Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 28’ Category

Religious Persecution IV: Endurance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Eternal God, who hast taught us that we shall life if we love thee and our neighbor:

help us to know who is our neighbor and to serve him, that we may truly love thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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1 Kings 3:3-14

Acts 28:23-31

Matthew 10:16-25

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This set of readings is interesting; the first pericope seems not to fit with the other two, at least initially.

St. Paul the Apostle ended his days under house arrest in Rome.  He was free to preach there, until he died of beheading.  His martyrdom was a form of religious persecution.

Religious persecution is recognizable.  If one, for example, risks severe penalties (such as incarceration or death), legal or informal, for attending the church of one’s choice, one suffers from religious persecution.  Many of my fellow Christians live their faith under religious persecution.  I, a citizen and resident of the United States of America, do not suffer religious persecution, fortunately; nobody interferes with my church-going.  Yet I do know of incidents of domestic terrorists burning churches or vandalizing houses of worship, often out of racism or xenophobia.  These actions constitute forms of religious persecution.  Yet legal authorities in the United States often deal with those domestic terrorists.

Wise governance can minimize, although not prevent, informal religious persecution.  Wise governance certainly prevents official religious persecution.  Yet there is no such thing as absolute freedom.  I know, for example, of some extreme cases in which child abusers have attempted to hide behind appeals to religious freedom.  However, religious freedom does not excuse domestic violence; prosecution of that offense does not constitute religious persecution.

When Christianity endures religious persecution, the faith emerges stronger for the ordeal.  The blood of the martyrs truly waters the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Of God, Kings, and an Emperor   Leave a comment

Above:  Beheading of Saint Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who hast summoned us to be doers of the Word:

grant us strength to fulfill thy commandments;

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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1 Samuel 12:6-15

Romans 15:22-29

Matthew 9:35-10:4

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St. Paul the Apostle was one of the laborers who went out to work in God’s fields, for the harvest; he focused on Gentiles.  He, writing, probably in the 50s C.E., addressed the church at Rome, a congregation he had not yet visited.  The Apostle, concerned about his safety, was planning a trip to Jerusalem, to deliver the collection for the church there.  He was also planning to visit Rome.  St. Paul arrived in that city eventually–as a prisoner.  (Read Acts 27-28.)  He died there.

St. Paul, a Roman citizen, knew who his king was; God was his king.  Unfortunately, St. Paul’s emperor as Nero.  Many of St. Paul’s ancestors in 1 Samuel 12 did not understand, however, that their only proper king was God.  The majority of them and their descendants for a number of generations disregarded God.  One kingdom became two kingdoms, both of which fell.

St. Paul, for all his vices (including arrogance and excessive querulousness), followed Jesus after the road to Damascus.  He suffered also, but for the sake of righteousness.

Ultimately, in 64 C.E., he became a martyr via beheading.  The activities of St. Paul from the road to Damascus forward changed the world for the better.

Nero, Emperor of Rome, and most of the Kings of Israel and Judah did not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Jesus and Empires   Leave a comment

Above:  Annunciation to the Shepherds, by Anonymous

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, First Service, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Glory be to thee, O God in the highest, who by the birth of thy beloved Son

has made him to be for us both Word and Sacrament:

grant that we may hear thy Word, receive thy grace,

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 40:25-31

Galatians 4:1-7

Luke 2:1-14

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Luke 2 presents the honest, objective reviewer of history and the Gospel of Luke with a text full of factual holes yet profound truth and timeless meaning.  We cannot possibly line up all the historical details–the census and all those officeholders–at the same period in the past.

There never was a census of the whole Empire under Augustus (but a number of local censuses, and the census of Judea (not of Galilee) under Quirinius, the governor of Syria, took place in AD 6, probably at least ten years too late for the birth of Jesus.

–Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1997), 233

The text of Luke 2:1-14, although factually inaccurate, is theologically true.

As Brown pointed out, the author of the Gospel of Luke, by linking the birth of Jesus to an imperial decree, introduced a divine plan that reached its culmination in Acts 28, when St. Paul the Apostle proclaimed the Gospel in Rome.  The song of the angels was for Jesus, not Augustus.  It constituted an imperial proclamation of a sort, too.

Code:  Jesus is more important than Augustus and his successors even were.

In Isaiah 40:27 exiles lament:

“My way is hid from the LORD,

my cause is ignored by God.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

It is an understandable way of thinking.  It is also one of the following verses refute.

One meaning of the Incarnation is that God does not ignore we human beings.  In contrast, God loves us enough to become one of us, alive among us, and save us.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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God Cares, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruth Swearing Her Allegiance to Naomi, by Jan Victors

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants;

and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

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Ruth 1:1, 4-9, 16-19a

Psalm 14

Acts 28:16-20, 23-34, 30-31

Luke 15:1-10

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Most English-language translations of Psalm 14, nearly identical to Psalm 53, do not do the text justice, especially in the first verse.  The “fools” are actually wicked, for example.  Furthermore, the saying that “there is no God” is not a statement of modern-style atheism.  No, it means that God does not care and is absent from the world in any meaningful way.  That misperception leads the wicked deeper into their perfidy.

