Archive for the ‘Psalm 23’ Category

Relationships   1 comment

Above:   The First Council of Nicaea

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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Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 89:5-8

Hebrews 11:4-7, 17-28

John 5:19-24

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Trinity Sunday is frequently a difficult occasion to preach, for many heresies have their origin in attempts to explain the Trinity.  Yet on this day, the only Christian feast devoted to a doctrine, one must say something.

The Bible offers a variety of images for God from Genesis to Revelation.  Abraham and God, we read, took walks together and engaged in conversations.  Yet, as we read in Exodus, the understanding of God had become one of a remote figure whose holiness was fatal to most people–Moses excepted.  We read of the heavenly court, modeled after earthly royal courts, in Psalm 89.  And we read in John 5 that Jesus and YHWH/God the Father have a relationship.

The full nature of divinity exceeds human capacity to grasp it, but we can know some truths.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of the faithfulness of God in relating to we human beings.  By faith, we read, people have committed great deeds that have glorified God and benefited others, even long past the lifespans of those who have committed those great deeds.  The theme of relationship is also present in the Song of Songs (a book I advise reading in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).   The relationship in Song of Songs 8 is between a man and a woman (marital status unknown), whose love has placed their lives at risk.  Love and death are linked for them.

Let me be a seal upon your heart,

Like the seal upon your hand.

For love is fierce as death,

Passion is mighty as Sheol;

Its darts are darts of fire,

A blazing flame.

Vast floods cannot quench love,

Nor rivers drown it.

If a man offered all his wealth for love,

He would be laughed to scorn.

–Song of Songs 8:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Neither can anything quench or drown divine love for us, despite our frequent lack of love for God.  Yet for a relationship to be healthy, more than one figure must be engaged in maintaining it.  May we embrace the mystery of the Holy Trinity and pursue and deepen a healthy relationship with God, whose goodness and mercy alone pursue us in Psalm 23.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-ackerman/

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Grace and Judgment   1 comment

Sky with clouds sunny day

Above:   Sky with Clouds

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 22:17-31

Psalm 113

Romans 8:31-39

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Ezekiel 22 is full of divine judgment on the unrighteous, notably false prophets who have stolen from people, destroyed lives, and taken lives, among other offenses.

I will repay them for their conduct–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 22:31b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for their unrepentant oppressors.

St. Paul the Apostle made a wonderful point about the love of God in Christ:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That passage reminds me of Psalm 139, in which the author praises God for being omnipresent:

Where could I go to escape your spirit?

Where could I flee from your presence?

If I climb the heavens, you are there,

there too, if I lie in Sheol.

If I flew to the point of sunrise,

or westward across the sea,

your hand would still be guiding me,

your right hand holding me.

If I asked darkness to cover me,

and light to become night around me,

that darkness would not be dark to you,

night would be as light as day.

–Psalm 139:7-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

On the other hand, the author of Psalm 139 prays that God will kill the wicked and announces his hatred of those who hate God in verses 19-22.  Does not the love of God extend to them?  Does not God desire that they confess their sins and repent?  Does not God prefer that oppressors cease their oppression and become godly?  In Psalm 23 God prepares a banquet for the author in the presence of the author’s enemies, who are powerless to prevent the banquet.  Furthermore, only divine goodness and kindness pursue the author; his enemies fall away, unable to keep up with divine love and might.

God does not separate us from divine love, grace, kindness, and mercy.  No, we choose to acknowledge it and to act accordingly or to do the opposite.  Love comes with the possibility of rejection and the duty of acceptance.  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap, for it changes its recipients; it comes with obligations.  God liberates us to love, glorify, and enjoy Him forever.  Will we accept that grace and its accompanying duties, especially those regarding how we treat our fellow human beings?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-friday-before-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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In Pursuit   1 comment

Moravian Logo

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:1-25 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 20:39-44 (Friday)

Ezekiel 28:25-26 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Revelation 5:1-10 (Thursday)

Revelation 6:1-7:4 (Friday)

Luke 12:29-32 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for many long years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Psalm 23 is a familiar passage.  Perhaps familiarity breeds not contempt so much as it encourages turning on the automatic pilot when reading or hearing it.

