Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

The Mind of Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

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God, you know that we are set amid so many and great dangers,

and that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright.

Grant us to such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers,

and carry us through all temptations;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Proverbs 4:10-18

Psalm 3

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Mark 1:14-22

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Two errors of the wicked are the assumptions that (A) they can rely on themselves alone and (B) that they must do so.  These errors lead to others, such as the exploitation of people.  In a dog-eat-dog world the wicked prefer to feast.  The righteous, however, seek God.

Unspiritual people, we read in 1 Corinthians 2, lack the mind of Christ, for they cannot grasp the Holy Spirit, which imparts the mind of Christ, which is superior to human wisdom.  The hidden wisdom of God is folly to the unspiritual.  Yet, throughout the Gospel of Mark (including in 1:23:28, which one should read after 1:22), we find that evil spirits (whatever that category translates into outside of the Hellenistic worldview of the time) recognized Jesus for what he was, unlike those closest to Christ.  Recognition does not necessarily lead to repentance, does it?

Whose authority do we acknowledge as being spiritually supreme?  Or do we recognize and accept any such authority?  To state that one follows God as the supreme authority is easy; to act on that is more difficult.  Furthermore, how does one tell the difference between what God commands and what one merely wants to hear?  We humans often create a concept of God that agrees with us.  How convenient for us, at least in the short term!  Not one of us is exempt from this trap all of the time.  Shall we be honest about that?

Good news is that we need not rely on our own power to deal effectively with this trap.  Nor can we do so anyway.  No, we need to rely on God, if we are to succeed in knowing the difference between divine dictates and human prejudices and other preferences.  I do not pretend to have mastered this matter.  I do, however, notice that the Golden Rule seems to be prominent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Posted September 4, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 2, Mark 1, Proverbs, Psalm 3

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That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

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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The Idol of Public Respectability   1 comment

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Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

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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:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-ascension-year-d/

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As One Thinks   1 comment

Isaiah

Above:   Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-9

Psalm 32:1-7

John 8:39-47

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Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

–Psalm 32:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That description does not apply to the Hebrew nation in Isaiah 1 or to the group of Jews in front of Jesus in John 8.  In both cases their deeds revealed their creeds, and divine authority disapproved of the contents of both categories.

Proverbs 23:7, in the context of a greedy man offering someone food for ulterior motives, says, in most modern translations, something like the wording in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

He is like one keeping accounts….

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) states,

For what he is really thinking about is himself.

The Revised English Bible (1989) uses an idiomatic translation.  The miserly man

will stick in your throat like a hair.

The Authorized (King James) Version offers a different take on the difficult-to-translate verse.  Of the greed man it states,

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….

I leave questions of the proper translation of Proverbs 23:7 to scholars of the Hebrew Bible.  Nevertheless, I offer one thought relating to that old rendering.

As one thinks in one’s heart, so one is

is an accurate statement.  It applies to the hostile crowd in John 8 and to the idolatrous people in Isaiah 1, as well as to a host of other contexts.  It also applies to you, O reader, and to me.

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-saturday-before-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #1550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Easy and False Answers   1 comment

Job and His Alleged Friends

Above:   Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:8-11, 24-33 (Thursday)

Job 22:21-23:17 (Friday)

Psalm 32:1-7 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Peter 1:1-11 (Friday)

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Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

–Psalm 32:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The author of Psalm 32 had guilt and sin with which to deal.  The fictional character of Job, however, did not suffer because of any sin he had committed, according to Chapters 1 and 2.  Eliphaz the Temanite did not grasp this reality, so he uttered pious-sounding statements (some of which echo certain Psalms and much of the Book of Proverbs), pestering (not consoling) Job, who felt isolated from the mystery he labeled God.  Job was terrified of God (as he should have been, given God’s conduct throughout the book, especially Chapters 1, 2, 38, 39, 40, and 41) and was honest about his feelings.  Eliphaz, in contrast, offered an easy and false answer to a difficult question.

Yes, some suffering flows from one’s sinful deeds and functions as discipline, but much suffering does not.  Consider the life of Jesus of Nazareth, O reader.  He suffered greatly, even to the point of death, but not because he had sinned.  Much of the time our suffering results from the sins of other people.  On other occasions we suffer for no apparent reason other than that we are at the wrong place at the wrong time or we have a pulse.

May we resist the temptation to peddle in easy and false answers to difficult questions.  May we seek not to be correct but to be compassionate, to live according to love for God and our fellow human beings.

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-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Humility Before God   1 comment

Age of Innocence

Above:   The Age of Innocence, by Joshua Reynolds

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 28:3-10 (Friday)

Proverbs 28:11-28 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 9:43b-48 (Saturday)

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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He who covers up his faults will not succeed;

He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy.

–Proverbs 28:13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Winston Churchill (the British Prime Minister, not the American novelist) was openly critical of his successor and predecessor, Clement Attlee.  Attlee, Churchill said, was a humble man who had many reasons to be humble.

Each of us in the human race has many reasons to be humble.  We cannot save ourselves from our sinfulness (Ephesians 2), and, in the Kingdom of God, a powerless child is the model to emulate (Luke 9).  All of this is consistent with the Law of Moses, in which we mere mortals depend on God for everything and also on the labor of our fellow human beings.  We depend on God directly and indirectly, and rugged individualism has no place in the divine order.  In God’s order there is no room for hubris or the illusion of self-sufficiency.  No, we must come to God as a helpless child and receive each other in the same manner.

That, in my setting, is a counter-cultural message.  It is one with which I have struggled, for culture and society exert powerful influences on one’s opinions.  Nevertheless, I have, thankfully, arrived at the point of embracing the truth of this counter-cultural teaching.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Artificial Scarcity and Human Needs   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:   The Gathering of the Manna, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 22:2-16

Psalm 146

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To profit by withholding what is due to the poor

Is like making gifts to the rich–pure loss.

–Proverbs 22:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The lection for 2 Corinthians 8 follows a few verses in which St. Paul the Apostle lauded the Macedonian churches which, in the midst of great affliction, gave financially beyond their means for the benefit of the church at Jerusalem.  St. Paul advised the factious church at Corinth to follow that example, thereby proving the genuineness of their love.  Recalling the equitable distribution of manna in Exodus 16:18, he quoted the standard that

He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.

Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

To help those who are less fortunate is a divine commandment, not a suggestion.  People of good will disagree on the best way to fulfill that mandate.  Sometimes I am uncertain of how to obey it in the moment, as I drive and see a beggar at an intersection in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  There exists a social safety net, composed of public and private sector agencies, but it is insufficient to help all who need it.  Furthermore, not all of the beggars are really in need; they cast suspicion on those beggars who are needy.  And reports of aggressive panhandlers cast more suspicion on those who need help.  Knowing that one should help the less fortunate is easier than knowing how to help them most effectively.

Artificial scarcity is a feature of human economic systems, but, in God’s economics, this is not the case.  Those who have much do not have too much and those who have little still have enough.  That is a vision of the social reality of the Kingdom of God, in which hording is not a spiritual virtue.  Money is a useful tool and a morally neutral thing.  How one relates to it, however, is not.

As for how best to help those who are less fortunate, may God lead us (individually and collectively) in responding faithfully and effectively to human needs.  A leader, by definition, is someone whom others follow.  If one has no followers, one is simply taking a walk.  May we follow God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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