Archive for the ‘Matthew 13’ Category

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

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART II

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 1:2-31

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

 

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalms 67 and 75

Revelation 21:1-27

Matthew 13:14-52

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Healing of Naaman   Leave a comment

Above:  Naaman

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

PART LXXXIV

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 5:1-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

PART LXXI

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Kings 17:1-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Sunday Next Before Advent, Year 1

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Haggai 2:1-9

Psalms 149 and 150

Revelation 21:1-7

Luke 4:16-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Enemies and Repentance II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 33:10-16

Galatians 6:1-5

Matthew 13:24-30

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do we really want sinners (other than ourselves, those similar to ourselves, and those we like) to repent–to turn around, to change their minds?  Or, do we want the others we despise to suffer?  According to Ezekiel 33 and Galatians 6, God wants all sinners to repent.  Not all will, unfortunately.  This is why I say that the damned condemn themselves, and that God sends nobody to Hell.

The Parable of the Weeds, I hear, is apparently better spiritual counsel than agricultural advice.  So be it, for the parable is spiritual counsel.  Lest we, in the quest to remove darnel, gather some wheat for burning instead, we need to leave that matter to God, who knows infinitely better than we do.  This parable does not negate any Biblical teachings about dealing with teachers of heresies; standards remain, after all.  We need to know our proper limits, though.  Speaking the truth is vital; so is doing so in love.

Maybe some of the darnel will repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Light of Christ, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Acts 4:1-22

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:11-25

Matthew 13:44-52

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One can find examples of God smiting evildoers in the Bible.  The fate of the evil in Matthew 13 falls into a side category, one in which angels smite evildoers–at the end, on the day of judgment.  Until then, as in Psalm 23, God simply outclasses and overpowers the wicked, who cannot keep up, much of the time.  The wicked cease to pursue the righteous; divine goodness and mercy pursue or accompany the righteous, depending on the translation one considers authoritative.

Although I am reluctant to label members of the Sanhedrin evil, I side with Sts. John and Simon Peter in the confrontation with that council.  I also rejoice that the Sanhedrin, for all its authority, lacked the power to prevent the Apostles from preaching.  I thank God that the Sanhedrin could not keep up with God and part of the public.

May we be on God’s side.  May we heed the advice of 1 Peter 2:12 and behave honorably always, to the glory of God.  Human authority is not always worthy of respect and obedience, and slavery (in all its forms) is always wrong, so I agree with part of the reading from 1 Peter 2, a text some have used to justify chattel slavery and submitting to the Third Reich.  The politics of early, persecuted Christianity aside, sometimes one must oppose human authority in order to live faithfully, in accordance with the divine commandments.  Those figures of authority cannot keep up with God either, and the call to live as one should–to manifest the light of Christ–is timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Faithful Response, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter, by Dirck van Baburen

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Acts 3:1-10

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

1 Peter 2:1-10

Matthew 13:24-35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The theme of the power of God unites the assigned readings for this Sunday.

The Kingdom of God/Heaven, we read, is like a field of wheat with weeds growing up in it also.  We mere mortals should refrain from weeding the field, for unless we show that restraint, we will remove some wheat also.

The Kingdom of God/Heaven–in the Gospel of Matthew, God’s earthly, apocalyptic reign–has small, even invisible beginnings yet grows large and resists any human attempts to control it.  The Kingdom of God/Heaven and the Kingdom of Earth will remain in tension until the former supplants the latter.

By the power of God people can obtain salvation, healing, and status as a kingdom of priests.  By the power of God people receive grace.  With grace comes responsibility to serve as vehicles of grace to others.

I think of the man born lame (Acts 3:1-10) and wonder about the rest of his story.  The narrative moves in a different direction, following the Apostles he encountered that important day.  I conclude that the man, beaten down by the circumstances of his life, probably did not expect much, but that he received far more than he anticipated in his wildest dreams.  I wonder how that man spent the rest of his life.  I like to think that he devoted it to the glory of God.

