Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 22’ Category

The First Christian Martyr   1 comment

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The readings for the Feast of St. Stephen remind us of the grim reality that suffering for the sake of righteousness is frequently a risk.  We read of one of the many difficulties of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke truth to power when that power was dependent upon hostile foreigners.  The historical record tells us that the Pharaoh of Egypt chose both the King of Judah and his regnal name, Jehoiakim.  Matthew 23, set in the Passion Narrative, reminds us of some of the prophets and teachers, whom God had sent and authorities at Jerusalem had martyred.  Contrary to the wishes of the author of Psalm 31, God does not always deliver the faithful from enemy hands.

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, was probably a Hellenized Jew.  As a deacon, his job in the Church was, in the words of Acts 6:2,

to wait on tables.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The deacons were to provide social services while the Apostles preached and taught.  St. Stephen also debated and preached, however.  His speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) led to his execution (without a trial) by stoning.  St. Stephen, like Jesus before him, prayed for God to forgive his executioners (Acts 7:60), who, in their minds, were correct to execute him for blasphemy, a capital offense in the Law of Moses.  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, was prominent in the killing of St. Stephen.  The Apostle recalled the death of St. Stephen and his role in it in Acts 22:20.

Religion, by itself, is generally morally neutral; one can be a moral atheist just as easily as one can be a moral or immoral adherent.  Good religion and bad religion certainly exist.  The test, in moral terms, yet not theological ones, is what kind of adherents they create and nurture.  Regardless of the name of a religion or the content of its tenets, does the reality of living it make one a loving, merciful human being or a judgmental person who might be quick to execute dissenters or consent to that?  This question is always a relevant one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen,

who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ,

who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 31 or 31:1-15

Acts 6:8-7:2a; 51c-60

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 139

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/second-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

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Troublemakers   1 comment

Judah and Tamar--School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (Thursday)

Genesis 38:1-26 (Friday)

Psalm 17 (Both Days)

Acts 22:22-23:11 (Thursday)

Acts 24:10-23 (Friday)

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Let my vindication come forth from your presence,

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

–Psalm 17:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Genesis 38 serves several functions.  One is to mark the passage of time between Genesis 37 and 39.  Another is to make people squirm.  What should one make of a story in which Tamar, the heroine, the wronged woman denied what was due her according to levirate marriage (described in Deuteronomy 25), had to resort to posing as a pagan temple prostitute to seduce her father-in-law to get the child(ren) she deserved, according to social customs meant to protect childless widows?  Due to problems with her first husband’s brothers the duty fell to Judah, her father-in-law.

I remember that, in 1996, at Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley in Appling County, Georgia, an adult Sunday School class read the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  One Sunday that summer the time came to ponder Chapter 38.  The leader of the class skipped to Genesis 39, for he found the contents to be too hot a potato, so to speak.

The story of Judah and Tamar continues to make many readers of the Hebrew Bible uncomfortable.  Tamar remains a troublemaker of sorts, long after her death.  Perhaps modern readers who struggle with the tale should think less about our comfort levels and more about the lengths to which certain people need to go to secure basic needs.

St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble (again) in Acts 21.  The trumped-up charge boiled down to him being a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace.  As Tertullus, the attorney for chief priest Ananias and Temple elders argued before Felix, the governor:

We found this man to be a pest, a fomenter of discord among the Jews all over the world, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He made an attempt to profane the temple and we arrested him.

–Acts 24:5-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Were not those who plotted and attempted to kill St. Paul the real troublemakers?  He planned or committed no violence toward those with whom he disagreed.  The Apostle knew how to employ strong language, but he avoided resorting to violence after his conversion.

How we deal with alleged troublemakers reveals much about our character.  What, then, does this standard reveal about your character, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-27-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Ego and Humility   1 comment

Apostle Paul

Above:   The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life,

in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 14:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 14:12-24 (Friday)

2 Samuel 14:25-33 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

Acts 22:6-21 (Thursday)

Acts 26:1-11 (Friday)

Matthew 9:2-8 (Saturday)

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To you, Yahweh, I call,

to my God I cry for mercy.

–Psalm 30:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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We read of forgiveness in the lections from the New Testament.  Saul of Tarsus receives forgiveness and a new mandate from God.  (Grace is free yet not cheap.)  Jesus forgives a man’s sins during a healing in Matthew 9.  Critics who are present think that our Lord and Savior is committing blasphemy, for their orthodoxy makes no room for Jesus.  The healed man becomes a former paralytic, but Christ’s critics suffer from spiritual paralysis.

The language of 2 Samuel 14 indicates that King David has not reconciled with his son Absalom, who had killed his (Absalom’s) half-brother, Amnon, who had raped his (Absalom’s) sister, Tamar, in the previous chapter before he (Absalom) had gone into exile.  The entire incident of pseudo-reconciliation had been for the benefit of Joab.  The false reconciliation proved to be as useless as false grace, for Absalom, back from exile, was plotting a rebellion, which he launched in the next chapter.

