Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 1’ Category

Faithful Community, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:   Enoch, by Theophanes the Greek

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God:  your Son Jesus promised that if he was lifted up,

he would draw all men to himself.  Draw us to him by faith,

so that we may live to serve you, and look toward life eternal;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 150

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Genesis 5:21-24

Acts 1:1-11

Luke 24:36-53

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Two of the assigned readings for the Feast of the Ascension are predictable; we read the two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus from Luke-Acts.  That is logical, given the occasion.

The reading from Genesis 5 (the assumption of Enoch) fits thematically.

I no more affirm the extremely advanced ages of people in the early chapters of Genesis than I think that Jesus literally ascended.  After all, I know that the cosmos is not three-tiered, with the Earth between the underworld and Heaven.  The story of the Ascension is correct, however, when it insists that Jesus departed bodily, however that happened.  The language of ascension functions as a prose poetry.

Genesis 5:22 tells that Enoch walked with God.  That is the mandate for every human being in every place and at every time.  Not one of us has to attempt to walk alone; God is with us.  We may experience persecution because of our walk with God, but God will remain beside us.  We may lead quiet, even prosperous lives of service; God will be with us then, too.  Circumstances beyond our control will determine much of what we will experience.

Nevertheless, acting in accordance with divine love–living the Golden Rule as nearly as humanly possible–will stir up opposition.  Ironically, many opponents will consider themselves pious followers of God.  We may even be among the opponents of those living according to the Golden Rule.  Each of us has spiritual blind spots, learned and otherwise.

May God cure us such blindness, so that we may serve Him faithfully and support each other in doing so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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So What?   Leave a comment

Above:   Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who through the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead hast given us a living hope:

keep us joyful in all our trials, and guard our faith that we may receive

the heavenly inheritance which thou hast prepared for us;

through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

or

Mighty God, who raised up Jesus from the dead:

give us such trust in thee, that all our days we may rejoice,

looking to that perfect day when we shall feast in paradise with Christ our Lord,

to whom be praise and glory evermore.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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First Service:

Isaiah 26:1-8

Colossians 3:1-4

Mark 16:1-8

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Second Service:

Daniel 3:13-125

Acts 1:1-5

Luke 24:13-32

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The original ending of the Gospel of Mark was terrified disciples fleeing the empty tomb.  Then various people composed other, uplifting conclusions.

There is something more powerful about ending Mark with 16:8.  The stark, uncertain abruptness feels real in a way with which we humans experience life frequently.  We recall hearing that we should trust God, but we are afraid.  Nobody has a moral right t belittle that feeling, which we all experience more often than we like.  God is present with us in that darkness.  Whenever we cry out to God from the depths, we may be screaming to one who, unknown to us, is actually walking beside us, and doing so without castigating us.

The Resurrection of Jesus functions on two levels in Pauline theology.  It is simultaneously a literal event and a metaphor, as in Colossians 3:1-4–death to sin and resurrection to life in Christ.

In the study of history one question every scholar needs to answer one question:

So what?

Assuming that one is accurate, so what?  When one applies this question to the Resurrection of Jesus, the best answer comes from St. Paul the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians 15:

…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins.  In addition, those who have fallen asleep in Christ are utterly lost.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are of all people the most pitiable.

–Verses 17-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is “so what.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Empowered by God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your only Son was taken up into heaven and in power intercedes for us.

May we also come into your presence and live forever in your glory;

through your 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), 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Feast of the Ascension celebrates the enthronement of Jesus as the King of Heaven.  Ascension is an ancient commemoration, one nearly universal in the Church by the 300s.  On some calendars it falls on a Thursday, on the fortieth day of Easter, to be precise.  On other calendars it transfers to the following Sunday.  On still other calendars Ascension is absent, thrown out with the proverbial bath water of Roman Catholic tradition.

For many the rejection of tradition has become a tradition.

