Archive for the ‘Matthew 18’ Category

Forgiveness, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter Von Cornelius

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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Genesis 50:15-21

Psalm 103:1-13

Romans 14:5-9

Matthew 18:21-35

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O God, you declare your almighty power

chiefly in showing mercy and pity. 

Grant us the fullness of your grace,

that, pursuing what you have promised,

we may share your heavenly glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O God, without whose blessing we are not able to please you,

mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit

may in all things direct and govern our hearts;

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), 80

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Years ago, I read a news story about forgiveness.  A man had broken into a church building and stolen some equipment.  Police officers had arrested him.  The pastor of that congregation testified on the man’s behalf at the trial and urged leniency.  The judge agreed.  The thief, reformed, joined that church.

The Church is in the forgiveness business when it acts as it should.  Donatism (in both the original, narrow, and the contemporary, broader definitions of that term) resists forgiving.  Life in Christian community entails much mutual forbearance and forgiveness, thereby fostering unity.  In the context of last week’s Gospel reading, however, forbearance and forgiveness does not entail tolerating the intolerable.  If, for example, someone is a domestic abuser, no church or person should overlook that offense.  The Golden Rule requires siding with the victim(s).  Yet, getting away from extreme cases and embracing the spirit of the best of Calvinism, the theological category of Matters Indifferent becomes useful.  Whether or not one does X is a Matter Indifferent; the difference is minor and of no moral importance.

In Matthew 18:21-35 and elsewhere in the canonical Gospels, the link between forgiving others and receiving forgiveness from God is plain.  The standard one applies to others is the standard God will apply to one.  In other words, we will reap what we have sown.  This is consistent with the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses; one suffers the fate one would have had inflicted on the innocent party, falsely accused.

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) insisted that the parts of the Bible he understood the best were the ones that bothered him the most.

I resemble that remark.  I know the difficulty of forgiving others–for offenses far less severe than Joseph’s brothers had committed against him.  Yet I also understand the plain meaning of certain verses in the Gospel of Matthew regarding the importance of forgiveness.

Another issue related to forgiveness is forgiving oneself for offenses, real or imagined.  I know this difficulty, too.  Read Genesis 50:15-21 again, O reader.  Do you get the sense that the brothers had not forgiven themselves?  Do you get the sense that they were projecting onto Joseph?

Matthew 18:22 calls back to Genesis 4:24 in the Septuagint.  “Seventy-seven” means limitless.  Jesus still calls us to forgive each other limitless times.  Forgiveness may not necessarily negate punishment, but it will improve human relationships.  At a minimum, when one forgives, one helps oneself by cutting loose spiritual baggage.  We also need to forgive ourselves limitless times.  All this is possible with grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDER OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF SAINT-BRIEUC

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Adapted from this post

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXVII   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel

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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Ezekiel 33:7-9

Psalm 119:33-40 (LBW) or Psalm 119:113-120 (LW)

Romans 13:1-10

Matthew 18:15-20

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Almighty and eternal God,

you know our problems and our weaknesses

better than we ourselves. 

In your love and by your power help us in our confusion,

and, in spite of our weaknesses, make us firm in faith;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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Grant, merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace

that they may be cleansed from all their sins

and serve you with a quiet mind;

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), 79

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Context is crucial.  Any given text originates within a particular context.  To read that text without the context in mind is to distort that text.

Consider the relationship of the people to human authority, O reader.  Romans 13:1-7, which commands submission to the government, comes from a particular time and place.  That text also comes from the mind of a citizen of the Roman Empire.  On the other hand, Exodus 1 praises the midwives Shiphrah and Puah for disobeying the Pharaoh’s orders.  Likewise, the Apocalypse of John assumes that resistance to the Roman Empire, an agent of Satan, is mandatory for Christians.  In history, one may point to the Underground Railroad, the conductors of which were, according to United States federal law, criminals, at least part of the time.  Does anyone want to go on record as condemning the Underground Railroad?  I also know that, in the context of the Third Reich, many Christian theologians teach that one must oppose the government sometimes.  For the obvious reason, this teaching is especially strong among German theologians.

