Archive for the ‘Psalm 130’ Category

Judgment and Mercy, Part XXX   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Before Pilate, by Mihály Munkácsy

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Daniel 7:13-14 (LBWLW) or Isaiah 51:4-6 (LW)

Psalm 93 (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

Revelation 1:4b-8 (LBWLW) or Jude 20-25 (LW)

John 18:33-37 (LBWLW) or Mark 13:32-37 (LW)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son,

whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation;

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united under the glorious and gentle rule

of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son, we pray,

that he may lead home his bride, the Church,

that we with all the redeemed may enter into your eternal kingdom;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 94

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The Last Sunday After Pentecost culminates some apocalyptic themes that have been building for a few weeks.  This Sunday also stands at the crossroads of ecclesiastical time as those themes continue into Advent.  God is the king, we read.  And Jesus is a sort of king, although not the type of king people expected, we read.

This time, I prefer to focus not on the “usual suspects,” but on Isaiah 51:4-6 and Psalm 130.

  1. Isaiah 51:4-6 comes from Second Isaiah, preparing exiles for freedom.  The text dates to about one year prior to the termination of the Babylonian Exile.  From this pivot point we read of the impending victory and of a directive to learn from God, never defeated.
  2. Divine mercy permeates Psalm 130.  We read that God forgives, and that nobody could stand if God were to mark iniquities.  Consistent with Psalm 130 is Psalm 103, which tells us that God, who knows that we are dust, does not repay us according to our iniquities, and that divine anger does not persist forever.

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  God knows that balance; we mere mortals cannot grasp it.  As Karl Barth‘s theology insists, the divine “no” works for God’s “yes.”  God is neither a warm fuzzy nor the deity of hellfire-and-damnation preachers.  God, who balances judgment and mercy, is a monarch worthy of respect, awe, and cherishing.

So, O reader, as we stand near the cusp of the transition from one church year to the next one, I encourage you to take that thought into Advent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTY-FOURTH DAY OF EASTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERMANUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE, AND DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND SAINT DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF PAUL MAZAKUTE, FIRST SIOUX EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROGER SCHÜTZ, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZÉ COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF SYLVESTER II, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post

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Forgiveness, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Jesus Heals the Man with Palsy, by Alexandre Bida

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 43:18-25

Psalm 41 (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

2 Corinthians 1:18-22

Mark 2:1-12

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Lord God, we ask you to keep your family, the Church, faithful to you,

that all who lean on the hope of your promises

may gain strength from the power of your love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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God of compassion, keep before us the love

you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies;

in our words and deeds help us to be like him

through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

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O Lord, keep your family and Church continually in the true faith

that they who lean on the hope of your heavenly grace

may ever be defended by your mighty power;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 28

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The key word this week is forgiveness.  A second word–faithfulness–relates to it.  As we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18, God is faithful.

I, I wipe away your transgressions for My sake,

and your offenses I do not recall.

–Isaiah 43:15, Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Vol. 2, Prophets (2019), 766

Those are words addressed to Jews at the twilight of the Babylonian Exile.  This forgiveness is unconditional and absolute, apparently without any sign of repentance.

Psalm 130 reminds us that nobody could endure if God were to “watch for wrongs” (Robert Alter) and encourages the chosen people of God to wait for God, in whom is steadfast kindness.

Psalm 41 cites the betrayal by the author’s enemies, including a former friend.  The author, not forgiving, seeks divine vindication:

But you, LORD, take note of me to raise me up

that I may repay them.

–Psalm 41:11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition

A rejoinder from the Gospels is appropriate:

For if you forgive others, the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs that you have done.

–Matthew 6:14-15, The Revised English Bible

Forgiveness, from a human perspective, can be challenging to commit or to accept.  Committing forgiveness liberates one, regardless of the effect on the person or persons forgiven.  Lugging a grudge around is never spiritually helpful and healthy.

Forgiving someone is a matter separate from seeking justice.  Some deeds are inexcusable and indefensible.  Sometimes justice requires punishment.  Forgiveness precludes revenge, not justice.