Your story, O reader, might be less dramatic than his.  Mine is.  Yet we have the same mandate he did–to respond to God faithfully.  We mere mortals can never repay divine mercy, but we can serve God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted May 31, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 2, Acts of the Apostles 3, Matthew 13, Psalm 116

Tagged with

Concerning Wheat, Tares, and Donatism, Part I   4 comments

Above:  Danish Lutheran Synods in the United States of America and Canada

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Another parable [Jesus] put before them, saying,

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.  And the servants of the household came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then has it weeds?”  He said to them, “An enemy has done this.”  The servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”  But he said, “No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  But both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

–Matthew 13:24-30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

+++++++++++++++++++++++

The Roman Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) presided over an empire-wide persecution of Christians starting in 303.  He ordered the burning of Christian books and the destruction of churches.  The penalty for a clergyman (from 303) and a lay person (from 304) who resisted was the combination of incarceration and torture and, in some cases, execution.  The Dioceletian Persecution resulted in many martyrdoms.  That persecution ultimately ended because Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) won the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 and issued the Edict of Milan the following year.  During that persecution, however, many professing Christians chose not to resist.  Traditors surrendered Bibles to the authorities, who burned those volumes.  Many of these traditors subsequently sought reconciliation with the Church, which consented, on condition that they were sincere and penitent.  This forgiving attitude met with the disapproval of rigorists, especially in northern Africa.

The trigger for the Donatist schism occurred in 311.  That year some rigorists opposed the consecration of Caecilian as the new Bishop of Carthage due to the fact that Felix of Aptunga, an erstwhile traditor, consecrated him.  Numidian bishops consecrated Majorinus as a rival bishop.  Soon Donatus, from whose name we derive the word “Donatism,” succeeded him.  The Donatist schism ended only when the Islamic conquest of northern Africa destroyed it centuries later.  Donatists understood themselves to be the true church, the assembly of the uncompromising and the holy.  They were self-righteous.  These rigorists, who identified themselves as pure, were not as pure as they thought they were.  They were, after all, only human.  These rigorists were much like the unforgiving elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Donatism (in the broad sense) predated the schism of 311.  It has also persisted to the present day.  It has been a factor in a host of ecclesiastical schisms, whether on the congregational or denominational level.  I have traced many denominational schisms, unions, and reunions as a hobby.  Along the way I have arrived at a few conclusions:

  1. Most mergers occur to the left.
  2. Most schisms occur to the right, usually in the name of maintaining a standard of purity, whether of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, or both.
  3. Whenever two or more denominations merge, two or more denominations frequently form.
  4. Regardless of how theologically conservative a denomination might be, there is probably at least one denomination to its right.  This might be the result of a schism.
  5. Schism frequently begets more schism.

The state Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark encompassed a range of theological factions in the 1800s.  Two of these were the Pietists and the Grundtvigians.  Pietists, who shunned “worldly amusements,” such as dancing, playing cards, and attending plays, emphasized separation from the world.  Grundtvigians, however, enjoyed “worldly amusements,” especially folk dancing, which scandalized their pietistic co-religionists.  Grundtvigians also differed from Pietists and agreed with Martin Luther that

Printed words are dead, spoken words are living.  On the printed page they are not so forcible as when uttered by the sound of man through his mouth.

Grundtvigians therefore argued that the Bible is not the Word of God (as opposed to the word of God) and that the living message of salvation contained in the Bible and reinforced in Holy Baptism and the Apostles’ Creed is instead that Word.

Although the Danish state church avoided all but minor schisms, the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1874-1962), renamed the American Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1953, was not as fortunate.  In 1894, after much controversy, pietists seceded and formed the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America.  They quickly joined with another pietistic group, the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church Association (1884-1896) in forming the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (1896-1960), which dropped “Danish” from its name in 1946.  UDELC/UELC was strongly pietistic during much of its existence.  “Worldly amusements” were allegedly sinful for these “Sad Danes;” the folk dancing that was ubiquitious among the “Happy Danes” in the DELCA/AELC was absent in the  UDELC/UELC.

