Archive for the ‘Matthew 7’ Category

Good and Bad Fruit, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Moses (1907)

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy;

and because the frailty of men without thee cannot but fail,

keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful,

and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 210

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Deuteronomy 34

Psalm 76

Galatians 5:13-24

Matthew 7:15-23

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That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.

–Rabbi Hillel (110 B.C.E.-10 C.E.)

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You, O friends, were called to be free; only beware of turning your freedom into licence for your unspiritual nature.  Instead, serve one another in love, for the whole law is summed up in a single commandment:  “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  But if you go on fighting one another, tooth and nail, all you can expect is mutual destruction.

–Galatians 5:13-15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Our fruits reveal our true nature.  We can put on false faces for a long time, but the truth will be become obvious eventually.  The real pattern will become unmistakable.  It will not be “fake news,” regardless of how loudly and often we shout that it is.  God is like what God does, and we are like what we do.  Even the best of us receive mixed reviews from God.

Consider Moses, O reader.  The image of the great leader, forbidden to cross over into Canaan, gazing into the Promised Land from a height, is poignant.  One understanding in Deuteronomy is that he had failed to give proper recognition to God (Numbers 20:10-13; Numbers 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 32:48-52).  Another explanation from Deuteronomy is that Moses bore the penalty of the sins of the people he led (Deuteronomy 1:37-38; Deuteronomy 3:18-28).  Either way, the failure to give proper recognition to God was the problem.  This pattern continued, as anyone who has read the rest of the story should know.

What are our fruits?  Do we give proper recognition to God?  Do we obey the Golden Rule?  Do we lie then lie about our lying?  Many people may fall for deception, but God never does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XVII   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean Waves

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity;

and that we may obtain that which thou dost promise,

make us to love that which thou dost command;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 208

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Micah 7

Psalm 73

Galatians 3:15-22

Matthew 7:7-14

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For the umpteenth time, divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  This theme exists in all four readings for today.  I cannot, in good conscience, agree with the Psalmist toward the end of Psalm 73.

Annihilate everyone who deserts you.

–Verse 27b, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

No, I pray that they will return to God and remain.  Yet I know that not all will.  Not all people will find the hard road that leads to life, having departed from it, return to it.

Galatians 3:15-22 exists in the immediate textual context of Galatians 3:14:

The purpose of this was that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Trust in God, we read in Micah 7.  Trust in God as the Kingdom of Judah crumbles and one’s society falls apart.  Trust in God while suffering the consequences of one’s sins.  Trust in God, whose forgiveness and graciousness last longer than wrath.  The poetic image of God hurling sins into the depths of the sea is quite comforting.

After all, annihilation need not be inevitable.  God seeks all people, but not all people seek God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Eternal Life III   Leave a comment

Above:  A Gavel

Image in the Public Domain

Photographer = Airman First Class Grace Lee, United States Air Force

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For the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that

thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service;

grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life,

that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 206

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Ezekiel 34:1-24

Psalm 66:1-10, 16-20

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Matthew 7:1-6

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Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 353

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One can read “eternal,” “eternity,” and “eternal life” throughout the Bible.  The confusing element is that the authors did not agree about what whose terms meant.  Frequently “eternal” is a synonym for “everlasting” and “eternity” means the afterlife, timelessness, or a very long time.  I, as a Johannine Christian, take my definition of eternal life from John 17:3–knowing God via Jesus.  Eternal life can continue into the afterlife, according to this verse.  Notice the blessing I quoted from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), O reader; it reflects Johannine theology.  When we turn to St. Paul the Apostle, dictating an epistle to the Corinthian church, we find that he understood eternal life to mean spending one’s afterlife with Jesus.

I hope you, O reader, do not think I am being needlessly pedantic in this post.  (I am capable of unapologetic pedantry, though.  It is consistent with my orientation toward details.)  No, in this post, I strive to understand what the authors were trying to say before I interpret what they said.  God

rules from his eternal fortress

in the Mitchell J. Dahood translation of Psalm 66.  Nevertheless, God

rules by his might for ever,

according to the Revised Standard Version.  “Eternal” equals “forever” in Psalm 66, but not in 2 Corinthians and John.  Eternal life can begin before death in John, but not in Paul.