Isaiah 43:25 occurs in a particular context.  I notice the lack of penitence and repentance between verses 24 and 25.  This does not mean that penitence and repentance are irrelevant; they occur in other passages.  Yet Isaiah 43:25 tells us that sometimes God forgives for divine purposes.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  Trust nobody, O reader, who pretends to know what that balance is.  I have some guesses.  Some may be correct for the same reason for the same reason that a broken clock is correct twice a day.  Grace remains a glorious mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTEENTH DAY OF LENT

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALISTS HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LEDDRA, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYR IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY, 1661

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Adapted from this post

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Guide to the “Reading the Book of Psalms” Series   Leave a comment

I covered 150 psalms in 82 posts.

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Posted February 25, 2023 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 1, Psalm 10, Psalm 100, Psalm 101, Psalm 102, Psalm 103, Psalm 104, Psalm 105, Psalm 106, Psalm 107, Psalm 108, Psalm 109, Psalm 11, Psalm 110, Psalm 111, Psalm 112, Psalm 113, Psalm 114, Psalm 115, Psalm 116, Psalm 117, Psalm 118, Psalm 119, Psalm 12, Psalm 120, Psalm 121, Psalm 122, Psalm 123, Psalm 124, Psalm 125, Psalm 126, Psalm 127, Psalm 128, Psalm 129, Psalm 13, Psalm 130, Psalm 131, Psalm 132, Psalm 133, Psalm 134, Psalm 135, Psalm 136, Psalm 137, Psalm 138, Psalm 139, Psalm 14, Psalm 140, Psalm 141, Psalm 142, Psalm 143, Psalm 144, Psalm 145, Psalm 146, Psalm 147, Psalm 148, Psalm 149, Psalm 15, Psalm 150, Psalm 16, Psalm 17, Psalm 18, Psalm 19, Psalm 2, Psalm 20, Psalm 21, Psalm 22, Psalm 23, Psalm 24, Psalm 25, Psalm 26, Psalm 27, Psalm 28, Psalm 29, Psalm 3, Psalm 30, Psalm 31, Psalm 32, Psalm 33, Psalm 34, Psalm 35, Psalm 36, Psalm 37, Psalm 38, Psalm 39, Psalm 4, Psalm 40, Psalm 41, Psalm 42, Psalm 43, Psalm 44, Psalm 45, Psalm 46, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalm 49, Psalm 5, Psalm 50, Psalm 51, Psalm 52, Psalm 53, Psalm 54, Psalm 55, Psalm 56, Psalm 57, Psalm 58, Psalm 59, Psalm 6, Psalm 60, Psalm 61, Psalm 62, Psalm 63, Psalm 64, Psalm 65, Psalm 66, Psalm 67, Psalm 68, Psalm 69, Psalm 7, Psalm 70, Psalm 71, Psalm 72, Psalm 73, Psalm 74, Psalm 75, Psalm 76, Psalm 77, Psalm 78, Psalm 79, Psalm 8, Psalm 80, Psalm 81, Psalm 82, Psalm 83, Psalm 84, Psalm 85, Psalm 86, Psalm 87, Psalm 88, Psalm 89, Psalm 9, Psalm 90, Psalm 91, Psalm 92, Psalm 93, Psalm 94, Psalm 95, Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, Psalm 99

Psalms 130 and 131: Divine Judgment and Mercy   Leave a comment

Above:  The Harrowing of Hell, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART LXXV

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Psalms 130 and 131

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Were You, O Yah, to watch for wrongs,

Master, who could endure?

For forgiveness is Yours,

so that you may be feared.

–Psalm 130:3-4, Robert Alter

As I keep writing at this and other weblogs, “fear of God” is an unfortunate expression.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures captures the meaning:

Yours is the power to forgive

so that you may be held in awe.

We all have learned childhood lessons we may question or renounce later in life.  The more I mature in faith, the more I question childhood assumptions regarding theology.  I have not, for a long time, regarded entrance to Heaven as depending upon passing a divine canonical examination.  If it did, theological orthodoxy would constitute a saving work, and salvation would not be by grace.  The most recent development in my thinking regarding Hell is approaching the concept as something nearer to Purgatory–a temporary reality and state of being.  The Harrowing of Hell (1 Peter 4:6) influences me, as it has for years.  The reasoning is:  If Jesus did this once, he can do it again.

