Archive for the ‘Mark’ Category

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Loving God III   2 comments

Above:  The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, 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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Zechariah 10:1-7

James 4:7-12

Luke 22:54-62

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If we love God as we should, that love will translate into love for our fellow human beings.  If leaders love God as they should, that love will inform how they lead, as they seek the common good and fight against exploitation.  If we love God as we should, we will not deny God.

Yet we are weak creatures much of the time.  If we are willing, we will embrace opportunities to accept grace and to act as we ought to do.

Consider St. Simon Peter, O reader.  He denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:54-62; and John 18:15-18, 25-27).  Jesus gave St. Simon Peter three opportunities to affirm him (John 21:15-19).  The Apostle accepted.

We are weak creatures much of the time.  God knows that we are, poetically, dust.  Moral perfectionism is an unrealistic standard, but the imperative to improve is realistic.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Posted December 12, 2018 by neatnik2009 in James 4, John 18, John 21, Luke 22, Mark 14, Matthew 26, Zechariah 10

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Judgment and Mercy, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Halstead & Company, Beef & Pork Packers, Lard Refiners & Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01454

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

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 64:1-9

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 7:14-23

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The end of the Babylonian Exile, according to a portion of prophecy, was supposed to bring about paradise on Earth for returning exiles.  It did not.  Third Isaiah, after recounting some mighty acts of God in Isaiah 63, immediately asked where God was and why such mighty acts were absent.  The recorded divine response (in Isaiah 65) cataloged national sins and insisted that the divine promise remained.

God, ever an active agent, dispenses both judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment terrifies and divine mercy amazes.  The centrality of Christ, certainly a figure of mercy, also functions as a defining agent of the terms of judgment.  On one hand we have the atonement and unity in Christ.  On the other hand, however, we have those who refuse to participate in that unity, with all its moral requirements, both individual and collective.  As C. H. Dodd wrote, the Incarnation, good news, made more apparent what was already true, and those who rejected Christ were worse off for having done so.

The author of the Gospel of Mark (let us call him “Mark,” for the sake of convenience) included an aside to the reader or hearer of Chapter 7; he wrote that Jesus pronounced all foods clean.  The dating of the Markan Gospel (either shortly before or after 70 C.E., most likely) aside, that news flash about food laws did not reach many early Jewish Christians.  It also countermanded the condemnation of those who ate pork in Isaiah 64.  Moral impurity was an internal matter, Jesus said.

That principle applies both individually and collectively.  Human nature is what it is, for both good and ill.  That simple statement does not constitute an excuse for any bad behavior and improper inaction, of course.  Besides, grace is available to help us become better people, societies, families, et cetera.  We are imperfect, but we need not be shamelessly sinful and degraded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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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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Judgment and Mercy, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everliving God, who gave thy Son to be a leader and servant of men:

grant that as he entered Jerusalem to suffer and die for us,

we may enter his world, follow his example, and, by his power,

live in obedience to thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 59:14-21

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Mark 11:1-11

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In Christian tradition there are two ways of handling the Sunday prior to Easter.  One is to make it, for lack of a better term, the Reader’s Digest condensed book version of Holy Week through Good Friday.  In this practice the Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion.  The old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 follows the other option–Palm Sunday.

The imagery of God, victorious and just, in Isaiah 59, is powerful.  The passage, set amid disappointment after exiles have returned to their ancestral homeland and not found the promised paradise, follows condemnation of faithlessness and injustice earlier in the chapter.  To quote a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014),

God brings justice, which is good news for the faithful and dreadful news for everyone else.

–884

Jews living in their Roman-occupied homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  This must have been especially true at Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, and the commemoration of their independence.  Jesus looked like the victorious messianic monarch of Zechariah 9:9-17 to many people as he entered Jerusalem as part of a counter-parade–not the Roman military parade into the city.

He was not that kind of king, though, as he said.

God brings justice for the faithful.  Sometimes this entails extravagant mercy, even for the purpose of repentance  At the same time this constitutes catastrophe for others.  Why God throws the book, so to speak, at some enemies and converts others may prove to be confusing.  Yet divine judgment is superior to human judgment.

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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Proper Context   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who seest that we are prone to bring back the troubles of yesterday,

and to forecast the cares of tomorrow:

give us grace to throw off our fears and anxieties, as our Lord hath commanded;

that, this and every day, we may by kept in thy peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Jeremiah 23:1-4

Ephesians 5:1-10

Mark 10:17-22

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Personal peccadilloes are important moral issues, of course, but hopefully one does not restrict moral outrage to them.  Perhaps one thinks of certain men who committed criminal behavior related to the Watergate Scandal (1972-1974).  One may recall that some of them had few personal peccadilloes yet demonstrated a lamentable lack of public morality.  Or perhaps one ponders bad Kings of Judah (in the case of Jeremiah 23, Zedekiah), described as terrible shepherds.  Great responsibility comes with great power.

High position is no excuse for pride; it is faith and love that are everything, and these must come before all else.

–Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 6, translated by Maxwell Stanforth and Andrew Louth

The story of the pious rich man in Mark 10:17-22 reminds us not to become too attached to that which is temporary–in this case, wealth.  The call of Jesus is to follow him.  Those who respond faithfully to that call must put Jesus first and sacrifice much.  Details vary according to one’s circumstances, but the principle is universal.

Perhaps the most difficult attachments to lay down are those to intangible factors, such as ego.  Pride–hubris, actually–does go before the fall.  Often we like to define ourselves as insiders, as members of the company of God’s favored people.  Frequently we do this by wrongly defining many people as outsiders.  But what if our self-estimate is mistaken?  Admitting that may be devastating psychologically.

We need to rein in our appetites, whether for matters tangible or intangible–if we are to serve God properly.  This does not mean becoming killjoys.  No, we are correct to enjoy life and revel in blessings.  We need, however, to put everything in proper context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Kingdom of God, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Ezekiel 34:25-31

Romans 14:1-9

Mark 1:14-22

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The time has arrived; the kingdom of God is upon you.  Repent, and believe the gospel.

–Jesus, in Mark 1:14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The concept of the Kingdom of God is multifaceted.  In the New Testament it carries shades of meaning.  In at least one instance it refers to Heaven.  However, it usually indicates the earthly reign or realm of God.  Sometimes the operative Greek word indicates more of a reign than a realm, but a reign seems to imply a realm, does it not?  So, where is the Kingdom of God?  It seems rather difficult to locate, given history and current events.

More than one answer proves helpful, at least to me.  I read C. H. Dodd and learn of his perspective, Realized Eschatology.  The Kingdom of God is not nearer at one point than at another; it just seems that way from our human points of view.  Other scholars prefer to emphasize the sense in which the Kingdom of God is already present, yet not fully realized.  The Kingdom of God, at least from our human, temporal perspectives, is both present and future.

The unconditional love of God for us is free yet not cheap grace; it imposes responsibilities upon us.  We have orders to look out for each other.  Certainly the Kingdom of God, even if only partially realized, is present in such actions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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