The caveat in Romans 13:1-7 is that any civil authority not responsive to the will of God is not a true authority.  Therefore, one may validly resist that government for the sake of conscience.  The examples of resisting slavery and Nazism certainly apply under this principle.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way….

One purpose of prophetic pronouncements of divine punishment is to encourage repentance.  Repentance, in turn, cancels punishment.  One who is supposed to warn people is not responsible for their fate if one warns them.  However, if one does not warn them, one is accountable for their fate.  The commandments of God impart life, but people must know what they are.

Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In context, “you” (Matthew 18:18-19) is plural.

I covered Matthew 18:18 in the post for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A.

Love confronts when necessary.  Love confronts in these contexts, for the benefit of the person confronted.  Many people understand this in the context of addiction interventions.  Obeying the Golden Rule sometimes entails practicing tough love, offering what someone needs, not what that person wants.  How one responds becomes one’s responsibility, for those who have confronted have done their jobs.

Although one may desire to rescue someone, doing so may prove impossible.  I know this from experience.  Some people cannot or will not do what they need to do.  I leave judgment in these matters to God, who frequently shows more mercy than many people do.  If I must err, I prefer to do so on the side of mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIÈGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF STEPHEN THEODORE BADIN, FIRST ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST ORDAINED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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Adapted from this post

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Hesed, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

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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Exodus 6:2-8

Psalm 138

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

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God of all creation,

you reach out to call people of all nations to your kingdom. 

As you gather disciples from near and far,

count us also among those

who boldly confess your Son Jesus Christ as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life,

grant us without doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ

to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life

that, following his steps,

we may steadfastly walk in the say that leads to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 77

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One day in Athens, Georgia, I visited my favorite thrift store in search of a lamp.  I saw a wooden lamp that needed polishing.  The item looked ugly in the store.  However, I recognized the lamp’s potential.  So, I purchased the lamp, took it home, and polished it.  I owned an attractive lamp.

In the assigned lessons, we read of the faithfulness of God.

  1. The Book of Exodus makes clear that God freed the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
  2. Psalm 138 extols the faithful love of God.
  3. Romans 11:33-36 needs no summary; read the passage, O reader.  No paraphrase can do justice to the text.
  4. When we turn to Matthew 16:13-20, we read one account of the Confession of St. Peter.  St. (Simon) Peter is the rock in this passage; make no mistake to the contrary, O reader.  16:19 (addressed to St. Peter) resembles 18:18 (addressed to the disciples).  Binding and loosing refer to rabbinic authoritative teaching–interpretation of the Law of Moses.  Putting 16:19 and 18:18 together, the disciples, with St. Peter as the leader, had Christ’s approval to teach authoritatively, and this role played out on the congregational level.

Consider the Twelve, O reader.  The canonical Gospels frequently portray them as being oblivious.  The Gospel of Mark goes out of its way to do this.  The other three Gospels tone down that motif.  If there was hope for the Twelve, there is hope for us.

Jesus recognized potential in the Twelve.

Jesus recognizes potential in you, O reader.  Jesus recognizes potential in me.  If that is not an example of divine faithful love, I do not know what is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND SAINT MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER 

THE FEAST VINCENT LEBBE, BELGIAN-CHINESE ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Inclusion and Exclusion, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 45 or Isaiah 56:1-8

Psalm 31:9-18

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 18:15-35

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Dealing with people can be difficult for various reasons, not the least of which is that some people are difficult.  Many are toxic, emotionally and spiritually.

Consider the family of Jacob, O reader.  The happy turn of events does not negate the perfidy of previous chapters.  Do you not, O reader, know that eventually Jacob confronted those sons of his who had told him years prior that Joseph was dead?  That is not a conversation recorded in Genesis.

Yet forgiveness carried the day.  And why not?  How often have we prayed to God for forgiveness and not been forgiving, of others or ourselves?  The hyperbolic debt of 10,000 talents (150,000 years’ worth of wages for a laborer) was impossible to repay.  Those who have received forgiveness have always incurred the obligation to forgive.  Forgiving others and self has always been the best policy for another reason also; grudges have always hurt those who have nurtured them.