A more recent influence is Eastern Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart, the author of Atheist Delusions:  The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (2009), the translator of a “ruthlessly literal” translation of the New Testament (2017), the author of That All Shall Be Saved:  Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation (2019), and the author of Tradition and Apocalypse:  An Essay on the Future of Christian Belief (2022).  My copy That All Shall Be Saved contains marginalia in which I critique arguments and pieces thereof.  One of Hart’s arguments proceeds from creation ex nihilo, a proposition I reject in favor of the Jewish doctrine of the creation of order from chaos (Genesis 1).  So, that particular argument does not hold water with me.  If x, then y.  If x is a faulty proposition, that particular argument collapses upon itself.  Nevertheless, Hart provides much food for thought, makes many cogent points, and offers a fine lesson in the history of theology, especially from the first five centuries of Christianity.

Hellfire-and-damnation preachers and teachers depict God as one who chomps at the bit to condemn people for their sins.  Fear–not awe, but fear–is a powerful force for controlling behavior and changing it.  Yet fear is not the approach in Psalm 130.  No, hesed–steadfast love–is the approach in Psalm 130.  And the focus in Psalm 130 is simultaneously individual and collective.

So is the focus in Psalm 131.  In Psalm 131, God is like a mother and the psalmist is like an infant.  That is a beautiful and potent image.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  A good parent loves a child.  Love includes discipline when necessary.  Yet discipline is not abuse.  God, as some of the faithful describe the deity, is an abusive and tyrannical figure.  Any “orthodoxy” which requires thinking of God in those terms is a heresy.  On the other end of the spectrum, any theology which gives short shrift to the judgment side of divine judgment and mercy is heretical, too.  I do not pretend to know what the balance of divine judgment and mercy is, but my theology favors mercy more often than judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 18, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLMAN OF LINDISFARNE, AGILBERT, AND WILFRID, BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARBASYMAS, SADOTH OF SELEUCIA, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 342

THE FEAST OF EDWARD SHIPPEN BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND WRITER

THE FEAST OF BLESSED GUIDO DI PIETRO, A.K.A. FRA ANGELICO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARTIST

THE FEAST OF JAMES DRUMMOND BURNS, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES DANIEL FALK, GERMAN POET, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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Psalms 120 and 123: Alienation and Spiritual Fatigue   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART LXXI

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Psalms 120 and 123

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Psalms 120 and 123 are similar to each other.

Psalms 120-134 are songs of ascents.  As you, O reader, read these texts, imagine a caravan of devout Jews making a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Then you will be in the correct frame of mind for getting the most out of the texts.

Psalms 120 and 123 concern the perils of the negative attitudes and words of others.  These perils may be individual or collective.  That words matter is a point I have made many times at this weblog and already in this series.  So, I hereby repeat the headline (“WORDS MATTER”) and decline to unpack it again in this post.

Psalm 120 does require some explanation, though.

Woe to me, for I have sojourned in Meshach,

dwelled among the tents of Kedar.

–Psalm 120:5, Robert Alter

Poetry does not have to be literal.  Meshach and Kedar are far-flung places far away from each other.  Meshach (Genesis 10:2; Ezekiel 32:26; 38:2-3; 39:1-3) is in northwestern Asia Minor (now Turkey), between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.  Kedar (Genesis 25:13) is on the Arabian Peninsula.  They symbolize barbaric, warlike peoples on the edge of the known world.  Robert Alter explains the poetic imagery this way:

…it may be plausible to understand them as metaphors for living among people who behave like strangers, even if those people were within a stone’s throw of Jerusalem (as someone today might say, “I felt as though I were in Siberia or Timbuktu.”

The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Vol. 3, The Writings (2019), 292

The germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014) concludes:

The psalmist feels as if he lives, metaphorically, among these far-away, militant people (v.6); he is alienated from his own society.

–1412

Imagine, O reader, a caravan of devout Jews from a village making their pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, for one of the major festivals.  Then ask yourself why they would sing that psalm.

Psalm 123 begins as an individual prayer (“To You I lift up my eyes”) and concludes as a collective lament.  Notice the words “our” and “us,” in verses 2-4, O reader.

Grant us grace, LORD, grant us grace,

for we are sorely sated with scorn.

