dost bring up in thy steadfast fear and love;

make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 186

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Proverbs 9:1-11

Psalms 11 and 12

1 John 3:13-18

Luke 7:36-50

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To correct a scoffer,

or rebuke a wicked man for his blemish,

Is to call down abuse on oneself.

Do not rebuke a scoffer, for he will hate you;

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

–Proverbs 9:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Jesus disregarded that advice, did he not?

Anyway, Lady Wisdom (contrasted with Lady Folly in Proverbs 9) was a fine hostess.  Simon the Pharisee was a bad host in Luke 7.  The woman in in Luke, 7, like the Psalmist(s) in Psalms 11 and 12, knew to whom to turn.  She was so grateful that she did not care what other people thought of her.  She knew and accepted her need for God.  She knew and accepted her need for forgiveness.  Therein resided her liberation from her former life.

Give up simpleness and live,

Walk in the say of understanding.

–Proverbs 9:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Love must be active if it is to be genuine.  This is a teaching from 1 John 3, among other sources.  In the context of 1 John 3, this is love in faith community.  This is a lesson Simon the Pharisee had yet to learn.

This is a lesson of which most of us need reminders.  Some of us require more reminders than others.  All of us fall short of the high standards Jesus has modeled for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARBER LIGHTFOOT, BISHOP OF DURHAM

THE FEAST OF HENRI PERRIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC WORKER PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GLOUCESTER, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 655; AND SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR, 662

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROLANDO RIVI, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1945

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Sin and Its Consequences   1 comment

Above:  Gideon

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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Judges 6:11-24 or Jeremiah 2:4-13

Psalm 89:1-4, 24-33

Romans 1:16-32

Luke 7:36-50

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Sin, or rebellion against God, leads to consequences.  To “miss the mark,” literally, is to fail God and our fellow human beings spiritually and morally.  Consequences are inevitable.  Yet may we avoid the error of mistaking consequences of sin for God proverbially sending a thunderbolt one’s way.  May we not blame God when we should hold ourselves accountable.

We–collectively and individually–have moral and spiritual blind spots.  We learn many of them from other people and develop or find other blind spots independently.

The old Presbyterian Church in the United States (the “Southern Presbyterian Church”) summarized our collective quandary well in its Brief Statement of Belief (1962).  It read, in part:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

As we (as in Judges) play our cycles of sin, consequences, repentance, and deliverance, we do not learn our collective and individual lessons.  If we did, we would not repeat the cycle.

The contrast between God and human beings is stark.  As we read in the Confession of 1967 (The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.):

The reconciling act of God in Jesus Christ exposes the evil in men as sin in the sight of God.  In sin men claim mastery of their own lives, turn against God and their fellow men, and became exploiters and despoilers of the world.  They lose their humanity in futile striving and are left in rebellion, despair and isolation.

May we accept God’s offer to deliver us from the tyranny of sin in ourselves and in the world.  May we, by grace, repeat the cycle fewer times than we would otherwise.  And may we not be self-righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARBER LIGHTFOOT, BISHOP OF DURHAM

THE FEAST OF HENRI PERRIN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC WORKER PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GLOUCESTER, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 655; AND SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR, 662

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROLANDO RIVI, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1945

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/devotion-for-proper-9-year-c-humes/

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God and Mammon   Leave a comment

Above:  $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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O 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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Deuteronomy 6:1-15

Psalms 1 and 15

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 7:19-35

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The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A. Thank you very much.

–Gordon Gecko, Wall Street (1987)

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The readings this week are about behavior, which is about attitudes.  Revere God.  Revere only God.  Obey divine commandment reverently.  Remember that, contrary to what Gordon Gecko said in Wall Street (1987), greed is not good.  Do not give into hubris, which goes before the fall.

The love of money is the root of all evil, and in pursuit of it some have wandered from the faith and spiked themselves on many a painful thorn.

–1 Timothy 6:10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Psychological research reveals that, to a certain extent, more money can reduce stress and increase happiness by improving one’s quality of life.  When one can pay all one’s bills, afford all of one’s necessities, and reduce or eliminate debt, one feels better, of course.  However, past a certain financial threshold, more money does not increase one’s happiness.  In fact, in cases of extreme wealth, more money may decrease happiness and increase stress.

