Archive for the ‘Philippians 4’ Category

Human Doubts and the Mighty Acts of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Most loving Father, who would have us give thanks for all things

and dread nothing but the loss of thee:

preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties;

and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the

light of thy love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Jeremiah 23:3-8

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:26-38

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The readings for this Sunday speak of corrupt rulers, the promise of divine deliverance of the nation, the restoration of exiles to their homeland, the practice of making considering for others a defining characteristic of oneself, the practice of trusting in God, and of the conception of Jesus and the annunciation of that event.  That is quite a variety of material.  Much of it speaks for itself.  Obviously the lectionary points toward linking Jeremiah 23 to Luke 1, with Philippians 4 providing commentary.

Instead of checking off all the above items in this post as I continue to write, I prefer to focus on one line:

For nothing is impossible with God.

–Luke 1:37, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Do you, O reader, affirm that?  Do I?

I speak, er, write for myself, the only person for whom I can do so.  A rationalist lives between my ears and behind my eyes.  I am one of the people most likely to ask pesky, inconvenient questions, and one of the least likely join a cult.  St. Thomas the Apostle, the great doubter, is my favorite Biblical character, for I identify with his skepticism.  One of the reasons I am an Episcopalian is the premium Anglican theology places on reason, in the context of scripture and tradition, for balance.  I am an intellectual, not a mystic.  I possess a healthy dose of skepticism.  Nevertheless, I also affirm the necessity of Kierkegaardian leaps of faith.  Such a leap of faith is necessary for one to accept the Incarnation, regardless of whether one affirms of rejects the Virgin Birth.

Yes, I affirm that nothing is impossible with God.  I affirm it more on some days and less on others.  My faith is a work in progress.  I bring my doubts to God; doing that constitutes an act of faith.  God, as I understand Him, does not strike anyone down for asking questions faithfully and honestly.

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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Gratitude, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Thanksgiving Day–The Dance, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

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

Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 6-10 (17-20)

Psalm 65 or Psalm 65:9-14

James 1:17-18, 21-27

Matthew 6:25-33

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day.

By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness,

give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Year A

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Luke 17:11-19

Year B

Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 126

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 100

Philippians 4:4-9

John 6:25-35

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Luke 17:11-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/devotion-for-thanksgiving-day-u-s-a/

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The Inner Jonah, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah

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:

Jonah 4

Psalm 130

Philippians 4:1-14, 19-23

Matthew 26:69-75

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Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

–Philippians 4:5a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That sentence puts Jonah in his place.

My studies of the Book of Job have provided a lesson applicable to the Book of Jonah.  Job and his alleged friends committed the same error:  they presumed to know how God does and should act.  That, at least, was a lesson of one layer of the authorship of the Book of Job; the prose epilogue threw a wrench into the supposed sin of Job–supposing to know how God does and should act, for God agreed with Job in that epilogue.

When Yahweh had said all this to Job, he turned to Eliphaz of Teman.  “I burn with anger against you and your two friends,” he said, “for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done.  So now find seven bullocks and seven rams, and take them back to my servant Job and offer a holocaust for yourselves, while Job, my servant, offers prayers for you.  I will listen to him with favor and excuse your folly in not speaking of me properly as my servant Job has done.”  Eliphaz of Teman, Bildad of Shuah and Zophar of Naamath went away to do as Yahweh had ordered, and Yahweh listened to Job with favor.

–Job 42:7-9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Jonah, anyway, supposed to know how God does and should act.  When God extended mercy to Jonah’s national enemy, the reluctant prophet–“that clown,” as a Roman Catholic priest once described him in writing–became disappointed with God.  Yet Jonah depended on divine mercy as much as the people of Nineveh did.

