Archive for the ‘Matthew 13’ Category

Good News and Bad News, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Net

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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1 Kings 3:5-12

Psalm 119:129-136

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

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O God, your ears are always open to the prayers of your servants. 

Open our hearts and minds to you,

that we may live in harmony with your will

and receive the gifts of your Spirit;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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O God, the Protector of all who trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy,

increase and multiply your mercy on us,

that with you as our Ruler and Guide,

we may so pass through things temporal,

that we lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 71

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Redeem me from human oppression….

–Psalm 119:134a, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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Good news and bad news come together.

  1. The reading from 1 Kings 3 marinates in hindsight and the wasted potential of King Solomon, who had come to power like Michael Corleone, settling disputes with murder.  One may reasonably speculate that King Solomon had already cast his die before 1 Kings 3.  Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, to quote a cliché.
  2. We read a portion of Psalm 119, in which the author extols God’s commandments in the context of human oppression.
  3. Single Predestination (Romans 8:28-30) is to Heaven.  Those not so predestined have the witness of the Holy Spirit available to them.
  4. We read that, at the end of the age, the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for the wicked.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

I paid little attention to predestination when I was a Methodist.  My theology has shifted, however, into Anglican-Lutheranism, which includes Single Predestination.  After growing up ignoring passages such as Romans 8:28-30, I have embraced them.

The good news of Single Predestination, paired with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is grace.  Those predestined receive one form of grace.  Those not predestined receive another form of grace.  Their free will to accept or reject the witness of the Holy Spirit exists because of grace.  Everything boils down to grace.

We human beings do not have to earn everything.  We cannot earn grace.  If we accept it, we also accept its demands on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Good news and bad news come together.  We mere mortals make our bad news and some of our good news.  God brings us good news.  Are we receptive to it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYL0R

JUNE 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER. POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND CONVERT IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1896

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Trust in God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 44:1-8

Psalm 86:11-17 (LBW) or Psalm 119:57-64 (LW)

Romans 8:26-27

Matthew 13:24-30 (36-43)

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Pour out upon us, O Lord,

the spirit to think and to do what is right,

that we, who cannot even exist without you,

may have the strength to live according to your will;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

OR

O God, you see how busy we are with many things. 

Turn us to listen to your teachings

and lead us to choose the one thing which will not be taken from us,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Grant us, Lord, the Spirit to think

and to do always such things as are pleasing in your sight,

that we, who without you cannot do anything that is good,

may by you be enabled to live according to your will;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 70

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Second Isaiah’s insistence upon strict monotheism is consistent with Psalmists’ trust in God, especially during difficult times.  St. Paul the Apostle’s encouraging words tell us that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness and intercedes for us.

I have been writing lectionary-based posts for more than a decade.  In that time, I have covered the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) a few times.

All these posts are available at this weblog.

To turn to the topic at hand, trust in God is a theme in the Parable of the Weeds.  We may trust God to remove the darnel.  If we are fortunate, we are not poisonous weeds.  If we are unfortunate, we are darnel, and God will remove us in time.

All the readings speak of trust in God during perilous times.  Romans 8:26-27 exists in the context of what precedes it immediately:  suffering and hardship as birth pangs of a renewed creation.  Isaiah 44:6-8 exists in the context of the waning months of the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 86 speaks of

a brutal gang hounding me to death

–verse 14, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Matthew 13 refers to poisonous weeds that initially resemble wheat in the Parable of the Weeds.  Who is wheat and who is darnel may not always be possible or easy to tell.  (I do know, however, that I habitually fail doctrinal purity tests.  Many people classify me as darnel.  So be it.)  Given the outward similarity of wheat and darnel, whom should one trust?  And, as we read in Psalm 11i:61,

…the nets of the wicked ensnare me.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Fortunately, we are not alone.  The Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness and intercedes for us.  Do we trust that this is true?  Do we trust in God?

I can answer only for myself.  My answer to this question is,

Yes, usually.

What is your answer, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL BARNETT, ANGLICAN CANON OF WESTMINSTER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER; AND HIS WIFE, HENRIETTA BARNETT, SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SAINT SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post

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The Renewal of All Things   1 comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65

Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

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Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. 