Money is a morally neutral tool.  It is also worth what consensus decrees it is worth.  Money is psychological.  The moral aspects of money pertain to (1) how one uses it, and (2) how one relates to it.  Money is one of the more common idols.

Revere only God, we read.  Trust and obey God, we read.  God is faithful.  Are we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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God’s Surprises III   1 comment

Above:  Jael and Sisera, by Jacopo Amigoni

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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Judges 4:1-9, 15-21 or Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 84

Romans 1:1-15

Luke 7:18-35

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Four of the five assigned readings contain surprises.

  1. Not only did Sisera die at the hands of a woman–a woman!–but she was Jael, not Deborah, a prophetess.
  2. Jeremiah thought he was too young for the vocation God had assigned him.  Youth and inexperience proved to be irrelevant, for God qualified the called.
  3. Much to the shock and dismay of many, St. Paul the Apostle had a mission to the Gentiles.  That vocation would have shocked Saul of Tarsus.
  4. St. John the Baptist had identified Jesus as the one to follow, as the Lamb of God.  Yet even he, languishing in one of Herod Antipas’s prison cells, had doubts.  The proof of Jesus’ pudding, so to speak, was in the surprising results he produced.  A prisoner having doubts was not surprising, though.

As our flesh and hearts cry out for God and seek evermore to dwell in the courts of the divine, may we, by grace, avoid the trap of functional fixation.  May we not be oblivious to divine surprises.  May our piety not become a spiritual obstacle.  May we avoid the erroneous assumption that God fits into our categories.  May we recognize and delight in God’s surprises.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/12/devotion-for-proper-8-year-c-humes/

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To Glorify and Enjoy God II   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

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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2 Chronicles 36:11-23 or Joshua 24:1-7, 13-25

Psalm 83:1-5, 13-18

Ephesians 6:11-24

Luke 7:1-17

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One should serve God, of course.  Not trying to do so is mainly unacceptable.  Yet trying to do so does not guarantee succeeding in doing so; one can be sincerely wrong.  The history of religion is replete with those who have committed evils while laboring under the impression they were serving God.  So is the present state of religion.

We are morally responsible for and to each other.  Saying and writing that sentence is easy.  Understanding how it properly translates into attitudes and actions in various contexts can prove very challenging, though.

Praying is a good start, of course.  Yet we must distinguish between a dialogue and an internal monologue if we are to know the difference between God and what we want to hear.

God’s choice of human instruments may surprise us, as may the number of “others” who are among the faithful.  We humans tend to prefer neat, orderly categories, such as “insiders” and “outsiders.”  But what if we, who think ourselves as insiders, are really outsiders?  I tell people sometimes that the lists of people who are in Heaven and who are not there would astound and scandalize us if we could see them.

Grace is astounding, is it not?  It is free yet not cheap.  Likewise, judgment and mercy exist in context of each other; they are in balance God knows what that balance is.  So be it.

May we, by grace, succeed is serving God, in glorifying and enjoying God in the moment and forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/devotion-for-proper-7-year-c-humes/

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Forgiveness, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Simon, by Dieric Bouts

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord Jesus, who art the same yesterday, today, and forever:

strengthen our weak resolve, that we may remain faithful in all the changes of this life

and, at the last, enter the joy of thy kingdom.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 55:1-13

1 John 2:1-17

Luke 7:36-50

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The readings from Isaiah 55 and 1 John 2 are consistent with St. Augustine of Hippo‘s definition of sin–disordered love.  To love something one should not love is a form of disordered love.  If, however, something is worthy of love, but one loves it too much, one manifests another form of disordered love, which takes love away from God, and, therefore, constitutes idolatry.

There was no question of the full love of the sinful woman in Luke 9:36-50.  She (not St. Mary Magdalene–named in Luke 8:2 in a positive light–despite centuries of erroneous tradition) loved Jesus so much she did not care how foolish she looked.  She loved him extravagantly.  She loved him so much she did not care about violating social conventions.  Her love for Jesus was not disordered.  Perhaps the main spiritual difference between her and Simon the Pharisee, the host of our Lord and Savior that day, was that she understood how much she needed forgiveness.  She was, therefore, grateful to receive it.

When one is experiencing spiritual darkness, the light of grace, always present, seems brighter than at other times.  The sense of God’s presence and grace can reduce one to tears as one feels one’s unworthiness powerfully.  I know this firsthand.  Perhaps you do, also, O reader.