The readings from Ezekiel and Matthew are germane.  Repentance holds off divine judgment in Ezekiel 33.  That is important background for Ezekiel 34, in which how we think of and treat others inform how God will evaluate us.  Likewise, we read in Matthew 7:1-5 that God will apply to us the standard we use to judge others or not judge them.  This teaching, a cousin of the Golden Rule, reminds me of the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses–to suffer the fate one would have had an innocent person suffer.  Given that repentance holds off divine judgment, the lack of repentance does not hold off divine judgment.  Then one cannot move into the metaphorical eternal, heavenly building from 2 Corinthians 5:1.

Judgment in these matters is God’s purview.  We human beings, although not completely uninformed, know far less than God does.  May we strive to take up our crosses and follow Jesus daily.  May we encourage others to do the same.  May we also support them when they do.  And may we, by grace, have a minimum of hypocrisy as we follow Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Building on the Rock   Leave a comment

Above:  Heavy Black Clouds of Dust Rising Over the Texas Panhandle, March 1936

Photographer = Arthur Rothstein

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-fsa-8b27276

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For the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who hast prepared for them that love thee

such good things as pass man’s understanding;

pour into our hearts such love toward thee,

that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 192

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Jeremiah 16:14-21

Psalm 26

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Matthew 7:24-29

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Three of the four readings refer to idolatry.  Psalm 26 is a defense against a false charge of idolatry.  Jeremiah 16:14-21 lists idolatry as a sin that led to exile.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 lists idolaters as one of the groups excluded from the Kingdom of God.  Why not?  They build their houses on sand, not rock.

Storms can be literal or metaphorical.  Without minimizing the destruction natural disasters cause, perhaps the most devastating storms are metaphorical.  One must deal with the spiritual and psychological consequences of a literal storm.  One experiences a financial crisis.  A relationship ends.  A friend or a relative dies.  A professor terminates one’s advanced degree program unfairly.  One has legal difficulties.  One feels alone and abandoned.  Sheltering in place during a pandemic takes its toll on one’s emotional, spiritual, and/or mental health.  Idols can be tangible.  They can also be purely in one’s mind.  Whatever our idols are, they distract us from God, the rock.  And storms come, inevitably.

What is your foundation, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part III   5 comments

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who hast commanded us to love our enemies

and to do good to those who hate us;

grant that we may not be content with the affections of our friends

but may reach out in love to all thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Jeremiah 15:15-21

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Matthew 7:15-29

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The topic of revenge, covered in the previous post, is germane to this post.

The conclusion of 1 Thessalonians uses the word “peace” twice.  People are to live in peace with each other, and God is the God of peace.  Living in mutual peace encompasses both correction and encouragement, always in love.

See to it that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always aim at what is best for each other and for all.

–1 Thessalonians 5:15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a far cry from

O LORD,…

Avenge me on those who persecute me;

Do not yield to your patience,….

–Jeremiah 15:15a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I, having suffered far less than Jeremiah, know that feeling.  Yet the quest for revenge is a path to spiritual destruction.

May we, following Jesus and tapping into grace, overcome evil with good.  May we, in the process of resisting evil, not become evildoers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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Posted December 5, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 5, Jeremiah 15, Matthew 7

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Family   Leave a comment

Above:   Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife, by John Bridges

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christian Home Sunday (the Second Sunday in May), Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Our Father:  we are your children.

You know us better than we know ourselves, or can know each other.

Help us to love, so that we can learn to love our neighbors.

May we forgive, hold no grudges, and put up with being hurt.

Let there be laughter as we enjoy each other.

Serving, may we practice service you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 205

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Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Colossians 3:12-24

Matthew 8:5-17

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Christian Home Sunday, set on the second Sunday in May, takes the liturgical place of Mother’s Day (1908) and Father’s Day (1910), simultaneously commercial and socially conservative holidays with deep piety attached to them from the beginning.

The social conservatism in the United States of America at the time was of the sort that found women women influenced by feminism, breaking out of their separate spheres and republican motherhood–even daring to vote and to seek suffrage–a threat to traditional family structures and gender roles.

I am considerably more liberal than many of the early advocate of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Patriarchy is not the social good many have long imagined it to be.  No, I prefer equality.  And, unlike the author of Colossians 3, I also oppose slavery.