Surely has our being been sated

with the contempt of the smug,

the scorn of the haughty.

–Verses 3-4, Robert Alter

Psalm 123, unlike other psalms, which complain about slander and libel, reflects frustration with arrogant scorn and contempt.  “We” take that complaint to God.

What was happening close to home, for members of a pious caravan to sing Psalm 123 en route to the Temple in Jerusalem?

One need not stretch one’s imagination to grasp additional meanings of these texts for Jews of the Diaspora.

A psalm carries different meanings at different times and in various places.  A text composed in one period with one meaning or set of meanings in mind may, therefore, remain germane elsewhere and long after composition.  A psalm is a living text.

So, I propose a new context for relating to Psalms 120 and 123.  The global Western cultures are becoming increasingly secular, with a growing strain of antitheism.  Do not misunderstand me, O reader; I favor the separation of church and state, mainly to prevent the church from become an arm of the state, thereby losing its prophetic, moral edge.  Yet the increasingly secular societies, combined with the rise of fashionable atheism and antitheism, heap scorn upon piety and the pious.  The devout may, against their will, find themselves alienated from their own society and even from religious establishments which endorse bigotry and Christian or Jewish nationalism.  Taking this sense of alienation and spiritual fatigue to God makes sense.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 14, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF CARRHAE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Hope III   1 comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24 (LBWLW) or Isaiah 65:17-25 (LW)

Psalm 95:1-7a (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (LBWLW) or 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a, 13 (LW)

Matthew 25:31-46 (LBWLW) or Matthew 25:1-13 (LW)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son,

whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation;

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united under the glorious and gentle rule

of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son, we pray,

that he may lead home his bride, the Church,

that we with all the redeemed may enter into your eternal kingdom;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 94

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I wrote about Matthew 25:31-46 in the previous post in this series and about Matthew 25:1-13 here.

We–you, O reader, and I–have arrived at the end of Year A of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship Lectionary (1973).

This journey concludes on divine judgment and mercy, ever in balance and beyond human comprehension.  Much of this divine judgment and mercy exists in the context of impending apocalypse, in certain readings.  Maintaining hope can prove challenging to maintain during difficult times, but that is another motif.  Apocalypse offers hope for God’s order on Earth.

  1. We read of YHWH as the Good Shepherd (in contrast to bad shepherds–Kings of Israel and Judah) in Ezekiel 34, during the Babylonian Exile.
  2. Third Isaiah (in Isaiah 65) offered comfort to people who had expected to leave the Babylonian Exile and to return to a verdant paradise.  Instead, they returned to their ancestral homeland, which was neither verdant nor a paradise.
  3. Psalm 130 exists in the shadow of death–the depths of Sheol.
  4. Even the crucifixion of Jesus became a means of bestowing hope (1 Corinthians 15).

So, may we all cling to hope in God.  The lectionary omits the parts of Psalm 95 that recall the faithlessness in the desert after the Exodus.  No, we read the beginning of Psalm 95; we read an invitation to trust in the faithfulness of God and to worship sovereign YHWH.  We read that we are the sheep of YHWH’s pasture (see Ezekiel 34, too).

We are sheep prone to stray prone to stray.  We have a Good Shepherd, fortunately.

If You keep account of sins, O LORD,

Lord, who will survive?

Yours is the power to forgive

so that You may be held in awe.

–Psalm 130:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Hope always exists in God.  So, are we mere mortals willing to embrace that hope?

As I type these words, I know the struggle to maintain hope.  For the last few years, current events have mostly driven me to despair.  Know, O reader, that when I write about trusting and hoping in God, I write to myself as much as I write to you.  I am no spiritual giant; I do not have it all figured out.  Not even spiritual giants have it all figured out; they know this.  They also grasp that no mere mortal can ever figure everything out anyway.

God has figured everything out.  That must suffice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post

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The Fulfillment of the Promise of Easter   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned from a Church Bulletin

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Exodus 19:1-9 or Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 33:12-22 (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LBW) or Psalm 98 (LW)

Romans 8:14-17, 22-27

John 7:37-39a

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Almighty and ever-living God,

you fulfilled the promise of Easter

by sending your Holy Spirit to unite the races and nations on earth

and thus to proclaim your glory. 