My need for forgiveness is on my mind daily.  Sometimes I sin before I get out of bed.  On other occasions, I begin my daily sinning after getting out of bed.  I make no pretenses of being a spiritual giant or master, but I do try to refocus myself throughout each day.  The divine call to come to the water and drink beckons me.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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Extravagant Kindness   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Simon, by Dieric Bouts

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, we ask you, let your continual pity cleanse and defend your Church;

and, because it cannot continue in safety without your succor,

preserve it evermore by your help and goodness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 140

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2 Kings 17:5-14, 18-23

Psalm 25

Philippians 4:4-9, 19-20

Mark 14:3-9

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The reading from 2 Kings, in conjunction with Psalm 25, extols the virtues of obeying God.  2 Kings 16 contains a clear statement of consequences of not doing so consistently, though.  That theme is also present in Psalm 25, but not at such length.

Many of those divine commandments boil down to human kindness.  Philippians 4:5 states the matter simply:

Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The anointing of Jesus is one of the stories that we find in one version or another in each canonical Gospel.  We have it in Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8.  Despite variations from one account to the others, the element of kindness is constant.  The woman’s extravagant kindness is a timeless lesson.

Given how extravagant many people are in the pursuit of boosting their egos and advancing their social status, frequently at the expense of others, certainly seeming to go overboard to show kindness cannot be a vice, can it?  I would rather err on the side of compassion rather than on the side of its opposite.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Salvation, Past, Present, and Future   1 comment

christ-exorcising-the-gerasene-demoniac

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 10:33-36

Deuteronomy 10:11-12:1

Judges 5:1-31

Song of Songs 4:9-5:16

Isaiah 26:1-21

Psalms 7; 17; 44; 57 or 108; 119:145-176; 149

Matthew 7:1-23

Luke 7:36-8:3

Matthew 27:62-66

1 Corinthians 15:27-34 (35-38) 39-41 (42-58)

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In Luke 7:38 the former Gerasene demoniac, recently healed by Jesus, seeks to follow Jesus physically.  Our Lord and Savior has other plans, however.  He sends the man away with these instructions:

Go back home and report all that God has done for you.

–Luke 7:39a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The text informs us that the man obeyed Jesus.

The theme of the Great Vigil of Easter, as evident in assigned readings, is salvation history.  In Hebrew thought God is like what God has done–for groups as well as individuals.  The responsibility of those whom God has blessed is to proclaim by words and deeds what God has done–to function as vehicles of grace and to glorify God.  Salvation history is important to understand.  So is knowing that salvation is an ongoing process.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-year-d/

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Good Liturgy and the Covenant Written on Our Hearts   1 comment

John the Baptist in Prison

Above:  John the Baptist in Prison, by Josef Anton Hafner

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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Exodus 25:1-40

Psalm 73

Matthew 11:1 (2-11) 12-15 (16-19) 20-24 (25-30) or Luke 7:18-35

Hebrews 8:1-13

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But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

to tell of all your works.

–Psalm 73:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Hebrews 8 speaks of an internalized covenant, the law written on human hearts.  This is an echo of Jeremiah 31:31-34.  It is a covenant not written on the hearts of certain Pharisees and scribes in Luke 7.  When one reads the entirety of Luke 7 one realizes that the Pharisees and scribes in question were guilty of obsessing over minor details while twisting the law to accept financial donations that impoverished innocent third parties.  Thus these particular religious people were guilty of violating the principle of the Law of Moses that prohibits economic exploitation.  One also learns that a Gentile woman had the covenant written on her heart.  Likewise, those who criticized St. John the Baptist for his asceticism and Jesus for eating and drinking were seeking excuses to condemn others.  They did not have the covenant written on their hearts.

There is no fault in maintaining sacred spaces and beautiful rituals.  We mere mortals need sacred spaces that differ from other spaces and rituals that inspire our souls.  Good liturgy should make us better people.  It if does not, the fault is with us.  May it inspire us to recognize and serve God in each other.  May good liturgy, in conjunction with the covenant written on our hearts, help us find ways to act as effectively on divine principles, for the maximum benefit to others and the greatest possible glory to God.  May we refrain from carping language that tears others down and seek ways to build them up, for we are stronger together in the body of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-christmas-year-d/

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Authority and Grace   1 comment

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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