Archive for the ‘Proverbs 3’ Category

Sin and Punishment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XII

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Jeremiah 17:1-20:18

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The Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  When one reads the genre methodically, one realizes this.  Pardon me, therefore, O reader, for not explaining every repeated theme in Jeremiah 17:1-20:18.

Jeremiah 17:1-4 uses powerful imagery to condemn illegitimate worship at cultic sites.  Proverbs 3:3 and 7:3 refer to the tablet of the heart, on which the divine commandments are inscribed.  Yet in Jeremiah 17:1, those tablets are inscribed with the guilt of Judah instead.  Such a heart symbolizes disobedience to God in Ezekiel 2:4 and 3:7.  Eventually, God will make a new covenant, one inscribed on the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  For now, however, repentance is not an option.  The sins of Judah, not the reparation blood (Leviticus 4:1-7, 13-20), are on the stones of the altar.

2 Kings 22-23 tells of the religious reformation of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.).  One may read Jeremiah 17:1-4 and surmise that 17:1-4 predates those reforms or that his four successors presided over a rollback of those reforms.  Either option is feasible.  The second option may be more likely.

God is faithful and forever.  Even the most pious and benevolent people, those who keep the covenant, are not forever.  The Book of Jeremiah focuses on God and on those who are neither pious nor benevolent, though.

Returning to the imagery of the human heart in 17:9-10, we read that the human heart is crooked and deceitful.  The germane Hebrew word, suggestive of deceit, means “crooked.”  The human heart is the most crooked thing, we read.  This is a spiritual and moral pathology.

Jeremiah 17:11 speaks for itself.

Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance (17:18) was predictable.  I have known the same desire under less severe circumstances.  Maybe you have, also, O reader.

The Deuteronomic perspective in the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books teaches that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah declined and fell because of persistent, unrepentant, collective disregard for the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  This is the perspective written into much of the Old Testament, from the perspective of the editors after the Babylonian Exile.  Jeremiah 17:19-27 singles out violations of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14)–especially commercial transactions–as being emblematic of widespread, systemic disregard for the covenant.

Sabbath-keeping has long been a feature of Judaism and Christianity.  Keeping the Sabbath–a sign of freedom in the Law of Moses–has been a way of emulating God.  On the seventh day, in mythology, God created the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3).  Sabbath-keeping has always been challenging, in practical terms.  Stopping all work on that day (however one defines it) has always been impossible.  Certain work has always been crucial to perform on the Sabbath, and members of the clergy have had to take their Sabbath some other time in the week.  The Hasmoneans, zealous keepers of the Law of Moses, bowed to reality and engaged in defensive combat (1 Maccabees 2:31-48; 1 Maccabees 9:23-73; 2 Maccabees 15:1-19).  If they had done otherwise, they would have lost battles and lives needlessly.

Sabbath-keeping works to the benefit of people.  Everyone needs to take time off to live.  One should work to live, not live to work.  Structural economic factors may restrict one’s options in keeping the Sabbath as one would prefer to do.  Also, the common good requires, for example, that public health and safety continue on the Sabbath.  Time off is a mark of freedom.  Slavery assumes many forms; one can be a wage slave.

The prophecy of the potter (Jeremiah 18:1-12) is familiar, and popular with lectionary committees.  I have written about it while blogging through lectionaries.  I bring your attention, O reader, to a key point:  God, the Creator, is free to handle His creation as He sees fit.  I am a piece of pottery, not the potter.

People kept plotting against Jeremiah.  Had I been Jeremiah, I would have complained to God, too.  I would have prayed to God to show no mercy on the plotters, also.  I, too, may have rued the day of my birth.  Jeremiah was only human.  God knew that before calling Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Jeremiah made no allies by following God’s instructions in Chapter 19 and symbolically smashing a jug.  That act led to a flogging and a brief incarceration.  Jeremiah suffered intensely and briefly, but Passhur the priest was going to experience “terror all around.” Judah was failing; nobody could change that.

Many people in authority like to maintain their power.  Some of them peacefully resign themselves to the realities of age, health, constitutional term limits, and election results; others do not.  Many people in authority are servant leaders; others are tyrants or would-be despots.  I suppose that nobody in authority wants to hear that the institution, nation-state, kingdom, empire, et cetera, is doomed.  Yet how one handles that news is a test of character.  Besides, power reveals a person’s character.  And, as Heraclitus said,

A man’s character is his fate.