Look upon your people gathered in prayer,

open to receive the Spirit’s flame. 

May it come to rest in our hearts

and heal the divisions of word and tongue,

that with one voice and one song

we may praise your name in joy and thanksgiving;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

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O God, on this day you once taught the hearts of your faithful people

by sending a right understanding in all things

and evermore to rejoice in his holy consolation;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you in communion with the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982)

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The Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic traditions provide for the Vigil of Pentecost, a service I have never had the opportunity to attend.  Page 227 of The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a rubric regarding the vigil.  The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), Lutheran Worship (1982), and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) offer collects and readings for the Vigil of Easter.  The Lutheran Service Book (2006), which offers no collects in the pew edition, includes readings for this vigil.

The Vigil of Pentecost was popular during the Middle Ages.  It was one of the favored occasions for baptism.  Continental Protestant reformers rejected this vigil in the 1500s; they restored the liturgical primacy of Sunday.

Yet here we are, with Lutherans approving the celebration of the Vigil of Pentecost.  Liturgical renewal, blessed by thy name!

The theme of unity carries over from the readings for the preceding Sunday.  The faith community gathers in expectation of the fulfillment of divine promises, including the “promise of Easter,” to quote the collect from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).

God is the central actor, despite the anthropocentric tendencies of much of human theology.  That God is central should cause much thanksgiving and place human egos in proper context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELARD OF CORBIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT PASCAHSIUS RADBERTUS, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

THE FEAST OF RUGH BYLLESBY, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBITSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940; AND SAINT WLADYSLAW GORAL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, EPISCOPAL ATTORNEY, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post

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Misquoting God   1 comment

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 130

Romans 5:12 (13-16) 17-19

Matthew 4:1-11

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O Lord God, you led your ancient people through the wilderness

and brought them to the promised land. 

Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior,

we may walk through the wilderness of this world

toward the glory of the world to come;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Lord God, our strength,

the battle of good and evil rages within and around us,

and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. 

Keep us steadfast in your Word, and,

when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17-18

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O almighty and eternal God, we implore you

to direct, sanctify, and govern our hearts and bodies

in the ways of your laws and the works of your laws

and the works of your commandments

that through your mighty protection, both now and ever,

we may be preserved in body and soul;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 33

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I have been composing lectionary-based devotions for more than a decade.  I have, therefore, covered the temptation of Jesus already.

I make one comment about it, though:  one function of the story is to help Christians know how to resist temptation.

This combination of readings–about temptation, confession of sin, and repentance–works well as a unit.  The First Reading provides my main point:  we must resist the temptation to misquote God, as Eve did in the myth.  Read that text again, O reader, and realize that God did not forbid touching the fruit of the knowledge of good and bad.  Misquoting God gave the mythical snake his opening.

The Talmud teaches:

He who adds [to God’s words] subtracts [from them].

–Quoted in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 15

The words of God are what God has said and says.  Scripture, channeled through human lenses and experiences, provide many of God’s words.  The Reformed tradition within Christianity speaks of God’s second book, nature.  The mystical tradition within Christianity recognizes another method by which God speaks. I report some experiences I cannot explain rationally.  I do know if I I listened to God, a guardian angel, or intuition.  Yet I know that I listened and acted, to my benefit in practical, automotive matters.

I am an intellectual.  I reject the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, based on having studied the Bible closely and seriously.  And I take the Bible seriously.  I try to understand first what a given text says, in original context.  Then I extrapolate to today.  I try not to misquote or misinterpret any text of scripture.  Neither do I shut down the parts of my mind that respect history and science.  Good theology, good history, and good science are in harmony.  As Galileo Galilei said:

The Bible tells us now to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

O reader, what is God saying to you today?  Do mis misquote it.  No, listen carefully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

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Adapted from this post

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From the Depths   Leave a comment

Above:  De Profundis, by Horatio Walker

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, 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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We beseech thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation,

to arm us with the same mind that was in him toward all evil and sin;

and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline,

that our minds may be always ready to resist temptation,

and obey the direction of thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 146

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Genesis 22:1-14

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 4:1-11

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Before I settle into the main business of this blog post, I choose to get some preliminary matters out of the day.