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it,

and grow in faith and hope and love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

Lord God, use our lives to touch the world with your love. 

Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbors to those in need,

serving them with willing hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O almighty and most merciful God,

of your bountiful goodness keep us, we pray,

from all things that may hurt us that we,

being ready in both body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish whatever things you want done;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 69

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When reading the assigned lessons in preparation for drafting a post, I often notice that one lesson is an outlier.  Today I choose to focus on the outlier.  The theme of God sowing, complete with the Matthean version of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils, is a topic about which I have written and posted more than once.  You, O reader, may access my analysis of that parable by following the germane tags attached to this post.  I also refer you to this post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

Romans 8:18-25 flows from what precedes it immediately:  Christians are heirs–sons, literally–of God, through Jesus, the Son of God.  The gendered language is a reflection of St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, in which sons, not daughters, inherited.  As “sons of God,” we Christians bear witness with the Holy Spirit that we are members of the household of God.

Literally, Christians are “sons of God” or have received the “spirit of sonship” in verses 14, 15, and 23.  We are “children of God” in verses 16, 17, and 21, though.  (I checked the Greek texts.)  These distinctions are obvious in translations that do not neuter the Greek text.  I check genders (male, female, and neuter) via the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002).  My historical training tells me that before I can interpret a document in context, I must know what the document says.

Romans 8:18-30, from which we extract 8:18-25, tells of the renewal of all things.  In the midst of suffering, the future glory of the human race in God still awaits.  The renewal of creation itself awaits.  The sufferings are birth pangs.  Meanwhile, Christians must wait with patience and expectation.

For obvious reasons, I leave comments about birth pangs to women who have given birth.

St. Paul the Apostle understood suffering for Christ.  St. Paul the Apostle mustered optimism in dark times, by grace.  This has always astounded me.  I, having endured suffering less severe than that of St. Paul the Apostle, have found depression and pessimism instead.

I write this post during dark times for the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.  Authoritarian forces endanger representative governments around the world.  Polarization has increased to the point that opposite camps have their own facts.  (Objective reality be damned!)  I have found more causes for depression and pessimism than for optimism.

Yet St. Paul the Apostle, speaking to us down the corridors of time, tells us that these are birth pangs of a better world.  I hope that is correct.  I pray that these are not birth pangs of a dystopia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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Adapted from this post

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This is post #2750 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast   Leave a comment

Above: The Parable of the Mustard Seed, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXIV

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Luke 13:18-21

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The Parable of the Mustard Seed exists also in Matthew 13:31-32 and Mark 4:30-32.  Given that this is a series about Luke-Acts, I focus on the version in Luke 13:18-19.  This version of the parable omits any reference to the size of a mustard seed and focuses on the mustard plant providing shelter for the birds of the air.

A mustard plant is a large weed between eight and nine feet tall.  Yet between 725 to 760 mustard seeds make a gram.  Yet Luke 13:18-19 dos not comment on the relative sizes of a mustard seed and a mustard plant.

The mustard plant seems like an improbable image for the Kingdom of God.  A Cedar of Lebanon–majestic and beautiful–seems more likely.  Yet we have a mustard plant instead.  The mustard seed stands for the ministry of Jesus.  The mustard plant symbolizes the final manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

The reference to birds nesting calls back to Daniel 4:12, 21 and Ezekiel 17:22-23.  Yet, in those passages, the birds nest in a great tree, not a tall weed.  A weed is an unwanted plant.  The Church seems like a weed much of the time, does it not?  The birds of the air in the parable include Gentiles, the audience for the Gospel of Luke.

Think about your neighbors in God, O reader.  Many–or most–of them may differ substantially from you.  The identity of your neighbors in God may surprise you.  The surprise may be mutual.

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Yeast (or leaven) usually symbolizes moral corruption in the Bible.  From earlier in the Gospel of Luke, we may recall Jesus denouncing the leaven of the Pharisees–hypocrisy (12:1).  Yet in 13:20-21, the Kingdom of God is like a woman and the leaven carries a positive connotation.  The leaven, mixed into the dough, produces large loaves of bread.

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Putting the two parables together, we read that the Kingdom of God goes where it will.  It may be welcome or unwelcome, but nobody can stop.  This comforts me at a time when church membership and attendance are declining and unbelief is rising in my society.