I wonder how Passhur the priest felt in 586 B.C.E., after the Fall of Jerusalem.  I wonder if he remembered the words of Jeremiah and wept bitterly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK C. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, ROBERT M. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OF GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR, 120

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Suffering, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 2

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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, who hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross,

that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;

mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 157

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Jeremiah 18:1-14

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

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Great power accompanies great privilege.  Psalm 8 includes a staggering idea–that

human beings share in God’s creative power and care of creation.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible–Study Edition (2019), 941

When we add Jeremiah 18:1-14 to the mix, we add another element:  We belong to God, not ourselves.  We–individually and collectively, ought to allow God to shape us.  That is one of our responsibilities.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  Also, repentance can stave off judgment, sometimes, at least.  Furthermore, punishment can be discipline, as a parent disciplines a child.  And one, such as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, may understand suffering as a form of discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-11 borrows from Proverbs 3:11-12 to address the suffering of the audience familiar with persecution.  Keep the faith, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches.  The text even uses the language of “sons” from Proverbs 3:11-12.  The germane Greek word in Hebrews translates literally as “sons,” not “children.”  This is consistent with the Pauline theology of sonship of God, although St. Paul the Apostle neither dictated nor wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.  The reference to “sons” is crucial and specific to the culture.  It is a reference to heirs, for sons inherited; daughters did not.  Specifically, legitimate sons inherited.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966) gets to the point in 12:8:

If you were not getting this training, as all of you are, then you would not be sons but bastards.

Suffering as spiritual training may be a difficult idea to accept.  Nevertheless, if one professes to be a Christian, one claims to follow Jesus, who suffered greatly, especially during Holy Week.  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016), who suffered unjustly at the hands of the United States federal government for practicing his Christian faith observed, those who follow Jesus must 

look good on wood.

So, we have two sides of our calling from God in Christ:

  1. To share in divine creative power and care of creation, and
  2. To look good on wood.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) wrote that when Jesus calls a man to follow him, Christ bids that man to come and die.  A servant is not greater than the master.

Welcome to Holy Week.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

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Deeds and Creeds IV   1 comment

Above:  The Marriage at Cana, by Paolo Veronese

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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Amos 5:18-24 or Proverbs 3:5-18

Psalm 117

1 Timothy 3:1-13

John 2:1-12

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Rituals are part of religion.  The Law of Moses specifies elements of ritualism, down to priestly vestments and certain details of sacred spaces.  May we human beings shun Puritanical and Pietistic excesses as we focus on the point of Amos 5:18-24.  That point is that sacred rituals are not talismans.  They do not shield people from the consequences of a lack of righteousness–in this case, manifested in the exploitation of the vulnerable and in corruption.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  We may praise God for having merciful love (as in Psalm 117), but divine justice is catastrophic for the habitually unrighteous (as in Amos 5).  Therefore, blessed and happy are those who find wisdom (as in Proverbs 3).

1 Timothy 3, somewhat bound by cultural context, does contain a timeless element, too.  Ecclesiastical leaders have a duty to lead by example.  They must have fine character.  Their deeds must not belie the sacred truth.

Hypocrisy offends, does it not?  I recall a news story from years ago.  A minister had preached against gambling.  Then someone caught him gambling in a casino.

Deeds reveal creeds.  Words may deceive, but deeds to not lie.  In Jewish theology, God is like what God has done and is doing.  The same principle applies to human beings.

In the Gospel of John, Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine at Cana.  This was no mere parlor trick.  Yes, Jesus saved his host from embarrassment.  Christ also pointed to his glory, that is, God’s presence in him.  Jesus pointed to God.

Divine grace is extravagant.  It saves us from sins and from ourselves.  Sometimes it may save us from embarrassment.  Do we accept that grace and point to God?  Do we accept that grace and love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Or do we reject that grace?

Our deeds will reveal our creeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ADAMS BROWN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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Erasing Lines   1 comment

Above:   A Pencil Eraser

Image Source = ProSavage2600

Erasing Lines

JANUARY 6, 2018

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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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Proverbs 3:5-8

Isaiah 56:3-5

Acts 15:1-21

John 7:25-31

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The readings for this day, taken together, teach that God acts toward us according to who we are, not from where we hail.  Proverbs 3:5-8 encourages us to trust only in God.  Isaiah 56:3-5 tells us that faithful foreigners are equal to other faithful people in the eyes of God.  We read of one controversy regarding welcoming Gentiles into the nascent Church in Acts 15.  Last, but not least, we read of a lack of hospitality toward Jesus among members of his own ethnic group.