If you, O LORD, should make iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Jonah ends on an ambiguous note.  God and the prophet have an unresolved theological confrontation.  The text, concluding thusly, invites us to consider who we are more like in the story.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We object to the scandal of grace on occasion.  We tell ourselves that we want justice when we actually seek retribution.  We want God to draw the circle tightly around us and people similar to ourselves, not to draw it wide and call even our foes to repentance.  Yet there are also those who want God to exclude us.

I do not pretend to know the mind of God; that is a glorious mystery too great for me.  I do, however, study scripture, read theology, and recognize patterns.  One of these patters is that we are not God.  Another pattern is that no theological box defines God.  Judgment and mercy exist side-by-side throughout the Bible.  Where one ends and the other begins resides in the purview of God, as it should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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Extravagant Kindness   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Simon, by Dieric Bouts

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O Lord, we ask you, let your continual pity cleanse and defend your Church;

and, because it cannot continue in safety without your succor,

preserve it evermore by your help and goodness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 140

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2 Kings 17:5-14, 18-23

Psalm 25

Philippians 4:4-9, 19-20

Mark 14:3-9

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The reading from 2 Kings, in conjunction with Psalm 25, extols the virtues of obeying God.  2 Kings 16 contains a clear statement of consequences of not doing so consistently, though.  That theme is also present in Psalm 25, but not at such length.

Many of those divine commandments boil down to human kindness.  Philippians 4:5 states the matter simply:

Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The anointing of Jesus is one of the stories that we find in one version or another in each canonical Gospel.  We have it in Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8.  Despite variations from one account to the others, the element of kindness is constant.  The woman’s extravagant kindness is a timeless lesson.

Given how extravagant many people are in the pursuit of boosting their egos and advancing their social status, frequently at the expense of others, certainly seeming to go overboard to show kindness cannot be a vice, can it?  I would rather err on the side of compassion rather than on the side of its opposite.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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A Question of Balance   Leave a comment

Above:  Balance Scale

Photographer = Andreas Praefcke

Image in the Public Domain

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[Jesus] called the people to him and said, “Listen, and understand.  What goes into the mouth does not make anyone unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I remember a single-cell cartoon depicting a man standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The caption reads,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Recently I have renewed my interest in Scandinavian-American Lutheran history.  I have therefore been reading in that field.  These volumes have covered topics including Pietism, complete with its condemnation of indulging appetites and engaging in “worldly amusements,” such as dancing, drinking tea, playing cards, playing chess, attending plays, attending fairs and circuses, and reading works of fiction.  I have remembered an old joke:

Q:  Why don’t fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

Pietism and Puritanism are two unfortunate -isms that overlap with regard to denunciations of “worldly amusements.”  Pietism, which originated within Lutheranism then spread beyond it, dates to the 1600s, as a reaction against excessively abstract theology in preaching.  Pietism rejects the definition of the church as the assembly of hose called by both word and sacraments and redefines the church as the gathering of the spiritually reborn.  Pietism also de-emphasizes doctrine and stresses deeds–many of them laudible acts of charity and general decency and honest piety.  Unfortunately, Pietism also bends toward legalism and de-emphasizes the sacraments and rituals (referring scornfully to “externals”), tends toward serial contrarianism with regard to “the world,” and is Donatistic.  A Pietist contrasts deeds and doctrines.  I rebut that deeds reveal doctrines.  As we think, so we are.  That which we are inside cannot help but be evident outside.

I affirm the following statements:

  1. What we do matters.
  2. What we do not do matters.
  3. What we believe (give intellectual assent to) matters.
  4. None of the above can save any of us from the consequences of our sins.
  5. Faithful response to God is vital.
  6. Legalism is spiritually detrimental.
  7. Salvation is a gift.  It is free, not cheap.