Nevertheless, may we avoid two errors (among others).  May we not confuse the Church for the Kingdom of God.  And may we not mistake all non-practicing people for pagans.  The Church, supposed to be a hospital for sinners, frequently shoots the wounded and drives them out instead of welcoming them.  To refer to another parable of Jesus, the Church includes both darnel and wheat, and both look alike at a certain stage.  I recall having some of my most fulfilling theological conversations with non-churchgoers and some of my most unpleasant and least productive theological discussions with defensive, closed-minded Christians.  Perhaps you, O reader, recall similar experiences.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a petition germane to this point:

For all who have died in the communion of your Church, and those whose faith is known to you alone, that, with all the saints, they may have rest in that place where there is no pain or grief, but life eternal, we pray to you, O Lord.

–391

The Church would do well to cease shooting the spiritually wounded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY:  THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN JOZEF IGNAZ VON DÖLLINGER, DISSDENT AND EXCOMMUNICATED GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF THOMAS CURTIS CLARK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST EVANGELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils   4 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XX

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Luke 8:4-15

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Christian tradition has assigned names to the parables of Jesus.  Some of these names have proven to be partial, at best.  Consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, O reader.  It could have as easily been the Parable of the Loving Father or the Parable of the Resentful Brother.  Think also of the Parable of the Sower.  Although Matthew 13:18 uses that label, Christ focused on the soils, not the sower, in the parable.

We are reading the Lucan version of the parable, of course.  Luke 8 does not refer to this parable as the Parable of the Sower.

Biblical scholarly consensus holds that, in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the explanation of the parable is an addition to the text.  Explanations of parables are rare in the canonical Gospels.

To critique the sower’s technique is to miss the point.  (I have heard priests do this in sermons.)  The sower in the parable follows the standard practice of farmers at the time and place.

The word of God (what God says) is for everybody.  The sower sows these seeds everywhere, therefore.  But not everybody receives or welcomes this word.  Some of the seeds go to waste.  People may be distracted, rootless, or deceived.  Spiritually rootless people have shallow faith; it may die for the obvious reason.  The deceived mean well but follow the wrong master.  The distracted are too busy for God.  Yet the seeds that land in rich soil prosper spiritually.

The parable asks each of us, “What kind of soil are you?”

When God is the sower and we are the ground, we are called to be good ground.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

Some saints spoke and/or wrote of the importance of not only praying, but of becoming prayer.  They described the fourth category of soil in this parable.  They described the state of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So, I ask you, O reader, what kind of soil are you?  And what kind of soil do you aspire to become or remain, by grace?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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A Collection of Speeches: The Wickedness of Judah, and the Degenerate City   Leave a comment

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART II

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Isaiah 1:2-31

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G. H. D. Kilpatrick, author of the exposition on Isaiah 1-39 in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 5 (1956), described Isaiah 1 as

The Heart of Isaiah’s Message.

Kilpatrick began:

Here is a tremendous indictment of an apostate nation.  The charge is the blindness, the insensitivity, the brutish stupidity of a people steeped in sin.  The prophet is against them.  In a sense the chapter is an epitome of Isaiah’s whole message and ministry.  In this series of oracles he proceeds from accusation to judgment, and on to the divine promise of mercy in terms of repentance and obedience.  Throughout the book the changes are rung on these themes.

–165

As I reread this chapter for the umpteenth time, I noticed themes that populated the (contemporary) Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, too.  I noticed these themes readily because I have blogged my way through them before starting First Isaiah.  I noticed legal charges of having abandoned the covenant.  I noticed the allegation of idolatry–prostitution, metaphorically.  I noticed the condemnation of corruption and social justice, especially that of the economic variety.  I noticed the pronouncement that sacred rituals do not protect one from the consequences of impiety.  I noticed the call to repentance and the possibility of forgiveness.

Chronology is not the organizing principle of the Book of Isaiah.  No, the commission of the prophet is in Chapter 6, for example.  Chapter 1 contains short speeches that summarize themes First Isaiah unpacks in subsequent chapters.

The text provides many options for where I may dwell in this post.  I choose verses 27 and 28.  The translation in Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (2019), is close to the standard English-language rendering:

Zion shall be redeemed through justice,

and those who turn back in her, through righteousness.