  1. I have written about the near-sacrifice of Isaac many times.  (Check the category for Genesis 22, O reader.)  It is a terrible, traditionally misinterpreted tale.  In modern times, the state Department of Family and Children’s Services would be all over Abraham like lint on a cheap suit, and properly so.  Police officers would arrest Abraham for attempted murder, and properly so.  A prosecutor would try to convict Abraham in court, and properly so.  God tested Abraham.  Abraham failed that test.  He should have asked questions, to be sure he understood correctly.
  2. The Temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4) offers more familiar, much written-about ground.  (Check the category for Matthew 4, O reader.)  

I take my key note from Psalm 130, a prayer for forgiveness, both individual and collective.  The text affirms the merciful love of God, as well as the human obligation to confess sins, feel remorse for them, and repent of them.  That is the academic side of Psalm 130 for me.

There is no error is offering an objectively accurate analysis and summary of a text, of course.  In the case of Psalm 130, however, I add the dimension of grief.  During the years I loved Bonny Thomas, who struggled with mental illness, I returned frequently to Psalm 130.  I cried to God from the depths.  After Bonny lost her battle with mental illness and died violently, I cried again to God from the depths.  I have continued to do so.

We can cry to God from the depths in proper confidence that God will hear us and take pity on us.  We can also be present for others in their depths.  Having been or being in the depths can enable us to help others in the depths better than we could aid them otherwise.

This point ties into 2 Corinthians 6:6.  One of the ways we prove we are servants of God is by being kind.  Speaking of kindness, Jesus can help us, too.  He knows temptations, too.  So, in the darkness of the depths, we can find a cause for rejoicing and recognize that we have everything we need.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Judgment, Mercy, and Ego   1 comment

Above:  The Pharisee and the Publican

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 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 Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth;

enter not into judgment with thy servants, we beseech thee, but be pleased of thy great kindness to grant,

that we who are now righteously afflicted and bowed down by the sense of our sins,

may be refreshed and lifted up with the joy of thy salvation.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 152

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Malachi 3:1-6

Psalms 130 and 131

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 18:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  I do not pretend to know what that balance is, for I know I am not God.  Standards of behavior exist, however.  They include not practicing sorcery, committing adultery, swearing falsely, cheating workers of wages, and subverting the cause of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.  I wonder how many people ignore the mandate of economic justice and of protecting strangers, encoded into the Law of Moses, present in the books of the Hebrew prophets, and extant in Christian moral teaching, and consider themselves sufficiently moral.

Lists, such as the one in Malachi 3:5, are not comprehensive.  They are not supposed to be.  They do, however, prompt us to consider what, in our context, we would add to any given list, consistent with the lists from the Bible.  These lists, never intended to be comprehensive, contain timeless principles and some timeless examples, too.

Such lists condemn almost all of us, do they not?  As the author of Psalm 130 asked, if God were to count sins, who could stand?  Yet we know that divine judgment is real, as is mercy.

Recognition of total dependence on God is a principle in Judaism and Christianity, from the Law of Moses to the writings of St. Paul the Apostle.  Yes, we bear the image of God.  Yes, we are slightly lower than “the gods”–members of the divine court–usually translated into English as “the angels.”  No, we are not pond scum.  Yet we are also powerless to commit any righteousness other than what Lutheran theology categorizes as civic righteousness.  Civil righteousness is objectively good, but it cannot save us.

For many people, the main idol to surrender to God is ego.  People will go far to protect ego.  They will frequently disregard objective reality and continue to believe disproven statements to protect ego.  They will commit violence to protect ego sometimes.  Some people even slander and/or libel others to protect ego.

Yet, as St. Paul the Apostle, who knew about his ego, understood, ego was rubbish before Christ.

How much better would the world be if more people cared about glorifying God, not themselves?

I do not pretend to have reached a great spiritual height and surrendered my ego.  No, I continue to struggle with it.  I do know something, however.  I know from observation that giving power, from the church level to the national and global levels, to a person with either an inferiority complex or a raging ego is folly at best and doom at worst.  One with an inferiority complex will seek to build up oneself, not the church, country, world, et cetera.  An egomaniac will behave in the same way, with the same results.  People with balanced egos are the ones to work for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUCCOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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