God is present in the world in meaningful ways.  God also cares–deeply.  We read this in Luke 15:1-10, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  We read this also in the entire Book of Ruth.  We read of God’s concern repeatedly in the writings of St. Paul the Apostle, who ended his days in Rome.  And, if we affirm that God cares, we acknowledge that we should do the same.  If we recognize the presence of God in meaningful ways in the world, and if we are spiritually honest, we must then admit that we have an obligation to be present in the world in meaningful ways also.

These are great challenges.  They might even prove to be more than inconvenient to us.  Nevertheless, grace–the only way we can rise to this challenge–is available, fortunately.

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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The Scandal of Grace I: Christmas   1 comment

Above:  Angels Announcing Christ’s Birth to the Shepherds, by Govert Flinck

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR CHRISTMAS DAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ.

Grant that we may joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,

so we may with sure confidence behold him when comes to be our judge,

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

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 76

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Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1, 5-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 5

Galatians 4:1-7

Luke 2:1-20

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The setting of Luke 2 is troublesome within itself.  There was no such imperial census, we know from historical records, but there was a regional census in Judea (not in the Galilee) in 6 and 7 C.E., written records tell us.  Father Raymond E. Brown, in his magisterial Introduction to the New Testament, states that Luke’s account gets historical details wrong.  Brown also argues that Luke-Acts speaks of a divine plan set inside the Roman Empire.  The text of Luke-Acts contextualizes the birth of Jesus in the reign of the Emperor Augustus (Luke 2) and concludes with the arrival of St. Paul the Apostle in Rome (Acts 28).  Brown writes of the song of the angels to the shepherds.  That song, he insists, is similar to an imperial proclamation in an empire that labeled Augustus the savior of the world.  The point is plain:  Christ is greater than Augustus.

In Psalm 5 the beleaguered author (allegedly David) seeks divine deliverance from his enemies.  He, referring to the Temple, writes,

But I can enter your house

because of your great love.

–Verse 8a, The New American Bible

In Christ we have the Temple in the flesh.  This is the Temple that became flesh out of great love.

The reading from Isaiah 9 is a description of the ideal Davidic king.  One probably thinks most intensely about the ideal ruler when one’s ruler falls far short of the ideal and does not try to live up to that ideal.  Otherwise one might extol the virtues of one’s ruler instead.  In this case the ideal Davidic king, according to the standard, traditional English-language translations is, as The New Revised Standard Version (1989) states:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

–Verse 6c

Perhaps the familiar language obscures the meaning of the Hebrew text.  Consider then, O reader, the translation from TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

The Mighty God is planning grace;

The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.

–Verse 5c

This version cuts to the chase nicely; God is planning grace.  We find another example of that grace in Galatians 3 and 4.  At the end of Galatians 3 we read in a glorious and duly famous passage that, through Jesus, Gentile believers join the ranks of Jews as “sons of God,” a term that indicates being the Chosen People, as in Deuteronomy 14:1-2.  With grace, such as that which makes people “sons of God,” also comes responsibility to shed the light of God brightly.  That is fair.  Grace is free yet certainly not cheap, for it requires much of its recipients.  That is fair.

Traditional categories, such as Jews, Greeks, slaves, free people, males, and females do not divide “sons of God,” all of whom are heirs of God.  That is wonderful news!  Why, then, do so many of us maintain, magnify, and create categories for the purpose of defining ourselves as the in-crowd and other “sons of God” as outsiders?  All who do so demonstrate that they prefer psychological comfort to the scandal of grace.

Grace is scandalous.  By means of it we receive more than we deserve; so do people we dislike strongly.  We, like the author of Psalm 5, want better than we deserve yet desire the worst for our foes.  By means of grace a defenseless newborn boy is greater than Augustus Caesar.  Much is possible via grace.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Revere God and Observe His Commandments   1 comment

Above:   Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

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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Ecclesiastes 12

Psalm 144:1-8

Acts 27:39-28:10

John 12:44-50

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The sum of the matter, when all is said and done:  Revere God and observe His commandments!  For this applies to all mankind:  that God will call every creature to account for everything unknown, be it good or bad.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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God is everlasting; we are not.  God’s purpose will become reality, regardless of whether we cooperate with them.  We do have a responsibility to be servants, not enemies, of God, or even to be disinterested parties.  We are inconsequential relative to God, but what we do and do not do matters.

Divine judgment is a theme in the reading from Ecclesiastes.  The other half of the equation, of course, is mercy–in the Christian context, via Jesus.  One context in which to read scripture is other scripture.  We read of the coming of the Holy Spirit, in its role as the Advocate–literally, defense attorney–in John 14:15.  God is on our side.  Are we on God’s side?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/devotion-for-proper-28-ackerman/

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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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