But the rebels and offenders together are shattered,

and those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

However, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) offers a somewhat different translation:

Zion shall be saved in the judgment;

Her repentant ones, in the retribution.

But rebels and sinners shall be crushed,

And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

These verses date to either the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  (As I wrote regarding the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, the final versions of early prophetic writings date to the time after the Babylonian Exile.)  Differences in Hebrew meter and the concept of Zion’s slavery relative to the surrounding material point to later origin.  That may or may not prove interesting, but there it is.

I noticed that righteousness and justice are related concepts.  This has long constituted old news to me, but I delighted to see another instance of it in Isaiah 1.

That justice and righteousness are related establishes a high standard.  Many people mistake human vendettas for justice.  Many people mistake torture for justice.  Many people are oblivious to or forget Deuteronomy 32:35, in the voice of God:

Vengeance is mine and recompense,

for the time they lose their footing;

Because the day of their disaster is at hand

and their doom is rushing upon them.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

When we set out to take revenge, we embark on a path we ought to leave alone.  God knows better than we do.

I also noticed the difference between the translations of verse 27.  I noticed that TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) had “judgment” for “justice” and “retribution” for “righteousness.”  Yet the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), read:

Having been punished, Zion will again know justice and faithfulness.  A new name is given to the reformed Jerusalem; c.f. 62:2-4; Ezekiel 48:35.

–769

The promised salvation will stem only from divine justice and righteousness, not the virtue of Israel.  The destruction of rebels and sinners, however, will stem from their lack of virtue.  For the meantime, Zion, as a faith reality, not a political entity, contains the good and the wicked.  Likewise, in the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the wheat and the weeds will grow together in the field until the harvest time.  God will judge at the harvest time.  In the meantime, attempting to remove weeds may result in the removal of some wheat, also.

May we–you, O reader, and I–strike a proper balance, by grace.  May we understand correctly the difference between good and evil.  May we understand correctly the difference between that which is sinful and that which is not.  May we understand correctly the difference between justice and injustice.  When appropriate, may we speak out, and do so in the right way.  And may we understand correctly the difference between our tasks and God’s tasks.

If I am going to err, I prefer to do so on the side of kindness, not harshness.  I would rather be too gentle than mean.  I prefer to strike the proper balance in each circumstances, of course.  Yet maybe my Southern training takes over and tells me not to create a needless scene.  I prefer to practice personal diplomacy, even when doing so entails telling white lies.  “No, that dress does not make you look fat,” except it does.  I also know enough to have some idea of what I do not know.  God knows more than I do, and I do not bring people to God by behaving obnoxiously in God’s name.

Nevertheless, as anyone who has read my weblogs sufficiently ought to know, I do not always shy away from writing what I really think.  I am capable of being blunt, too.  There is a time for diplomacy, just as there is a time for bluntness.  Yet there is never any moral justification for not leaving vengeance to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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Concerning Wheat, Tares, and Donatism, Part II   Leave a comment

 

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 2

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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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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given to us, thy servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity;

we beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who livest and reignest, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 182

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Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalms 67 and 75

Revelation 21:1-27

Matthew 13:14-52

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The fully realized Kingdom of God will arrive on schedule–God’s schedule.  Or it will seem to arrive, from a human perspective, one bound by time.  Either way, this will be wonderful news for the oppressed and catastrophic news for their oppressors.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

We–you and I, O reader–live in the age of weeds (tares) growing among the wheat.  May we not presume to know more than do.  Our judgment regarding who is a weed and who is wheat may be flawed.  The Church and many congregations have a shameful track record of harming members spiritually (especially with legalism and bigotry) instead of nurturing them.  I know refugees from the Church.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  The irony of a bumper sticker,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS,

is rich.  Nobody needs saving from actual followers of Jesus.  Yet those “followers of Jesus” from whom people need deliverance almost certainly think they follow Christ.