Enok Mortensen, author of the official retrospective account of the DELCA/AELC, made no excuses for pietism and Donatism:

The schism of 1894 must be seen against the background of a situation existing at that time.  The historian who weighs the evidence carefully and objectively does not doubt the good intentions of those who sought a “pure” church; he only questions their wisdom.  The Christian church is not a society of angels; in the words of the Lord of the church, it is a field of wheat and tares in which both must grow together until harvest.

–Enok Mortensen, The Danish Lutheran Church in America:  The History and Heritage of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1967), page 121

Laying the issue of the identity of the Kingdom of Heaven (reverential circumlocution is a false argument, according to Jonathan Pennington) in the Gospel of Matthew aside for the purpose of this post, Mortensen’s tolerant theological position was commendable.  Likewise critical (in the best sense of that word) of pietism and Donatism was John M. Jensen, author of the corresponding volume about the UDELC/UELC:

The men who had written about the UELC in the past had generally been uncritical.  They simply glorified the pioneers and placed a halo about their heads and their works.  That was especially the case concerning the men of the Danish period.  This tended to color all writing about the church in the church papers.

It has been my purpose to be as realistic as possible.  While I have written about the accomplishments of the men, I have ever hesitated to point out weaknesses wherever I found the.  This, it seems to me, must be the prerogative of a historian.  Otherwise the history will be distorted.

–John M. Jensen, The United Evangelical Lutheran Church:  An Interpretation (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1964), pages v-vi

Furthermore:

In the earlier years of the church, it was not so much in the later years, there was a sharp distinction between the saved and the unsaved, between the believer and the unbeliever.  This may have been both a strength and a weakness, but it was what furnished the motivation for the preaching and the work, for maintaining the school, and for sending out missionaries.  There were places where the spirit built up strong congregations, but there were also places where pietism became so legalistic that the congregations could not grow.  An example of this legalism was the constant preaching by some pastors that the members should be sure not to eat and drink themselves to damnation in Holy Communion.  An overly legalistic attitude sometimes became a barrier to sound evangelism.

–Jensen, page 234

To speak or write about Donatism in the past, especially in denominations that have merged themselves away (as the two Danish synods did in the early 1960s), is relatively easy.  Likewise, speaking and writing harshly of the self-righteousness of Donatists (in the narrow definition) who died thousands of years ago is a low-risk proposition.  However, Donatists (in the broad definition) exist among us.  Some of the readers of this post might even be Donatists.  Thus labeling contemporary Donatism becomes politically fraught.  Without naming any congregations or denominations in this post I assert that you, O reader, can probably find concrete evidence of Donatism in your community.

To return to the parable at the beginning of this post, I assert the following also.  Anyone who fancies oneself to be wheat and certain others to be tares might be correct.  Or one might be mistaken; one might be a tare or others might be wheat.  Only God knows for sure.  One should not presume to know more than one does.  One should also leave all weeding to God.  Collegiality is superior to Donatism.  If collegiality is not a feasible option, simply refraining from imagining that one is purer than one actually is will suffice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DOUGLAS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hearing and Listening   1 comment

Above:   Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 2:6-3:4

Psalm 3

Revelation 10:1-11

Matthew 13:10-17

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

LORD, how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

–Psalm 3:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do not be afraid of their words and do not be dismayed by them, though they are a rebellious breed; but speak My words to them, whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.

–Ezekiel 2:6b-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The imagery of eating a scroll indicates accepting a prophetic call from God.  Often the vocation of the prophet entails being unpopular, for speaking uncomfortable truths leads to that result.  Also, speaking such truths might place the life and liberty of the prophet at risk.

For some time the passage from Ezekiel has haunted me, so to speak.  The imagery of the bitter scroll tasting as sweet as honey, indicating Ezekiel’s glad acceptance of his commission, has come to mind often.  This imagery, echoed in Revelation 10, has reminded me of the mix of the bitter and sweet lives in while following God.  It has challenged me to accept bitterness as sweetness in the service of God.  I have not lived fully into that challenge yet.

The passage in Luke 13 reminds us of the difference between hearing and listening.  We might hear, but we might not listen.  Listening is much harder work, after all.  And, assuming that we do listen to the prophetic words of God via Ezekiel, Jesus, or anyone else, we might not like them.  How we respond or react to them is spiritually telling.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++