The departure of Jesus from this realm placed a great responsibility on the surviving Apostles, whose number did not yet include St. Matthias.  They were to have divine assistance, however.  So they did.  The Apostles’ responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus has passed to we Christians of today.  Fortunately, God’s assistance in fulfilling this mission has never ceased.

People have different abilities and personality types.  I, for example, am an introvert.  People who knock on my door with the intention of converting me always fail.  One reason is that I dislike that interruption when I am at home.  Annoying me is a bad first step.  Besides, I have always been uncomfortable while engaging in excessively extroverted activities for too long.  I will not, therefore, knock on anyone’s door with the intention of evangelizing him or her, but I feel at ease sitting at a computer keyboard.  What I do there can reach people I will never get to meet anyway.  There are many useful roles for introverts in the Church.

Whatever God is calling you, O reader, to do, God also empower you to do.  May you do it, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-ascension-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Resurrected Lives, Part II   1 comment

Above:  St. Matthias

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:

Acts 1:12-26

Psalm 16:5-11

1 Peter 1:3-9, 14-25

Matthew 28:11-20

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Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart….

–1 Peter 1:22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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As one’s soul rejoices in God, who resurrected Jesus, who has issued the Great Commission, one requires guidance in how to follow Christ.  Certain rules are specific to times and places, but principles are timeless.  In 1 Peter 1:22 and elsewhere the germane principle is genuine love for God and others.  Love of the unconditional and self-sacrificial variety, we read in 1 Corinthians 13, prioritizes others and is not puffed up.  Such love builds up others.

This is a high standard; each of us falls short of it.  By grace we can succeed some of the time, however.  Furthermore, we can strive for agape love more often than we act on it.  We need not attempt moral perfection, which is impossible, but we must seek to do as well as possible, by grace.  We are imperfect; God knows that.  Yet we can improve.

The surviving Apostles regrouped and restored their number to twelve.  They selected St. Matthias to fill the vacancy the death of Judas Iscariot had created.  St. Matthias became a martyr; he loved God to the point of dying for the faith.  We might not have to make the choice, but we still owe God everything.

Grace is always free yet never cheap.  In the wake of Easter it demands that we who accept it lead resurrected lives defined by love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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Christ, Ascended   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION AND ASCENSION SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended

far above the heavens, that he might fill all things:

Mercifully give us faith to perceive that according to his promise

he abides with his Church on earth, even to the ends of the world;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 122

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Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 8 (Ascension Day)

Psalm 29 (Ascension Sunday)

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:6-11) is one of those events I file under “You Had to Be There.”  I read the account (not assigned for these occasions, oddly enough) of it as prose poetry.  I do not assume, after all, that Heaven (as God’s abode) is on the other side of the sky and that the cosmos has three tiers, the middle level of which is the Earth.  What I do take literally is that Jesus was physically present at the beginning of the day and gone by the end of that day.  I also notice that the importance of the departure of Jesus for the Apostles was that they had they had to assume their responsibility, with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

The assigned readings, taken together, emphasize the sovereignty of God.  The lesson from Daniel 7 is part of a longer passage.  In a dream are four mighty beasts, representing, in order, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the empire of Alexander the Great.  From the latter arise ten horns, representing Seleucid successors of Alexander.  One of these horns is the arrogant and violent Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  “One like a Son of Man,” a heavenly being often identified in Jewish tradition as Michael the Archangel, crushes Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

We know from the passage of time that events did not unfold that way; history did not culminate in the Hasmonean period.  We can, however, affirm the sovereignty of God, a theme prevalent in Psalms 8 and 29 also.  The sovereignty of God is also evident in the resurrection of Jesus.

Various Christian traditions emphasize different aspects of the life of Christ.  Anglicanism, with its incarnational theology, is the church of Christmas.  Roman Catholicism, with its ubiquitous crucifixes, fixates on Good Friday.  The Jesus of Eastern Orthodoxy is the ascended and glorified Jesus in Heaven, as their iconography indicates.  Each emphasis has its virtues, but the ascended and glorified Christ is the version of Jesus to ponder on the Feast of the Ascension.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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

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Esther II: Heroes and Villains   1 comment

Mordecai and Haman

Above:  Mordecai and Haman

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:19-3:6

Psalm 138

Acts 1:15-20

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I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy;

your promises surpass even your fame.