The allegation of works-based righteousness is a cudgel many Protestants use against Roman Catholicism.  This reality indicates a misapprehension of Roman Catholic theology.  Yes, many Roman Catholics have a sense of works-based righteousness, but so do many Protestants.  I, who grew up a United Methodist in the South Georgia Conference, recall some children’s sermons delivered by laypeople whose theology included works-based righteousness.  I know well that the doctrinal standards of that denomination reject works-based righteousness.  For many Protestants of various theological categories affirming orthodoxy becomes a means of salvation.  Salvation from damnation therefore becomes a matter of knowledge.  This is an error–a sort of Gnosticism, to be precise.  Furthermore, an obsession with personal peccadilloes becomes an excuse for giving short shrift to or ignoring collective responsibility for societal and social ills.  So yes, one might cheat one’s employees and oppose policies that would penalize one for doing so and prevent one from doing so, but one rarely uses profanity and never cheats on one’s spouse.  The Bible says more about the exploitation of people than about sexual activities, however, so such a one needs to rethink one’s priorities.  Anyhow, even the most moral life, measured by kindness, cannot save one from damnation.

In both Judaism and Christianity the law of love is paramount.  So, O reader, leave the world better than you found it.  God will save it, but your faithful response is to act positively.  Also, go ahead and enjoy your life.  Enjoy a good dance, if you wish.  Watch movies, from harmless popcorn flicks to profound art films.  (Italian Neorealism has enriched my life recently.)  Why not relish a well-written novel or short story?  Lose yourself in a symphony or other work of great music.

Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire–and whatever is good and praiseworthy.

–Philippians 4:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The “worldly” in “worldly amusements” is not necessarily negative.  Yes, one should avoid much that one can find to amuse oneself, but many of the options are laudable.  Playing chess is beneficial for one’s mind.  Antioxidents in tea are good for us.  Idle hands are not necessarily the Devil’s workshop, for we need to rest and play as well as work.  God has given us life;  may we enjoy it and thank God frequently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Sharing the Distress of Others   1 comment

Above:  Madonna and Child

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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Habakkuk 3:17-19

Isaiah 54:1-10

Philippians 4:10-14

Luke 2:1-20

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The readings from Habakkuk 3 and Isaiah 54 exist in the context of exile.  They also teach the wisdom of trusting God, even when the darkness seems darkest and hope seems lost.  God is faithful, these scriptures tell us.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Philippians 4 St. Paul the Apostle writes of his contentment in a variety of circumstances, from hardship to ease.  This is an inner freedom and a great spiritual gift.  St. Paul can do all things with God’s help, we read.

In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

–Philippians 4:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Was that not what God did via the Incarnation?  Did not God share our distress?

Does not God call on us to be agents of divine kindness by sharing the distress of others?  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who suffered and died for our benefit.  The author of Hebrews, in 10:24, writing in the context of persecution and of faith community, challenges us to

consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

You, O reader, and I are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ.  What we do might bring someone to faith, turn someone off from God, deepen his or her faith, or damage it.  One way to be an agent of Christ to someone is to share in that person’s distress and offer compassion, not judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/devotion-for-christmas-eve-ackerman/

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The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part X   1 comment

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Above:  Icon of the Entombment of Christ

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:

Nahum 3:1-19 or Zechariah 12:1-13:1

Psalm 77:(1-2) 3-10 (11-20)

Matthew 27:57-66 or Mark 15:42-47 or Luke 23:50-56 or John 19:31-42

Philippians 3:1-4a; 4:10-23

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All of the options for the Gospel reading leave Jesus dead in a borrowed tomb.  This is the situation on the penultimate Sunday of Year D.  This makes liturgical sense, for the last Sunday of the church year is the Feast of Christ the King.

The other readings assigned for Proper 28 provide the promise of better things to come.  Psalm 77 speaks of the mighty acts of God in the context of a dire situation.  The apocalyptic Zechariah 12:1-13:1 promises the victory of God.  Nahum 3:1-19 deals with the overthrow of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, marked by violence and hubris.  Finally, the triumph of Jesus in his resurrection is evident in the readings from the Pauline epistles.

One should trust in God, who is powerful, trustworthy, and compassionate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/devotion-for-proper-28-year-d/

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