The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Gentiles.  On such a day these readings fit well.  These readings are also appropriate at any time one seeks to exclude those who are different in some way yet known to God favorably.  These readings remind me of a cartoon I have seen.  People are drawing lines with pencils, but Jesus is erasing lines.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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Posted April 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 15, Isaiah 56, John 7, Proverbs 3

Tagged with

Humility Before People and God, Part I   1 comment

Belshazzar's Feast

Above:   Belshazzar’s Feast, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Monday)

Daniel 5:1-12 (Tuesday)

Daniel 5:13-31 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84:8-12 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (Monday)

1 Peter 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:28-32 (Wednesday)

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O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

–Psalm 84:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Do not be arrogant, the readings for these three days tell us.  Trust in God instead, we read.  Daniel 5 tells us of Belshazzar, viceroy under this father, King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  God, the story tells us, found Belshazzar wanting.  Furthermore, we read, God delivered the empire to the Persians and the Medes, and the Babylonian Exile ended shortly thereafter.

Cease your proud boasting,

let no word of arrogance pass your lips,

for the LORD is a God who knows;

he governs what mortals do.

Strong men stand in mute dismay,

but those who faltered put on new strength.

Those who had plenty sell themselves for a crust,

and the hungry grow strong again.

The barren woman bears seven children,

and the mother of many sons is left to languish?

–1 Samuel 2:3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a timeless lesson.  We read of Jesus telling certain professional religious people that penitent tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede them in the Kingdom of God.  Later in 1 Peter, we read of the imperative to clothe ourselves in humility, when dealing with each other and God.  As Proverbs 3:34-35 tells us,

Toward the scorners he [God] is scornful,

but to the humble he shows favor.

The wise will inherit honor,

but stubborn fools, disgrace.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Persecution might come, but one must remain faithful.  That is a recurring message in the Bible, from Jeremiah to the Books of the Maccabees to the Gospels to 1 Peter to Hebrews to the Revelation of John.  It can also be a difficult lesson on which to act, as many chapters in the history of Christianity attest.  Fortunately, God is merciful than generations of Donatists (regardless of their formal designations) have been.  That lack of mercy flows from, among  other sources, pride–the pride which says,

I persevered.  Why did you not do likewise?  I must be spiritually superior to you.

We all need to acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins.  We all need to change our minds and turn around spiritually.  We all need to be humble before God and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-25-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Shooting the Spiritually Wounded   1 comment

Roman Gateway of Ephesus

Above:   The Roman Gateway of Ephesus

J157836 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-00984

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 3:13-18 (Thursday)

Proverbs 3:19-26 (Friday)

Psalm 8 (Both Days)

Ephesians 1:17-19 (Thursday)

Ephesians 4:1-6 (Friday)

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I look up at your heavens, shaped by your fingers,

at the moon and the stars you set firm–

what are human beings that you spare a thought for them,

or the child of Adam that you care for him?

–Psalm 8:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is among the mysteries of the universe.  I ponder human nature, with its complexities, virtues, and vices, and come away dismayed yet not surprised more often than pleased.  We are capable of great compassion yet of hatred and apathy.  We respond to messages of hope yet also to bigotry, fear, and xenophobia.  Often we favor the latter more than the former.  We are messes.  Human depravity makes sense to me.  It is not even an article of faith for me.  No, I need no faith to affirm human depravity, for I have ample evidence.

Yet we can, when we choose to pay attention, heed divine wisdom, that proverbial tree of life by which we find ultimate peace.  That wisdom was at work in the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth.  That same wisdom instructs those of us who claim to follow Jesus to follow him and to support each other in our spiritual pilgrimages, to build each other up, not to tear each other down.  Fortunately, many congregations do just that–build up people in Christ.  Others, however, shoot many of the wounded, so to speak.  They cause much spiritual harm to vulnerable people.  I have, over the years, engaged in conversations with some of those wounded people precious to God.  Almost all of them have wanted nothing to do with organized religion.  To be fair, if I had experienced what they had, I might agree with them.

Do you, O reader, seek to build up others in Christ, for the glory of God, or do you participate in shooting the wounded?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-trinity-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted February 26, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 1, Ephesians 4, Proverbs 3, Psalm 8

Tagged with

Divine Commandments, the Image of God, and Spiritual Struggles   1 comment

Tobias Saying Goodbye to His Father

Above:  Tobias Saying Good-Bye to His Father, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Image in the Public Domain

Tobit had suffered for acting faithfully and compassionately.  His son took great risks to help him in the Book of Tobit.