God, in Isaiah 56:1-8, is quite inclusive, abolishing many barriers.  All those who believe in God and keep the divine commandments may participate in the future messianic salvation.  Foreigners may participate.  Eunuchs (excluded in Deuteronomy 23:2) may participate.

But we human beings tend to like exclusionary categories God rejects, do we not?  Divine grace seeks people like us and dissimilar from us.  It welcomes those who, regardless of any one of a set of factors, we might exclude, but whom God also loves.  The standard is a faithful response.

I have long been a churchy person.  Yet I have felt more spiritual kinship with refugees from organized religion than with certain other churchy people.  Many of the former group have been more receptive to grace than many of the latter group, the ones who made them feel unwelcome in the church.  These refugees from church have included homosexuals and people who have asked too many questions.  I, as a churchy heterosexual who enjoys questions, have sat among them and shown them that many Christians harbor attitudes that welcome them.

Eucharist in the Corinthian Church in the 50s C.E. was apparently not always welcoming.  It was a potluck meal upon which many of the poorer members depended.  Yet some of the more prosperous members ate ahead of time, did not contribute to the common meal, and took the occasion to become intoxicated.  All of these practices were abuses.

From the beginning of Christianity the Church has been rife with abuses.  Human nature has not changed over time, after all.  Ecclesiastical partisanship has not ceased.  Exploitation has not ceased.  However, God has not ceased to bely our ecclesiastical sins either.

May we pay closer attention to that last point.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 15, 1963

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/devotion-for-proper-22-year-a-humes/

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Living in Community, Part III   3 comments

Above:  St. Peter Paying the Temple Tax

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 43:1-15, 26-30 or Isaiah 55:1-13

Psalm 28

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

Matthew 17:22-18:5

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We have obligations to each other.  Even what we do (or do not do) in private affects other people.  We should, for example, want scoundrels and wicked people to repent (as in Isaiah 55:7), not give up on them (as in Psalm 28:4).  We should seek reconciliation, as Joseph was preparing to instigate, in Genesis 43.  We should not abuse our freedom to the detriment of others.  In Christ we are free to become our best selves.

The story in Matthew 17:24-27 requires unpacking.

The tax in question was the Temple tax of one didrachmon–a half-shekel.  Every Jewish male was to pay it annually, although enforcement was not rigorous.  The scriptural basis of the Temple tax was Exodus 30:13.  It was a controversial tax for more than one reason.  For the poor the tax–two days’ wages of a laborer–was a burden.  Essenes argued that the tax was properly a once-in-a-lifetime payment.  Sadducees thought that the tax should be voluntary.  Jesus, who seemed to have a low opinion of taxation (see also Matthew 22:15-22), nevertheless decided not to cause offense.

I have no difficulty accepting this story as genuine.  Yet it, like so many stories, carries more than one meaning, depending on the time of the reading or hearing of it.  Consider, O reader, the year of the composition of the Gospel of Matthew–85 C.E. or so.

There was no more Temple yet a version of tax remained.  Roman forces had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  A two-drachma tribute to Rome was due annually, and Roman authorities enforced tax laws.  In the Christian context giving to the church was properly voluntary.  For Jewish Christians, marginal within Judaism, their identity remained Jewish; they did not seek to offend.

In my cultural-political setting–North America in 2018–the culture is moving in more than one direction simultaneously.  On one hand politics and culture are coarsening.  On the other hand efforts to avoid causing offense are become more prominent, sometimes to ridiculous extremes.  Meanwhile, people from various points on the spectrum have become more likely to take offense.  “Snowflakes” come in various political stripes.  Everything is controversial; there is probably nothing that does not offend somebody, somewhere.

I, as a human being, have responsibilities to my fellow human beings, who have responsibilities to me.  I, for example, have no moral right to spout racial and ethnic slurs and/or stereotypes, not that I would ever do that.  Quoting them in certain contexts, in which one’s disapproval is plain, is justifiable, however.  I have a responsibility to consider the sensibilities of others–to a reasonable point.  Yet I know that, whatever I do, I will offend someone, for somebody will be of a mind to take offense.  I am responsible for doing my best to be respectful.  I am also responsible to others not to be ridiculously sensitive, thereby doing nothing or too little.