As the Gospel of Mark (in its entirety) and Matthew 25:31-46 teach us bluntly, many who think they are insiders are really outsiders, just as many who imagine themselves to be outsiders are actually insiders.  Wheat or weeds?  One may not know to which category one, much less another person, belongs.  That may be either good or bad news, depending on one’s case.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK COOK ATKINSON, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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The Healing of Naaman   Leave a comment

Above:  Naaman

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXIV

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2 Kings 5:1-27

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Pride was not created for men,

nor fierce anger for those born of women.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:18, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

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Given that I have already covered various elements of this story in previous posts, I choose to:

  1. narrow the focus on this post, and
  2. refer you, O reader, to follow the tag “Naaman” and the category “2 Kings 5” for other comments on this story.

The Gospel of Luke, with its pro-Gentile theme, is unique among the canonical Gospels in having Jesus cite the healing of Naaman in the Rejection of Nazareth story (Luke 4:27).  In that version of a story also present in Matthew and Mark, the hometown crowd turned on Jesus after he made comments indicating divine openness to Gentiles.  (For the other canonical versions of the Rejection at Nazareth, read Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-58.)

Perhaps the most overlooked theme in 2 Kings 5 is the sanctity of the land of Israel.  This sanctity explains the sufficiency of the River Jordan and the insufficiency of the rivers in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Naaman concluded that he could worship the sole deity only on the sacred land, and never in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Elisha had no objection to Naaman worshiping in pagan temples in Aram after having professed faith in the one God, YHWH.

I am a monotheist–a Christian, to be precise.  I worship God, my understanding of whom depends heavily on Judaism.  I worship God in the State of Georgia, U.S.A., far from Israel.  I also live within walking distance of the local synagogue.  I feel confident in saying that the members of Congregation Children of Israel worship God in Athens, Georgia.  I detect a change in theology between the time of the original telling of 2 Kings 5 and much of the rest of the Bible, as well as between the time of the original telling of the story of the healing of Naaman and today, October 29, 2020.  If one accepts that God–YHWH, Adonai, El Shaddai, et cetera–regardless of the name one prefers to use–is the sole, universal deity, one may also accept that one can worship God from any geographical location.  God is not a tribal or national deity, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EASTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 1885

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMAUS HELDER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

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Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXI

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1 Kings 17:1-24

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And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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Rejecting Grace   Leave a comment

Above:  Nazareth, 1875

Image Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-14154

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For the Sunday Next Before Advent, 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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with

thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 236

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Haggai 2:1-9

Psalms 149 and 150

Revelation 21:1-7

Luke 4:16-24

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The glory of God is a major topic in the Bible.  Many of the Psalms deal with that subject.  Prophecies of the Day of the Lord/Parousia in both Testaments employ poetic imagery to describe the world order once the fully-realized Kingdom of God becomes reality on the planet.  Regardless of the full reality at which human poetry can only hint and imagination can never fully grasp, such descriptions do have an immediate function.  They cast the world as it is in a negative light, exposing how far short societies, institutions, norms, and governments fall, relative to divine standards.  The apocalyptic imagination is a moral and ethical imagination.

The Gospels contain two accounts of Christ’s rejection at Nazareth.  They are plainly two very similar yet slightly different versions of the same event.  The key difference from one account to the other is when the audience turns against Jesus.  In Matthew 13:54-58, it happens when Jesus speaks wisdom.  In that account, people respond by asking,

Where does he get this wisdom from, and these miraculous powers?  Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary, his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?  And are not all his sisters here with us?  Where then has he got all this from?

–Matthew 13:54-56, The New English Bible (1970)

In Luke 4:16-24, however, the turn toward hostility comes later, after verses 25-27.  Those verses are about God having mercy on Gentiles, including Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-27) and the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9-24).  Given that the original audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile, telling the story of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown this way makes sense.

The Lukan version of the rejection at Nazareth also challenges us to confront our provincialism.  I am a Gentile, so I like reading about divine graciousness to Gentiles.  Nevertheless, to be uncomfortably honest, I must admit that the reminder of divine generosity to certain people and populations can and sometimes does offend me.  You may resemble that remark, O reader.  If you do, you are not unusual.

All of us need reminders of how far short of divine standards we fall.  We may tell ourselves how kind and loving we are.  We may even be kind and loving.  Nevertheless, all of us can be kinder and more loving.  When God shows us how far short of that divine standard we fall, do we reject the message?  Or do we confess our sin, repent, and strive, by grace, to do better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

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