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:20-33 (January 3)

Proverbs 3:1-12 (January 4)

Psalm 110 (Both Days)

James 4:1-10 (January 3)

James 4:11-17 (January 4)

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

–Psalm 110:5-6, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days include generous amounts of divine judgment and mercy.  Obey God’s instructions, they say, and life will be better in the short, medium, and long terms than if one disregards them.  Some of the content in Proverbs leans in the direction of Prosperity Theology, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, as other passages of scripture indicate, those who suffer for the sake of righteousness do so in the company of God.

James 4, along with the rest of that epistle, focuses on human actions and their spiritual importance.  In the Letter of James faith is intellectual, hence the epistle’s theology of justification by works.  This does not contradict the Pauline theology of justification by faith, for faith, in Pauline theology, is inherently active.  These two parts of the New Testament depart from different places and arrive at the same destination.  Recognizing the image of God in others then treating them accordingly is a loving thing to do.  It is a faithful thing to do.  It is also a frequently dangerous thing to do.

This is a devotion for two days leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), the commemoration of the Magi, who put their lives on hold for years and took many risks.  The Epiphany is also a feast about the Gospel of Jesus going out to the Gentiles, of which I am one.  Part of the significance of the Feast of the Epiphany in my life is the reality that people (especially those different from me) are more than they appear; they are bearers of the divine image.  As such, they have inherent dignity and potential.  Sometimes I recognize this reality easily in others, but I have a certain difficulty sometimes in recognizing it in those who have wronged me.  That is a spiritual issue which James 4:11-12 tells me to address.  Grace is available for that, fortunately.

Each of us has spiritual failings to address.  May you, O reader, deal with yours successfully, by grace.  May you obey God’s commandments and live compassionately, regardless of the costs.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27:  THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/devotion-for-january-3-and-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Challenge of Trusting God   1 comment

01946v

Above:  To Sinai Via the Desert:  The Wilderness of Shur, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/matpc/item/mpc2004004270/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01946

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 13:17-22 (30th Day)

Proverbs 3:5-12 (31st Day)

Proverbs 3:13-18 (32nd Day)

Psalm 102:1-17 (All Days)

Acts 7:17-40 (30th Day)

Acts 7:44-56 (31st Day)

John 8:31-38 (32nd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/devotion-for-the-fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Proverbs 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-29-and-march-1-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-5-and-6-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/seventeenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-first-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon it;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

–Psalm 102:13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Perhaps the most daunting challenge the first generation of post-Exodus Israelites faced was overcoming the slave mentality.  The Book of Exodus is replete with accounts of people murmuring against God and Moses while waxing nostalgic for the days of servitude in Egypt.  But, as Roy Batty said in Blade Runner (1982), to be a slave is to live in fear.  And to have faith in God is to trust God, who never let the Israelites starve or die of thirst in the desert.

As the Christian saints we call the Desert Fathers and the Desert Mothers knew well, life in the barren wilderness takes away all illusions that one does not depend on God for everything.  Learning to accept dependence on God can be a difficult spiritual task, regardless if one is a former slave or if one has grown up in a culture enamored of rugged individualism.  No, in the desert one knows that all comes from God, often via people.  Thus the twin realities of dependence upon God and interdependence of people become inescapable.

God, in one Biblical metaphor, is our gracious parent–usually our father yet our mother on occasion.  Thus those who follow God are metaphorically children of God–heirs, even–and siblings of each other.  May this be the most functional of families!  May we treat each other with the respect and love which comes with the status of child of God.  May we treat God with the respect and love due such a parent.  May we learn how to trust God better and more than we do now.

Whenever someone asks if I believe in God, I assume that he or she seeks to learn if I affirm the existence of God.  The answer to that query is that I do–all of the time, in fact.  Yet, since belief (in the Biblical sense) in God is trust in God, the better question is:

Do you trust God?

My answer to that inquiry is that I do most of the time, but that I seek to improve that frequency, by grace.  The fact that I want to trust God more constitutes a good start–something upon which God can build.  Certainly such a desire is preferable to apathy or hostility to the subject.  Yet my free will alone proves insufficient.

I have learned through living that the most fruitful periods of spiritual growth for me have included difficult passages, times when I have seen dreams shattered and illusions slain, when I have had to depend on others and on God for the most basic necessities in such ways as to injure my ego.  I have emerged a spiritually stronger person, although I have no desire to repeat the process by which I arrived at that state.  Sometimes I have clung so tightly to illusions and idols that I have paid sufficient attention to God only when I have had no distractions.  The ripping away of them was traumatic sometimes, but grace abounded in their absence.   Now, years after those experiences, I seek to live in a way which indicates that I have learned the appropriate lessons.  Any extent to which I have succeeded constitutes evidence of empowering grace.

