Archive for the ‘Matthew 25’ Category

Eschatological Ethics VI: A New Year’s Resolution   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Apocalypse of John

Image in the Public Domain

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For New Year’s Day, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Judge eternal:  in your purpose our lives are lived,  and by your grace our hopes are bright.

Be with us in the coming year, forgiving, leading, and serving;

so that we may walk without fear, in the way of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook:  Services and Hymns (1972), 158

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Eternal God, who makest all things new, and abidest for ever the same:

Grant us to begin this year in Thy faith, and to continue it in Thy favor;

that, being guided in all or doings, and guarded in all our days,

we may spend our days in Thy service, and finally, by Thy grace,

attain the glory of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship (1946), 316

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 25:31-46

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To make a new year’s resolution is a frequent exercise in good intentions quickly abandoned for one reason or another.  In the context of the assigned readings, however, I propose a truly daunting resolution for every year.

Only God can save the world, but we (collectively and individually) have a divine commandment to leave it better than we find it.  This is part of eschatological ethics.  Belief in the return of Jesus is no good reason not to obey divine commandments vis-à-vis our environment (being good stewards of it) and loving our neighbors (nearby and far away).  The current world order is inherently corrupt, based on violence and exploitation.  We have the power to reduce the extent to which that statement is true, but not to create Utopia, literally “nowhere.”

May we resolve to live in the awareness of the Presence of God, who commands us to follow the Golden Rule.  May we resolve to acknowledge in thoughts, words, and deeds that thoughts and prayers are frequently inadequate and a cop-out anyway; that God demands that we act to improve situations when we can.  May we resolve to grasp that the command in Matthew 25:31-46 to care for the “least of these” is too much for individuals, and frequently challenging for organizations, whether public or private.  May we resolve to recognize Christ and the image of God in those who make us uncomfortable and are quite different from us.  May we resolve to recognize immigrants and refugees as our neighbors.  May we resolve, simply put, to love each other effectively and actively in the name of God and specifically of Jesus, who demonstrated his sacrificial love.

Love cannot wrong a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY CARY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Eschatological Ethics II   2 comments

Above:  Countryside Dramatic Evening

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who didst prepare of old the minds and hearts of men for the coming of thy Son,

and whose Spirit ever worketh to illumine our darkened lives with the light of his gospel:

prepare now our minds and hearts, we beseech thee, that Christ may dwell within us,

and ever reign in our thoughts and affections as the King of love and the very Prince of peace.

Grant this, we pray thee, for his sake.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Isaiah 33:17-22

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 25:14-29

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Readings for early Advent frequently have an apocalyptic tone.  In this sense they continue from the last four Sundays prior to Advent in many lectionaries.  I know from reading that, in parts of Confessional Lutheranism, the last four Sundays are the End Time Season.  I also hear of some congregations that keep eight–not four–Sundays of Advent, by folding the End Time Season Sundays into Advent.  That plan makes sense to me.

Hopefully one understanding that we are dealing with the end of one age and the beginning of another age, not the end of the world or time.  Science tells me that the world will end in the far future, when the Sun expands and either engulfs it or burns it.  Time, I presume, will continue.

The issue du jour is eschatological ethics.  As we wait for the Day of the Lord–in the Gospel of Matthew, the dawning of the Kingdom of Heaven–when the fully realized rule of God will replace all corrupt, exploitative human systems and institutions–how should we live?  The answer is that we should reject immorality and fearful inaction.  We should be bold and take risks, for the glory of God.  We should double down on holy living.  “We,” of course, is plural; societies, institutions, governments, et cetera, stand in need of reform just as much as you and I do, O reader.  Eschatological ethics are both collective and individual.

We–collectively and individually–have work to do.  It is a great responsibility.  Shall we labor faithfully, for God and the benefit of others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Christ the King, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY:  THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE

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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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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

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Christ the King Sunday, originally established in the Roman Catholic Church opposite Reformation Sunday, was the creation of Pope Pius XI in 1925.  The rise of fascism and other forms of dictatorship in Europe between World Wars I and II was the context for the creation of this feast.  The feast, in full,

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe,

has been the Sunday preceding Advent since Holy Mother Church revised its calendar in 1969.  The feast became part of many Lutheran and Anglican calendars during the 1970s, as part of liturgical revision.  In much of U.S. Methodism Christ the King Sunday used to fall on the last Sunday in August, at the end of the Season after Pentecost and leading into Kingdomtide.  Christ the King Sunday, set immediately prior to Advent, has become ubiquitous in Western Christianity.

The term “Christ the King” works well for me, for Jesus was male.  I have seen the alternative term “Reign of Christ,” an example of unnecessary linguistic neutering.  I have also wondered about the use of the language of monarchy in a world with few monarchs than before, and about how many citizens of republics might relate to such terminology.  I have also noted that “Reign of Christ” does not allay any concerns related to the language of monarchy.