O yes, I know this passage well,

we who are immersed in scripture might say to ourselves before we stop paying attention.  But how well do we really know the text?

Psalm 23 might have originated during the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  Imagine, O reader, Judean exiles pondering their foreign environs and hoping for a return to their ancestral homeland, of which they have only heard.  Or imagine exiles who have returned coming to terms with the fact that realities of life in that homeland fall short of fond hopes and prophetic promises.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life

–Psalm 23:6a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

takes on a certain meaning then.  The enemies do not pursue; not “goodness and steadfast love” do–or will.  That is a timeless hope.

The themes of judgment, mercy, exile, and return run through these days’ readings.  Exile comes, persists for decades, and ends.  Restoration (by God, via human agents thereof) follows.  God expects us to live in ways that glorify Him, but we fall sort of that standard often.  Furthermore, obeying God in this life does not guarantee a peaceful, safe, and prosperous life.  Neither does disobeying God in this life guarantee the opposite result.  Yet there is the question of the afterlife.  Furthermore, for the divine order to come into its own, God must destroy its sinful, human predecessor.

Frequently good news for the oppressed constitutes catastrophic news for their oppressors who, ironically, hurt themselves by engaging in the work of oppression.  Thus oppression creates both victims and oppressors, but only only victims.  We humans are often the victims of our own bad decisions, thus we are frequently simultaneously victims and oppressors.  This need not be the case, for we can, by grace, walk the path of righteousness more often than not.  Enemies might still pursue us, as they did Jesus, but so will divine goodness and steadfast love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Beloved of God: Worship Supplement 2000   8 comments

Worship Supplement 2000 Spine

Above:  The Spine of Worship Supplement 2000

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. LUTHERAN LITURGY, PART XXII

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Beloved of God:  Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins to God our Father, asking Him, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.

Worship Supplement 2000, page 1

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I.  PREFACE

In July 2013 I wrote twenty-one posts in the U.S. Lutheran Liturgy series here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.  Now, almost two years later, I return to that series with this entry, in which I turn to the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC).  Some historical background is essential to placing this denomination within the context of U.S. Lutheranism.

I recall an expression I heard while growing up in United Methodism in southern Georgia, U.S.A.

There are Baptists then there are Baptists,

I learned.  The same principle applies to Confessional Lutherans.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) is conservative, but the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), with German immigrant origins, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), with Norwegian immigrant roots, stand to its right.  To their right one finds the Church of the Lutheran Confession.

The LCMS has experienced occasional schisms, mostly to its right.  (Most denominational schisms have occurred to the right, not the left, for they have usually happened in the name of purity, not breadth, of doctrine.)  The Orthodox Lutheran Conference (OLC) broke away from the LCMS in 1951, citing doctrinal drift in the form of the first part of the Common Confession (1950) with The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).  The OLC experienced subsequent division, reorganizing as the Concordia Lutheran Conference in 1956.  Some congregations became independent, others defected to the WELS in 1963, and others joined the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation, another LCMS breakaway group, in 1964.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America (1872-1967, although inactive from 1966 to 1967), was an umbrella organization of Confessional Lutheran denominations.  It member synods varied over time, with some denominations leaving it due to doctrinal differences, but it consisted of four synods toward the end.  Those were the LCMS, the ELS, the WELS, and the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (SELC).  The WELS and the ELS departed in 1963, after years of condemning the LCMS of consorting with heretical Lutheran denominations, such as the 1930-1960 and 1960-1987 incarnations of The American Lutheran Church.  The SELC merged into the LCMS, becoming the SELC District thereof, in 1971.

The Church of the Lutheran Confession, formed in 1960, attracted members from the LCMS, the Concordia Lutheran Conference, the ELS, and primarily from the WELS.  Its raison d’etre was to oppose unionism, or ecumenism with alleged heretics, and to stand for pure doctrine, as it understood it.  That purpose continues, as the official website of the denomination attests.