Even a merely cursory scan of the assigned readings reveals references to families in all of them.  The readings from Deuteronomy and Colossians really get to the points:  loving one another and nurturing piety.  There is no cookie-cut-out formula for all families, but the two points from the previous sentence are timeless principles.  They even apply when women vote and have careers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Exploitation III   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses, by Edward Peck Sperry, 1897

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-31841

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

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Lord Jesus Christ, our only King, who came in the form of a servant:

control our wills and restrain our selfish ambitions,

that we may seek thy glory above all things and fulfill our lives in thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 34:1-9

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Matthew 7:24-29

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When I was a boy, I had a collection of Arch Books.  Each volume, a thin paperback book, told one Bible story in words and pictures.  This was a wonderful way for a child to learn Bible stories.  The Arch Book for the parable from Matthew 7:24-27 has lodged itself in my memory.

Jesus likened himself to a rock.  Moses was atop a mountain in Exodus 19 when he received far more than ten commandments from God.  (The commandments fill Exodus 20-24.)  Moses was atop a mountain again, to receive more commandments and stone tablet versions (Exodus 25-31).  While Moses was away, impatient Israelites broke the covenant.  Moses, in anger, broke the first stone tablets (Exodus 32).  Then Moses interceded on behalf of the people (Exodus 32-33).  God restored the covenant in Exodus 34.

We are supposed to read Exodus 34 in the context of the rest of the Torah narrative and of the Hebrew Bible more broadly.  We know of the unfortunate habit of murmuring and of relatively short memories of God’s mighty acts yet long memories of Egyptian leftovers.

I am not a psychologist, but psychology intrigues me.  Therefore, I listen and read closely in the field.  What we remember and what we forget–and why–indicates much about our character and about human nature, for good and for ill.  Often our minds work against the better angels of our nature; much of remembering and forgetting is a matter of the unconscious mind.  As rational as many of us try to be and like to think of ourselves as being, we tend to be irrational, panicky creatures who forget that, when we harm others, we hurt ourselves, too.  We also forget the promises we made recently all too often.

How we behave toward God and how we act toward others are related to each other.  Do we recognize God in others?  If so, that informs how we treat them.  Although I do not see the image of God in Mimi, my feline neighbor whom I feed outside my back door, I recognize her as a creature of God, an animal possessed of great dignity and worthy of respect.  Returning to human relations, the Law of Moses teaches, in terms of timeless principles and culturally specific examples, that we have divine orders to take care of each other, and never to exploit one another.  That commandment applies to societies, institutions, and governments, not just individuals.

Societies, institutions, governments, and individuals who forget or never learn that lesson and act accordingly are like a man who was so foolish that he build his house on sand, not on rock.  The rain will fall, the floods will come, the winds will blow, and the house will fall.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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Eschatological Ethics III: Passing Judgment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

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

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Matthew 3:1-11

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Until God ushers in Matthew’s Kingdom of Heaven–the fully realized rule of God on Earth, replacing corrupt systems and institutions, the question of eschatological ethics remains current and germane.

We read some of St. Paul the Apostle’s advice in 1 Corinthians 4–pass no premature judgment.  We also read St. John Baptist’s critique of many Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3–

Brood of vipers.

I propose that St. John’s judgment was not premature, but based on evidence.

One might supplement St. Paul’s counsel with that of Christ in Matthew 7:1-5 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985):

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give will be the judgements you get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?  And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

One who knows the Bible well can think of examples of various Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and St. Paul issuing judgments, usually while speaking with authority from God.  However, one must, if one is to be intellectually honest, admit that some judgments are wrong, in more than one way.

“Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true.

–Titus 1:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Whether St. Paul affirmed that nasty statement about Cretans or someone writing in his name did remains a matter of scholarly debate.  The unfortunate statement exists within the canon of the New Testament, though.

Sometimes we must make judgments–ones based on objective evidence.  To call a spade a spade, so to speak; to condemn injustice; to speak truth to power; is a moral imperative.  True statements are neither slanderous nor libelous.  Cynical people and desperate partisans in a state of denial may call true statements “fake news,” but objective truth is never fake.  As John Adams observed,

Facts are stubborn things.

James 3:1-12 offers timeless advice regarding the use of the tongue; we have a moral duty to control it.  That counsel also applies to the written word and to social media.  Condemning the unjustifiable is appropriate, but ruining reputations and lives without evidence is always wrong.  It is also commonplace, unfortunately.

“Brood of vipers” indeed!