–Psalm 138:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The plot thickens in Esther 2 and 3.  Mordecai thwarts an assassination plot against King Ahasuerus.  The two eunuchs who plotted to kill the monarch die after Mordecai alerts Ahasuerus via Queen Esther.  The loyal courtier receives no reward immediately; he must wait until Chapter 6 for Ahasuerus to think about doing that.  Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, who receives a promotion for no apparent reason and who seeks to destroy not just Mordecai but all Jews in the Persian Empire.

The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow down is unclear in the Hebrew text.  However, in Chapter C, as The New American Bible labels it, Mordecai explains in a prayer that he bows only to God.  This is consistent with a later rabbinical interpretation.  The germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) mention that argument yet prefers a different explanation, that Mordecai refused to honor an enemy of the Jews.  Those notes also argue that, in the Hebrew Bible, bowing to a human superior is permissible, as in Genesis 23:7; Genesis 43:28; Exodus 18:7; and 1 Kings 1:23.  Another interpretation from Jewish tradition is that, if Haman were wearing an idol on his chest, Mordecai would have bowed refused to bow to the object.

In the Acts of the Apostles the eleven surviving Apostles completed their number (twelve) by choosing one of the outer circle of 70 (or 72, depending on the translation) to replace the recently deceased Judas Iscariot.  They select St. Matthias, of whom we know little.  According to tradition he was a faithful evangelist who brought much glory to God and many people to salvation before becoming a martyr.

The main characters in the readings for today are Mordecai, Haman, and St. Matthias.  Haman seeks to glorify himself and harm others, Mordecai to glorify God and do his duty, and St. Matthias to glorify God, regardless of the cost to himself.  Two of the three died violently, one as a villain and the other as a martyr.

May we pursue righteousness, as demonstrated in the characters of Mordecai and St. Matthias and manifested by love of God and our fellow human beings, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Ascension of Jesus as Theological Poetry   1 comment

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Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

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The Collects:

Almighty God, your Son was taken into the heavens

and in your presence intercedes for us.

Receive us and our prayers for all the world,

and in the end bring everything into your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things.

Mercifully give us faith to trust that, as he promised,

he abides with us on earth to the end of time,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47 or 93

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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Some Related Posts:

Acts 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-day-of-easter-year-b/

Ephesians 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-23-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 24:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-eighth-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon heaven’s holy throne.

–Psalm 47:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

–Psalm 93:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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I file the Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus in the same category:

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately.

Something like what accounts describe happened, but one had to be there to grasp the full flavor of the event.  The words we have–the best ones possible–impart tantalizing hints of that full reality.  Thus may we not be so literal-minded as to discourage healthy religious imagination.

In the Ascension Jesus returned to God, assumed in our Lord’s culture to live above the sky.  Thus his return was metaphorically an ascension.  I have no idea how the actual mechanics worked, but they are unimportant anyway.  The mystery of clouds, long associated with God since at least the Book of Exodus, is beautiful; I have no desire to quench it.  The number forty–also a metaphor–recalls forty days of the Great Flood in Genesis, forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, about forty years of King David’s reign, forty years in a generation, et cetera.  The number indicates a significant period of time, not necessarily more than thirty-nine and less than forty-one.

The Ascension accounts invite us to think like poets, not writers of historical accounts or technical manuals.  They tell us that Jesus is back in Heaven and that he will return someday.  They set the stage for another event in the

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately

category:  Pentecost.  They tell us that God is with us spiritually yet not physically, as God once was, and indicate that we have great responsibilities.

May we be good and faithful servants of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/devotion-for-the-fortieth-day-of-easter-the-feast-of-the-ascension-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 1, Ephesians 1, Luke 24, Psalm 47, Psalm 93

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