II. OFFICIAL BOOKS OF WORSHIP

Although some CLC pastors have prepared liturgies, the two official service book-hymnals of the denomination are The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Worship Supplement 2000.  The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), a product of the former Synodical Conference, remains one of the most influential hymnals in U.S. Lutheranism.  The denominations which authorized it have published official successors to it–the LCMS (with its SELC District) in 1982 and 2006, the WELS in 1993, and the ELS in 1996.  Nevertheless, The Lutheran Hymnal remains in use in some congregations of those bodies as well as in the CLC.

Worship Supplement 2000 Cover

Above:  The Cover of Worship Supplement 2000

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Language and hymnody move along, however, hence the existence of Worship Supplement 2000.  The volume contains three services, a small selection of Psalms, and 100 hymns.  The book itself is a sturdy hardback measuring 23.4 x 15.5 x 1.8 centimeters, making it taller, wider, and thinner than my copy of The Lutheran Hymnal.  The paper is thick, of high quality, and the fonts are attractive and clear.

TLH and WS2000

Above:  My Copies of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Worship Supplement 2000

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Worship Supplement 2000:  Services

The three services are Service of Word and Sacrament (Settings 1 and 2) and the Service of the Word.  The two Services of Word and Sacrament follow the same pattern:

  • Preparation for Worship–Entrance Hymn, Invocation, and Confession and Absolution;
  • The Service of the Word–Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Prayer of the Day, First Lesson, Psalm of the Day, Second Lesson, Creed (Nicene or Apostles’), Hymn of the Day, Sermon, Offertory, Offerings, Prayer of the Church, and the Lord’s Prayer (traditional or contemporary language); and
  • The Service of the Sacrament (except for the last two parts, optional most Sundays)–Sanctus, Words of Institution, Agnus Dei, Distribution, Thanksgiving, Hymn and Benediction.

Setting 1 is an updated version of the basic service from The Lutheran Hymnal.  Setting 2 is a more recent rite with different language.

A Service of the Word follows a similar pattern, minus the Holy Communion, of course:

  • Hymn
  • Invocation
  • Confession and Absolution
  • First Lesson
  • Second Lesson
  • Apostles’ Creed
  • Hymn of the Day
  • Sermon, Homily, or Bible Study
  • Prayers
  • Lords Prayer
  • Hymn
  • Benediction

As with other Confessional Lutheran worship resources, the church is “Christian,” not “catholic,” in the Creeds.

The Eucharistic rites, consistent with most Confessional Lutheran practice, lack the Canon, present in Roman Catholic and Anglican liturgies.

The theology of absolution of sin in Worship Supplement 2000 interests me.  I, as an Episcopalian of a certain stripe, accept the language “I absolve you” easily.  As with my fellow Episcopalians, there is a range of opinion regarding this matter among Lutherans.  Worship Supplement 2000 contains both the “I absolve you” form and the mere announcement of divine forgiveness.  This practice is consistent with the usage of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in its Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996) and with The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  The two forms of absolution continues in most subsequent LCMS resources, although the Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998) provides only one absolution:

Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

–Page 6

Historic practice in most of the denominations which merged over time in phases to constitute the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was for the presiding minister to announce God’s forgiveness of sin.  With the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), however, the option of the minister forgiving sins entered the liturgy.  It has remained.  James Gerhardt Sucha’s unofficial supplement to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), The Service Hymnal:  A Lutheran Homecoming (2001) lacks the “I forgive you” language.

The practice in the WELS, however, is to use only the “I forgive you” form of the absolution.

Worship Supplement 2000:  Psalms

Portions of Psalms arranged topically fill pages 25-42 of the book.  The presentation of these texts is such that a congregation may either read, sing, or chant them.  The texts come from, in order, Psalms 24, 96, 81, 51, 118, 2, 51, 45, 91, 30, 100, 23, 66, 84, 38, 85, 146, and 121.