Where is God leading you, O reader?  May your time in the spiritual wilderness (we all have such times) forge you so that you resemble more closely your potential in God.  And may you emerge better suited to encouraging others to trust God, your mother and father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-thirty-first-and-thirty-second-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Attitudes, Love, and Reconciliation   1 comment

us_5000_1934_federal_reserve_note

Above:  $5000, 1934

(Images of U.S. currency are in the public domain.)

$5000 U.S. (1934) = $85,700 (2012) on the Consumer Price Index

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The Collect:

Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace.

Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds

to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 25:11-22 (Monday)

Genesis 31:1-3, 17-50 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 3:27-55 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:57-64 (All Days)

Romans 12:9-21 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:14-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 18:18-30 (Wednesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Proverbs 25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-21-and-22-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Proverbs 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/week-of-proper-20-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-year-2/

Romans 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/devotion-for-january-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/devotion-for-january-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/week-of-proper-26-tuesday-year-1/

Hebrews 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-third-and-forty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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You are my only portion, O Lord;

I have promised to keep your words.

I entreat you with all my heart,

be merciful to me according to your promise.

–Psalm 119:57-58, Common Worship (2000)

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Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  Among these is the one which states that we have a mandate to seek reconciliation with each other, not vengeance against each other.  A perhaps apocryphal story comes to mind:

A congregation gathered on the day that the aged St. John the Evangelist visited it.  He entered (with assistance) and sat down at the front of the assembly.  The Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he motioned to his helpers to assist him in leaving.  Someone, disappointed with the brevity of John’s words, followed him and asked why he had said just to love one another.  The Apostle answered, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Loving one another is that basic.  And often it proves difficult, for we might feel righteous while pondering how another has wronged us.  Maybe another has behaved perfidiously toward us.  But nursing a grudge hurts the person who encourages it and does no harm to its intended target.

The readings for these days range from maxims to stories about how we ought to behave toward others.  Sometimes all parties are both the wronged and the perpetrators.  (Life is frequently complicated in that way.)  The seeming outlier among these readings is Luke 18:18-30.  The wealthy man in that passage kept many of the truly timeless provisions of the Law of Moses–honoring his parents, not murdering or stealing, etc.  But his attitude toward his wealth prevented him from treating others as properly as he should have been doing all along.

His health was morally neutral; his attitude was not.  Your “wealth,” O reader, might not be funds or property, but your attitude toward it is a vital issue.  The same applies to all of us.

So may we seek peace with each other, knowing that perhaps nobody is fully innocent in a particular situation.  Thus nobody is in a good position to judge anyway.  And may we not let our attitude(s) regarding anything obstruct such reconciliation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE PASSIONIST CONGREGATION

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Proverbs and John, Part I: Excessive Optimism   1 comment

resurrection-of-lazarus-vincent-van-gogh

Above:  The Resurrection of Lazarus, by Vincent Van Gogh

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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 everlasting 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:

Proverbs 1:8-33 (June 5)

Proverbs 3:5-24 (June 6)

Psalm 65 (Morning–June 5)

Psalm 143 (Morning–June 6)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening–June 5)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–June 6)

John 11:17-37 (June 5)

John 11:38-57 (June 6)

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Some Related Posts:

John 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-lent/

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The readings from Proverbs offer useful advice, including counsel not to join a violent gang.  Yet Proverbs 3 is overly optimistic; following divine wisdom does not always lead to safety.  Consider John 11, for example; Jesus was in real peril, and he would die violently a few days later.

Varying perspectives within the Bible constitute old news.  The Torah emphasizes divine revelation yet Proverbs places great trust in human reason.  Ecclesiastes contradicts the optimistic tone of much of Proverbs.  And Ecclesiastes disagrees with itself as to whether a woman is, for a man, a legitimate source of pleasure or a gateway to sin.  None of this troubles me, for I know that the Bible comes from a variety of voices and sources.  The inspiration of Scripture does not indicate internal and universal consistency, for it is an anthology with a strong human element.

Yet the Gospels override when an inconsistency occurs.  The example of Jesus overrules the optimism of Proverbs 3.  I am a Christian–a follower of Jesus Christ, after all.  What else am I supposed to affirm?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-5-and-6-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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