God is the king in Psalm 100, and Jesus is the king in Ephesians 1 and Matthew 25.  We read of negligent Hebrew kings in Ezekiel 34.  There we also read of the promised Messianic sovereign.  In Matthew 25 we read that the Son of Man (an apocalyptic term for, in this case, Jesus) expects us to take care of each other and will mete out both judgment and mercy.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Most of the readings for this Sunday are apocalyptic in tone.  Matthew 25:31-46 belongs to an apocalyptic section (set immediately prior to the crucifixion of Jesus) in that Gospel.  Ephesians (whoever wrote it) is probably from the 90s C.E., about the time of the composition of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The promise of the Second Coming of Christ hangs over Ephesians 1:15-23.  The promise of a Messianic king in Ezekiel 34 is apocalyptic on its face.  The readings also fit well at the end of the Season after Pentecost and before Advent, when many of the readings are apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic literature is inherently hopeful, for it affirms that God will end the current, sinful, exploitative age and usher in a new age of justice–of heaven on Earth.  If one studies the Bible carefully, one recognizes the pattern of pushing dashed apocalyptic hopes forward in time–from the end of the Babylonian Exile to the time after Alexander the Great to the time of Jesus to the end of the first century C.E.  One, studying history, might also find this pattern since the end of the New Testament.  The list of times Jesus was allegedly supposed to have returned, according to a series of false prophets, is lengthy.

Nevertheless, Christ remains the King of the Universe, despite all appearances to the contrary.  God remains faithful to divine promises, and the apocalyptic hope for God to set the world right remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/devotion-for-proper-29-year-a-humes/

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Active Faith V   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

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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Nahum 1:1-9, 12-15 or Isaiah 66:10-14

Psalm 38:1-4, 9-15, 21-22

1 Corinthians 16:1-9, 13-14, 20-24

Matthew 25:14-30

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A talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer.  In the Parable of the Talents all the stewards were honest men, fortunately.  Unfortunately, one gave into fearful inactivity while the other two were active.  The parable, set amid apocalyptic texts in the context of the build up to the crucifixion of Jesus, cautioned against fearful inactivity when action is necessary.

St. Paul the Apostle was certainly active, maintaining a travel schedule, writing to churches and individuals, and raising funds for the church at Jerusalem.

Fearful inactivity is not the only sin that provokes divine wrath.  To that list one can add institutionalized exploitation and violence (read Nahum).  When oppressors refuse to change their ways and to cease oppressing, deliverance for the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors.  One might think also of the fate of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

Back to individual sins, we have Psalm 38, a text by an ill man shunned by alleged friends.  He also has enemies who plot violence against him.  And he is aware of his sins.  The psalmist prays for deliverance.

Confession of sin is a requirement for repentance.  Sin can be active or passive, as well as collective or individual.  May repentance and active faith marked by justice and mercy define us, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/devotion-for-proper-28-year-a-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part XI   1 comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

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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Haggai 2:2-9 or Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 37:1-11

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Matthew 25:1-13

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God is powerful, just, merciful, and trustworthy.  We know this because the mighty acts of God indicate those qualities.  These acts of God include ending the Babylonian Exile and resurrecting Jesus.

Such grace demands a faithful response.  God is with us; are we with God?  While you, O reader, ponder that, think about this, also:  “you” in Matthew 25:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 is plural.  If we are to interpret these passages correctly, we must assign the proper weight to collective responsibility.

As we labor faithfully in God’s service, may we never lose hope; our work is not in vain, regardless of appearances sometimes.  One might think, for example, of the prophet Jeremiah, who had just one follower–Baruch the scribe.  Yet the Book of Jeremiah continues to speak to many people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/devotion-for-proper-27-year-a-humes/

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Praying for the Dead   1 comment

Above:  All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of All Saints originated at the great monastery of Cluny in 998.  The commemoration spread and became an occasion to pray for those in Purgatory.  During the Reformation Era Protestants and Anglicans dropped the feast on theological grounds.  In the late twentieth century, however, the feast–usually renamed the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed–began appearing on Anglican calendars.  The difference between All Saints’ Day and All Faithful Departed, in this context, had become one of emphasis–distinguished saints on November 1 and forgotten saints on November 2.

The idea of Purgatory (a Medieval Roman Catholic doctrine with ancient roots) is that of, as I heard a Catholic catechist, “God’s mud room.”  The doctrine holds that all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven, just not yet, for they require purification.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, for I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes “God’s mud room.”  Purgatory is also alien to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also encourages prayers for the dead.

I pray for the dead, too.  After all, who knows what takes place between God and the departed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.

As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection,

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-9, 13-14 or Psalm 103:8, 10, 13-18

Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Matthew 25:31-46 or John 11:17-27

The Vatican II Sunday Missal (1974), 1041-1048

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O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers:

Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son;

that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 130 or Psalm 116:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 665

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-souls-commemoration-of-all-faithful-departed-november-2/

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Interim Times   1 comment

Above:  New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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Koheleth advises us to eat, drink, and find happiness in work, for doing all of the above is a divine gift.  And what is that work?  Regardless of the particulars of vocations and avocations, that work, when it is what it should be, entails meeting the needs of people, to whom God has granted inherent dignity.  The divine commandment of hospitality, as in Matthew 25:31-46, is part of Judeo-Christian ethics.  Only God can save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

The end of Revelation (no “s” at the end of that word, despite Biblically illiterate additions of that letter) describes the aftermath of God’s creative destruction.  By this point in the Apocalypse of John God has destroyed the old, corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order built on ego, might, and artificial scarcity.  Then John sees a new heaven and a new earth.  Then the Kingdom of Heaven described in the Gospel of Matthew becomes reality.

That event remains in the future tense.  Until then we have work to do, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.  May we go about it faithfully and find happiness in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time,

and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love.

Grant that in the new year we may know your presence,

see your love at work,

and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever

–the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 63

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalm 8

Revelation 21:1-6a

Matthew 25:31-46

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-new-years-day-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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