Worship Supplement 2000:  Hymns

Worship Supplement contains 100 hymns, #701-800.  The arrangement of these begins with the church year (#701-740) then moves to topics (frequently doctrines):

  • Worship and Praise (#741-748)
  • Baptism (#749-753)
  • Lord’s Supper (#754-755)
  • Redeemer (#756-763)
  • Church (#764-768)
  • Evangelism (#769-773)
  • Word of God (#774-775)
  • Justification (#776-779)
  • Ministry (#780-781)
  • Trust (#782-785)
  • Consecration (#786)
  • Morning (#787)
  • Stewardship (#788-789)
  • Marriage (#790-791)
  • Thanksgiving (#792-793)
  • Christ’s Return (#794-795)
  • Evening (#796)
  • Hymns of the Liturgy (#797-800)

Many of the hymns are absent from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) for various reasons, including chronology.  Thus some Brian Wren texts appear in Worship Supplement 2000.  However, certain hymns which were old in 1941 and absent from The Lutheran Hymnal are present.  So are some hymns which are present in The Lutheran Hymnal.  Their versions from 2000 contain updated translations and modernized pronouns.  I commend the editor for avoiding “seven-eleven” songs, which come from the shallow end of the theological gene pool and are popular with devotees of contemporary worship.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty TLH 1941

Above:  “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Praise to the Lord, the Almighty WS2000

Above:  The First Page of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” from Worship Supplement 2000

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Notice the updated language and the altered tune.

Worship Supplement 2000:  Acknowledgments and Indices

Worship Supplement 2000 ends with copyright acknowledgments and with indices.  There are two indices–first lines and hymn tunes.

III.  CONCLUSION

Worship Supplement 2000, as a book, has much to commend it.  This statement applies to the quality of the binding, the thickness of the paper, and the readability of the fonts as much as to the contents.  I write this despite the fact that, according the Church of the Lutheran Confession, I am probably going to Hell.  (And I think of myself as an observant Christian!)  The matters of my salvation, however, reside in the purview of God, not any denomination.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK ARTHUR GORE OUSELEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, COMPOSER, AND MUSICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JAY THOMAS STOCKING, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I have provided some documentation via hyperlinks.  A list of books I have used to prepare this post follows.

American Lutheran Hymnal.  Columbus, OH:  Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Christian Worship:  Supplement.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 2008.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication of the United Lutheran Church in America, 1918.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Hymnal for Church and Home.  Third Edition.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MO:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1978.  Reprint, 1990.

The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

The Lutheran Hymnary.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House.  1935.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.  Reprint, 1986.

Service Book and Hymnal.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1958.  Reprint, 1961,

The Service Hymnal:  A Lutheran Homecoming.  Edited by James Gerhardt Sucha.  Boulder, CO:  Voice of the Rockies Publishing, 2001.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MO:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

Worship Supplement 2000.  Compiled and Edited by John C. Reim.  Eau Claire, WI:  Church of the Lutheran Confession, 2000.  Reprint, 2007.

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God, Beside Us In Suffering   1 comment

Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus--Blake

Above:  Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 12:1-13

Psalm 23

Luke 18:35-43

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Jeremiah lamented the fact that the wicked (many of them, anyway) prosper and that the righteous (many of them, anyway) suffer.  He also prayed for divine wrath against the wicked.  That was a predictable and understandable attitude, one which many people have shared.  May we be honest, O reader?  Have you and I not rejoiced to learn that some scoundrel got his just desserts?

I perceive, however, that Jesus never rejoiced in that.  Yes, he became angry with and confronted people who acted in certain ways and harbored certain attitudes, but I sense that he would have preferred that they repent and follow him.  He did not even seem confrontational with the wealthy man in Luke 18:18-30, just a few verses before healing a blind man near Jericho.  Later our Lord and Savior prayed for those who executed him and consented to his execution.