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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Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Labor Day, by Samuel D. Ehrhart

Published in Puck Magazine, September 1, 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-26406

FOR LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a collect and assigned readings for Labor Day.

Interdependence is a cardinal virtue in the Law of Moses.  Interdependence is also obvious, or should be.  Somehow, especially in the global West, the idea of rugged individualism persists.  Yet, no matter how hard or well one works, one drives on roads other people built, relies on technology other people invented or maintain, and depends on many other people might guess at first thought.  Anyone who can read this post with comprehension relies on hosts of educators, for example.

As I affirm that I depend on the work of others, just as others depend on my work, I also affirm the dignity of work.  Therefore, I argue for certain propositions:

  1. Nobody should have to work in a death trap or a sweatshop;
  2. All wages should be living wages;
  3. People should work to live, not live to work;
  4. Union organizing and collective bargaining should be inviolable rights; and
  5. Access to affordable, quality health care is an inalienable right.

Nobody has a moral right to exploit anyone else.  No institution has a moral right to exploit any person.  After all, people should be more important than profits.

Furthermore, all work should benefit societies or communities.  By this standard most jobs pass the test.  We need plumbers and bus drivers, for example, but we also need actors, poets, and novelists.  In a just world teachers, librarians, police officers, and fire fighters would be some of the best paid professionals, but that is not the world in which we live, unfortunately.  It can be, however.  A society is what its members make it.  Sufficient force of public opinion, applied well, changes policies.  The major obstacle to positive social change is resignation to the current reality.

Furthermore, the best kind of work is also indistinguishable from play.  Work ought not only to provide financial support for one but also fulfill intangible needs.  Work, at its best, is something one who performs it enjoys.  Work should improve, not detract from, one’s quality of life.

Work does, of course, assume many forms, at home and out like the home.  One should never forget that a stay-at-home parent is a working parent.  One should never forget that one who leaves the labor force to become a caregiver for a relative is still working, just without wages.  One should acknowledge that those who, for various reasons, cannot join the labor force, are valuable members of society, and that many of them can contribute greatly to society, if others will permit them to do so.  Whenever a society holds back any of its members, it prevents itself from achieving its potential.

May we remember also that, as valuable as work is, rest and leisure are vital also.  Ideally one will balance the three properly.  We know that the brain requires a certain amount of sleep–especially REM sleep–to function properly.  We know that the correct amount of rest is necessary for the body to function properly.  We know that leisure makes for better employees.

Work, at its best, is a gift from God.  It is a gift for divine glory and the meeting of human needs.  Work, at its best, builds up (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) individuals, families, communities, societies, nation-states, and the world.  One’s work, at its best, is a vocation from God; it occupies the intersection of one’s greatest joys and the world’s deepest needs.

May you, O reader, find your work fulfilling in every way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another

that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:

So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good;

and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor,

make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers,

and arouse our concern for those who are out of work;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:27-32

Psalm 107:1-9 or 90:1-2, 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:10-14

Matthew 6:19-24

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 261, 932

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We invoke thy grace and wisdom, O Lord, upon all men of good will

who employ and control the labor of men.

Amid the numberless irritations and anxieties of their position,

help them to keep a quite and patient temper,

and to rule firmly and wisely, without harshness and anger.

Since they hold power over the bread, the safety, and the hopes of the workers,

may they wield their power justly and with love,

as older brothers and leaders in the great fellowship of labor.

Suffer not the heavenly light of compassion for the weak and the old to be quenched in their hearts.

When they are tempted to sacrifice human health and life for profit,

do thou strengthen their will in the hour of need,

and bring to nought the counsels of the heartless.

May they not sin against thee by using the bodies and souls of men as mere tools to make things.

Raise up among us employers who shall be makers of men as well as of goods.

Give us men of faith who will look beyond the strife of the present,

and catch a vision of a nobler organization of our work,

when all shall still follow the leadership of the ablest,

no longer in fear, but by the glad will of all,

and when all shall stand side by side in a strong and righteous brotherhood of work;

according to thy will in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Evangelical and Reformed Church, Book of Worship (1947) 382-383

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Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:24-34 or Nehemiah 2:1-18

Psalms 124 and 125 or 147

2 Timothy 2:1-15 or Matthew 7:15-27

–General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, A Book of Worship for Free Churches (1948), 409

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/devotion-for-labor-day-u-s-a/

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