The juxtaposition of Saul of Tarsus/St. Paul the Apostle, the paralyzed man, and Absalom is interesting and helpful.  Both Saul/Paul and Absalom had egos, but the former struggled with his self-image as he made a pilgrimage with Jesus.  Absalom, in contrast, did not strive to contain his ego.  No, he permitted it to control him.  We know little about the paralyzed man, but we may assume safely that a runaway ego was not among his problems.

If we are to walk humbly with God, we must contextualize ourselves relative to God.  We are, in comparison, but dust, and God is the proper grounding for human identity.  Proper actions will flow from appropriate attitudes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASIMIR OF POLAND, PRINCE

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-5-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part V: Hindsight   1 comment

sanhedrin

Above:  The Sanhedrin

1 Samuel and Acts, Part V:  Hindsight

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2013

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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 everlasting 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:

1 Samuel 12:1-25

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Acts 22:30-23:11

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A Related Post:

Acts 22-23:

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

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Courage!  You have borne witness to me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.

–Acts 23:11b, The New Jerusalem Bible

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We humans write of the past through the lens of hindsight.  How can we not?  No matter how accurate our retelling of previous events might be, the prism of current and recent events shapes our narratives.  How can this not be true?  ”Luke,” author of Luke-Acts, wrote decades after Paul’s death.  And Samuel’s farewell discourse lived in oral tradition before it entered the first phase of written transmission.  By the time it arrived in its current form and literary context Jews were returning from the Babylonian Exile.  The response of many such Jews at the time must have been something like:

That was when our nation took its terminal wrong turn.  And we are living with the consequences of our ancestors’ actions!

Another consistent thread running through 1 Samuel and Acts is one of faithfulness to God.  Samuel and Paul spoke the truth as they understood it until the end.  Sometimes people listened.  Many of those people were violently hostile.  At Samuel’s end people agreed that he was honest yet disregarded his warnings against an absolute monarchy.  Hindsight has vindicated both men.  May we of today draw courage from their examples and bear faithful witness to God where we are and where God will send us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRANCISCANS

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/devotion-for-july-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part IV: Positive and Negative Identity   1 comment

crown

Above:  A Crown

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010001379/PP/)

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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 everlasting 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:

1 Samuel 8:1-22 (July 24)

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (July 25)

1 Samuel 10:1-27 (July 26)

Psalm 15 (Morning–July 24)

Psalm 36 (Morning–July 25)

Psalm 130 (Morning–July 26)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–July 24)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–July 25)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–July 26)

Acts 21:15-36 (July 24)

Acts 21:37-22:16 (July 25)

Acts 22:17-29 (July 26)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 8-10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/week-of-3-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/proper-5-year-b/

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Central to the narrative of 1 Samuel 8-10 is the idea that Israelites were properly different from other nations.  Their neighbors had human kings yet the Israelites had God as monarch; “judges,” or chieftains, provided human governance.  So the demand for a human king constituted a rejection of God.  The people got what they requested, although the beginning of Saul’s reign was promising.  In the long term, however, monarchy turned out as Samuel predicted it would.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the other, dark side of not being like other nations:  It can become a matter of hubris, that which goeth before the fall.  Paul worked among Gentiles, to whom he did not apply the Law of Moses.  Yet, contrary to rumor, he did not tell Jews to disobey that code, in particular relative to circumcision.  But objective reality did not prevent him from getting into trouble.

I propose that an element crucial to understanding the theme of being different is considering that the Jews were a minority population, heirs of a monotheistic tradition in a sea of polytheism.  How a member of a minority identifies oneself flows from that minority status.  So a certain element of negative identity (“I am not a/an _______.”) is inevitable.  But positive identity (“I am a/an ________.”) is preferable.

I, as a nonconformist, often by who the fact of who I am and frequently by choice, understand both forms of identity.   I am usually clueless regarding many popular culture-related topics of conversations, for

  1. I have other interests, and
  2. I choose not not to consume most popular media.  The “join the bandwagon” advertising approach has less of an effect on me than on many other people.  I tend to turn away unless I am already interested.

My favorite Fifties music comes from the 1750s and the 1850s, from the European classical tradition, unless one speaks of certain jazz of the 1950s.  I am an unapologetic musical snob; somebody has to be.  And, if many people go out of the way to be like others and to subsume their identities into the collective, somebody has to go out of his or her way to stand out.

But none of that justifies spreading rumors, threatening innocent people with violence, and rejecting God.  None of that makes right writing off most of the human race and contenting oneself with a “God-and-me” relationship.

Speaking of positive identity, each of us, regardless of labels, background, and circumstances, can claim one status with honesty:

I am a bearer of the image of God.

May we think of each other and ourselves accordingly.  As we think so we act and are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/devotion-for-july-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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