Where should one draw the line separating responsible self-restraint in the name of not offending the consciences of others from overdoing it and still failing in not causing offense because some people are snowflakes?  The answer to that question varies according to circumstances.  One, relying on grace, should do one’s best.  If one needs to do better, one can do that, by grace.  One is not responsible for the thin skins of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/devotion-for-proper-21-year-a-humes/

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Repentance and Restoration, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, our refuge and strength, you are the author of all godliness:

Be ready, we pray, to hear the devout prayers of your Church;

and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Nahum 1:1-8

Psalm 37

Hebrews 13:1-6

Matthew 18:15-22

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These four readings, taken as a unit, constitute a masterpiece of liturgical cohesion; the lectionary committee’s work for the Fifth Sunday of Kingdomtide stands the test of time.

As the great Jewish Biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman points out, the Hebrew Bible balances divine judgment and mercy; the stereotype of YHWH as more prone to smite than to act mercifully is misleading, as stereotypes are inherently.  Neither is the composite depiction of God in the New Testament that of a warm, fuzzy deity.  One might think of Lewis Black‘s joke that the difference between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that having a kid calmed Him down.  No, the truth of divine judgment and mercy is one we find in the balance of the two factors.  Furthermore, there is the issue of the Arian heresy.

Much of what we humans call the wrath of God looks like proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Actions and inactions have consequences, after all.  Simply put, that which we sow, we also reap.  When we have an opportunity to sow righteousness, may we do so.  Righteousness is a concrete standard; it boils down, much of the time, to how we treat one another.  Another factor in righteousness is how we behave when we are alone.

The reading from Matthew 18 emphasizes opportunities for repentance–literally turning one’s back on sin.  Judgment might come, but one can avert it by changing one’s mind and ways.  In Jewish and Christian ethics we humans are responsible for and to each other as we stand together before God, upon whom we depend completely.  Facilitating repentance is one of our occasional responsibilities to each other; may we take it seriously, not write people off.  May we value restoration.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part I   1 comment

parable-of-the-wicked-servant

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

Image in the Public Domain

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 15:1-18 or 19:15-21

Psalm 129

Matthew 18:1-14 (15-20) or Luke 9:46-50; 17:1-4

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

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The reading for this Sunday, taken together, proclaim the mandate of economic and legal justice, condemn lying in court, command forgiving penitents, order valuing the powerless and the vulnerable, and extol the virtues of generosity of spirit and of giving.  On the other hand, we read a prayer for God to destroy Israel’s enemies and a permission slip to dun foreigners.  What are we supposed to make of all this?

First I call attention to the presence of both collective and individual sins and virtues.  My Western culture, steeped in individualism, understands individual sins better than collective and institutional ones.  I know that, as a matter of history, many professing Christians have obsessed over personal peccadilloes to the exclusion or minimizing of societal sins.

My second point is the value of foreigners who bear the image of God.  Focusing just on the Hebrew Bible for a few minutes, I recall certain passages that depict somegoyim favorably:  Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:17-25), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).  And, of course, as one turns to the New Testament, one should think of the controversy regarding St. Paul the Apostle’s mission to the Gentiles.

Finally, forgiveness can be difficult, but it is the best policy.  According to a rule common among Jews at the time of Jesus, one was perfect if one forgave three times daily.  As we read in the Gospel readings, Jesus more than doubled that number, increasing it to seven.  (He affirmed spiritual challenges.)  Even if forgiving someone does not affect that person it changes for the better the one who forgives.  We also read in Matthew 7:1-5 that the standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us.  One might also consult Matthew 18:23-34, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

I understand the desire for God to smite one’s foes.  I have prayed for such results.  I have also learned that praying for their repentance–for their benefit and that of others–is a better way to proceed.  Even our foes bear the image of God, after all.  God loves them too, correct?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Humility and Arrogance, Part I   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)

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FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.