Blessed are you when people hate you and ostracize you, when they insult you and slander your very name, because of the Son of Man.  On that day exult and dance for joy, for you have a rich reward in heaven; that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The same God who sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies abides with us during difficult times.  I have known that presence during my darkest hours.  I treasure the blessing of that presence without possessing any nostalgia for the context thereof.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu told a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard was forcing him to perform an especially dirty, degrading, disgusting, and unpleasant cleaning job.

Where is your God now?,

the guard asked sarcastically.  The Jew replied,

Beside me, here in the muck.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-11-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Divine Love, Pursuing Us   1 comment

St. Paul Preaching in Athens

Above:  St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 10:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 10:17-25 (Friday)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (Thursday)

Acts 17:16-31 (Friday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Among my favorite quotes is one from Theophrastus (circa 371-circa 287 Before the Common Era), a Greek philosopher:

Superstition is cowardice in face of the divine.

The interlocking pericopes for these two days combine to encourage us to avoid superstition and idolatry.  The readings tell us to follow God, who is faithful to divine promises, who chastises us for the purpose of correction, and who pursues us to bless us.  Divine goodness and mercy do not merely follow us in Psalm 23.  No, they chase after us with the intention of overtaking us.

Perhaps my favorite passage from Colossians is the one assigned for one of these two days.  The crucified and resurrected Christ is the reconciling agent in the created order.  That is a profound theological statement, one which requires more than one blog post to unpack.  Much of that theology exists in the realm of mystery, defying rational statements and related apologetics.  That is fine with me, for I enjoy a divine mystery.  I have spent years with that mystery from Colossians, pondering it and permitting it to seep into my being.  I hope to spend more years on that project.  Certainly the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth (however the mechanics of that worked) was an example of goodness and mercy pursuing humankind.  The chase continues, fortunately.

May you, O reader, embrace God, whose goodness and mercy pursue you to bless you, and continue in a healthy spiritual pilgrimage.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-11-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Shepherds, Part I   1 comment

jesus-good-shepherd-ravenna

Above:  A Good Shepherd Mosaic from Ravenna, Italy

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep,

you seek the lost and guide us into your fold.

Feed us, and we shall be satisfied;

heal us, and we shall be whole.

Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 30:25-43 (Thursday)

Genesis 46:28-47:6 (Friday)

Genesis 48:8-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Acts 3:17-36 (Thursday)

Acts 4:1-4 (Friday)

Mark 6:30-34 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The theme for these three days is shepherds.

Shepherds functioned as interesting metaphors.  They were essential to the economy yet were far from respectable and pleasant smelling.  Nevertheless, monarchs were metaphorical shepherds of their kingdoms.  And Jesus, of course, became known as the Good Shepherd.

Jacob/Israel was a shepherd and a trickster.  Laban, his father-in-law, tricked him, so Jacob/Israel returned the favor, won his independence from Laban, and became wealthy.  The patriarch, due to a lie most of his sons told him, mourned one son, Joseph, whom he thought was dead.  Happily, Joseph was alive in Egypt.  Jacob/Israel, reunited with Joseph, blessed his grandchildren via that son, surprising Joseph by announcing that the second grandson’s descendants would be more prominent than those of the first.  The name of Ephraim became synonymous with the Kingdom of Israel (northern), which, like the Kingdom of Judah (southern), had plenty of bad kings.

Many earthly “shepherds,” Biblical prophets proclaimed, fell short of the divinely set standards of proper governance.  A proper “shepherd,” they said, opposed idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.  He looks after the interests of people who have nobody else to protect them, the prophets said.

A shepherd needs the sheep at least as much as the sheep need him.  What is a shepherd without sheep?  Who is a leader without followers?  What is a creator without a creation?  Such an interpretation troubles some, I know, but I did not create the metaphor.  No, I merely explore its implications faithfully and intellectually honestly.

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has pity on us, for we are like sheep without a shepherd.  We are inclined to go astray easily, so we need the proper guidance.  May we heed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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