Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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

Lent 2019

 

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

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

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

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

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

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

Questions

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

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

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

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

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

Questions

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

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

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

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

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

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

Questions

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

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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A Faithful Response, Part XVII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace:

give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our divisions.

Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Genesis 17:1-8

2 Corinthians 3:4-11

Matthew 21:33-43

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In parts of the Hebrew Bible, as in Jeremiah 23, that the people of Israel are, metaphorically, sheep, and their rulers are, metaphorically, shepherds.  Unfortunately, the shepherds, we read, are usually bad at their jobs.

Shepherds tended the sheep, property of others.  Shepherds were employees.  Likewise, the leaders of Jesus in Matthew 21:33-43 were, metaphorically, tenants, not owners.

God is the owner of the sheep and the land in both metaphors.  God has sufficient power in self; we do not.  We are dependents.  If we imagine otherwise, we deceive ourselves.  May we be grateful and faithful dependents, behaving differently than the wicked tenants in Matthew 21.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Trusting in God, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  One of My Crucifixes

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Fifth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, good shepherd of the sheep, who came to seek and to save the lost:

so lead thy church that we may show thy compassion to the helpless,

rescue those in peril, and bring home the wanderers in safety to thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Isaiah 41:8-13

1 Peter 4:12-19

Matthew 6:25-34

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Worry is negative, but concern can be positive.  Worry can lead only to bad results, but concern can compel one to take necessary and proper actions.  Worry indicates a lack of trust in God, but concern can work well in the context of faith.

Whether one suffers for the sake of righteousness, as the consequences of one’s sin(s), the consequences of the sins of another or others, or another reason (perhaps not a discernible one), one need not imagine that one suffers in isolation.  One need not worry; God is present.  God may permit the negative consequences of one’s actions to afflict one, but one does well to remember that mercy frequently follows judgment in the Bible.  One does well to learn spiritual lessons from one’s mistakes.  One does well to manifest proper concern not to repeat those mistakes.

Trusting in God can prove difficult.  We human beings tend to prefer that which is tangible.  “Yes,” you, O reader, may reply, “but what about the Incarnation?”  I reply, “You are correct, but the historical figure of Jesus lived on earth about 2000 years ago.”  God remains invisible, but not remote.  God is all around us.  We live in the Presence of God, evident in everything from rocks and trees to people.  God is intangible, but infuses our environs.

Trusting in God can prove difficult.  Indeed, I experience problems in this regard frequently.  Yet I persist in faith.  When you, O reader, struggle likewise, I advise you to persist in faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 4, Isaiah 41, Matthew 6

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A Faithful Response, Part XVI   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistlesby Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who from the beginning didst create us for life together:

grant that, by thy fatherly grace, we may put aside suspicion and fear,

and live as one family on earth, praising thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 3:22-4:7

Ephesians 6:1-9

Matthew 8:14-22

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I begin this post by addressing and dispensing with the proverbial elephant in the room in Ephesians 6; I reject all forms of slavery in all places and at times as immoral.  Nobody should ever reconcile Christianity to any form of slavery.  Unfortunately, the history of Christianity contains people doing just that, since antiquity.

The image of sin crouching at the door, waiting to ambush, in Genesis 4:7, is memorable.

Yet you can be its master.

–Genesis 4:7f, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I recall owning and framing a napkin that read,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

That describes much of human experience accurately.  Yet we need not commit every sin we experience temptation to perform.  We can, by grace, follow God and not offer excuses for not doing so.  We can demonstrate the love of God in how we behave toward our fellow human beings.  The Golden Rue can define our lives.

Sin crouches at the door, waiting to ambush us daily.  The first step in avoiding a trap, of course, is knowing of its existence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 6, Genesis 3, Genesis 4, Matthew 8

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A Faithful Response, Part XV   Leave a comment

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us authority to rule the earth according to thy will:

enable us to manage things with reason and love,

that the whole creation may give thee praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 3:1-15

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 8:5-13

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And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.

–Genesis 2:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden.  It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said:  “You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.”

–Genesis 3:2-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Misquoting God is a bad idea.  Notice, O reader, that

or touch it

is absent from Genesis 2:16-17.

“Passing the buck” is another bad idea.  Notice, O reader, the absence of any force feeding of Adam in Genesis 3.

The mythology in Genesis 2 and 3 is what it is.  Interpretations of it vary, however.  Judaism and Eastern Orthodoxy, for example, have no concept of Original Sin.  Western Christianity does, however.  Whether one accepts or rejects Original Sin may inform how one reads 1 Timothy 2:1-7, especially verse 6.

…to win freedom for all mankind….

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Is that freedom from Original Sin?

That freedom, anyway, extends to Gentiles.  This is especially good news to those of us who are Gentiles.

Questions of Original Sin (my concept of which owes more to Reinhold Niebuhr than to St. Augustine of Hippo) aside, God loves everybody.  It follows, then, that everybody should properly love God–not in a transactional relationship, but in a manner of faithful response.  A transactional relationship with God can never really work anyway; we can never repay God.  Yet we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  We can begin by not misquoting God and by not “passing the buck.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Human Obliviousness and the Faithfulness of God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty:

open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works,

that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness;

for the sake of him by whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Job 38:1-18

Romans 1:18-25

Matthew 14:13-21

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Seeing and hearing do not always lead to comprehending properly.  Various factors can impair one’s understanding.  These include obliviousness, cultural blinders, level of education, and intellectual capacity.  Consider, O reader, an eclipse.  It is nothing to fear, and science explains it.  Yet many people go into a panic and say special prayers during an eclipse.  Perception does not match reality frequently.

In the realm of faith the problem is more complicated.  One may think one is theologically correct when one is actually mistaken.  Proverbial flashing neon signs would not help either; obliviousness and other factors would still get in the way.  Even miracles (such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand) may not prove convincing.

What are we supposed to do, then?  How much should we trust our own judgment?  Fortunately, the faithfulness of God suffices.  We may trust in that without a reasonable fear of betrayal.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Eschatological Ethics VII   1 comment

Above:  New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord Jesus, Judge and Savior:  put thy Word within our hearts

that we may be saved from disobedience and,

in the time of thy coming, be found faithful to thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Jeremiah 23:5-6

Revelation 21:1-4

Matthew 24:45-51

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Last week’s parable was the story of the Unjust Steward, who, out of self-interest, used his soon-to-be-former employer’s money to make friends and allies.

This week’s parable is the story of the Conscientious Steward, who was performing his duties when his boss, seemingly late, arrived.

Eschatological ethics teach us to be realistic and proactive.  They teach us that yes, God will eventually destroy the corrupt world order, with its rife exploitation and bad governance, and replace it with divine order.  Eschatological ethics teach us that only God can save the world, but that we remain stewards of it.  We–individually and collectively–have responsibilities to God and each other, as well as to succeeding generations, the planet, and other species on it.  Expectations of Christ’s Second Coming never excuse neglecting our duties from God.

Years ago I had a disturbing conversation with a particular young woman.  She, who identified herself as a Christian, referred to the planet as her “vacation home” and said that she did not care about what happened here; she was that focused on Heaven.  She apparently neglected a large portion of scripture about stewardship of creation and the mandate of social justice.  I reminded her of those teachings.  She did not change her mind, at least that day.

Only God can save the world, but we–individually and collectively–have divine orders to leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

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

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

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

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

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