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Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Fear Versus Loving Our Neighbors   1 comment

Zechariah

Above:  The Prophet Zechariah, from the Sistine Chapel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Generous God, your Son gave his life

that we might come to peace with you.

Give us a share of your Spirit,

and in all we do empower us to bear the name of

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 6:9-15 (Monday)

Zechariah 8:18-23 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 10:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Monday)

1 John 2:18-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 18:6-9 (Wednesday)

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Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

–Psalm 5:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The pericopes for these three days indicate perilous uncertain circumstances.  Either the Persian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, or the Roman Empire is in charge.  The most optimistic hopes for the time after the Babylonian Exile have not come to fruition.  Nevertheless, calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God resound.

The historical record indicates that the Kingdom of God has yet to arrive in its fullness, and that Jesus did not return in the first century C.E.  Yet calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God remain valid, necessary, and proper.  Dashed expectations of the creation of paradise on Earth should lead one to question certain human predictions, not the fidelity of God to divine promises.  God and religion are different from each other, so disappointment with the latter ought not to lead to disillusionment with and/or rejection of the former.

As for human fidelity to God, the hyperbolic language of Matthew 18:6-9 agrees with the social ethics of Zechariah 8:18-23.  Just as Matthew 18:6-9 is not an order to maim and mutilate oneself, Zechariah’s message to have no fear (8:15) and to treat each other properly is timeless.

Have no fear!  These are the things you are to do:  Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate–declares the LORD….you must love honesty and integrity.

–Zechariah 8:15b-17, 19b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Often we human beings abuse, oppress, and/or exploit some among us out of fear.  Perhaps we fear that there will be too little of some commodity to provide for all sufficiently, so some of us protect the interests of “me and mine” at the expense of others.  Or maybe we fear for our safety and that of those dear to us, so we deprive strangers of security or approve of policies to do so.  Perhaps we merely fail to understand the “others,” so we fear those we do not comprehend.  Fear requires little effort to transform into hatred, and hatred expresses itself actively and passively.

Some fear is healthy.  I fear touching a hot oven, for example.  Fear of consequences of actions has prevented me from committing many sins when moral courage has failed.  I affirm well-placed fear which leads to good decision-making while rejecting fear which leads to actions harmful to innocent parties.

May love of our neighbors guide our decisions and actions relative to others.  May we act for their benefit, not their detriment, for that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May the joys of others cause us to rejoice and the sorrows of others prompt us to mourn.  May we remember that, in God’s economy, there is no scarcity, artificial or otherwise.  The mercantilist assumption that wealth is a zero-sum game does not apply to blessings, which God bestows generously.  May we–especially we who claim to follow God, or at least to attempt to do so–never assume that blessings are part of a zero-sum game.  May we therefore be generous of spirit when dealing with our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-21-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, the Primary Actor   1 comment

Jesus Blesssing Children

Above:  Jesus Blessing Children

Image Source = Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1955, 1960)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

God, the Primary Actor

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants.

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:1-13

Psalm 106:1-12

Matthew 18:1-5

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Hallelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise?

–Psalm 106:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A child, at the time and place of the Gospels’ setting, was powerless and vulnerable.  Yet, according to Matthew 18:3, anyone who enters the Kingdom of Heaven/God must do so like a child.  Anyone who humbles himself accordingly and enters the Kingdom will be the greatest there, for the last will be first and the first will be last.

Other vulnerable and powerless people were exiles, such as those God was preparing to liberate in Isaiah 41.

God is the primary actor in the divine-human relationship.  Grace precedes us, walks beside us, carries us when necessary, and succeeds us.  How we respond to God matters greatly, of course, affecting not only us but those around us.  To recognize our complete dependence on God and our reliance on each other–to surrender the illusion of independence and abandon the lie of the ultimate importance of social status–is to embark on a healthy spiritual path, one which entails numerous and varied expressions of gratitude to God, who has done, is doing, and will do infinitely more than we can imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 15:  TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY CUTLER AND THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIESTS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-20-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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