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Eschatological Ethics VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Visitation

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, 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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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given to us, thy servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity;

we beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who livest and reignest, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 182

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Isaiah 35

Psalm 98

Romans 1:16-25

Luke 1:39-56

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Apocalyptic writing serves at least two legitimate purposes.  One is to keep hope alive, to remind people to remain faithful until the full-realized Kingdom of God becomes reality and justice is ubiquitous.  Another purpose is to point out the extent to which human governments, institutions, and societies fall short of the divine standard of justice.  They fall short of that standard because people do.

Advent is not so much a time of preparation for the twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5) as it is a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.  Do we believe that the full-realized Kingdom of God will become manifest on Earth?  And do we imagine that it will in no way displace some aspects of society from which we benefit?  Divine justice is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for those who oppress them and who consent to the oppression.  The return of Jewish exiles, foretold in Isaiah 35, followed the reckoning of their Chaldean overlords.  One may also think of Revelation 18, in which, following the fall of Babylon (read:  Rome), those who benefited from violence and exploitation mourn.

God is faithful and just.  If we are, too, we stand with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Hesed, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Mephibosheth Before David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 9:1-13a

Psalm 68:17-20

Revelation 19:1-10

Mark 8:1-10

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The reading from 2 Samuel 9 contains a wonderful Hebrew word, hesed, which can mean “faith” or “kindness.”  For example, in 9:1 we read,

David inquired, “Is there anyone still left in the House of Saul with whom I can keep faith for the sake of Jonathan?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the other translation:

David asked, “Is there anyone left of the House of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Kindness is not always a simple matter.  Treating Mephibosheth, the self-described “dead dog” and crippled son of Jonathan with mercy and prestige is easy enough.   Furthermore, the miracle (the Feeding of the 4000) in Mark 8 is an example of extravagant and unambiguous kindness.  But what about the contents of the other readings?

Babylon (the Roman Empire) has fallen in Revelation 18.  The regime based on violence, oppression, and economic exploitation is no more.  Those who benefited from relationships to the empire mourn its passing.  We read of rejoicing in Heaven in Revelation 19.  But what about the innocent victims of the fall of the empire?  Might they also mourn the passing of the empire?

In Psalm 68 (a liturgy for a festival celebration in the Temple), taken in full, we read of God’s judgment and mercy.  Yes, divine hesed is present, but so is God crushing the heads of his enemies (verse 21).  As I have written repeatedly, good news for the oppressed is frequently catastrophic news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Perhaps the enemies whose heads God crushes were harming the widows and orphans mentioned in verse 5.

There is more than enough divine hesed to go around, but each of us has the individual responsibility to practice hesed toward each other also.  Furthermore, we have the collective responsibility to practice hesed institutionally, including as nation-states.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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Blind Fools   1 comment

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

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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Daniel 6:16-27

Psalm 108:1-5

Revelation 18:1-3

Matthew 23:13-26

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My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;

I will sing and make melody.

Wake up, my spirit;

awake, lute and harp;

I myself will waken the dawn.

I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;

I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,

and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

–Psalm 108:1-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

[Psalms 57 and 108 do seem somewhat similar, do they not?]

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The chronology of the Book of Daniel is frankly a mess impossible to reconcile with the rest of the Bible and with ancient history.  The Book of Daniel is a collection of folktales, not history, so one ought not to mistake it for a factually reliable source of knowledge of past events.  Those folktales do contain much truth and wisdom, however.  We ought to interpret the Book of Daniel based on what it is, not what it is not.

Our story from the Book of Daniel affirms the wisdom of trusting God.  That is a strong thematic link to last Sunday’s readings, which are generally gloomier than the pericopes for this Sunday.  In fact, much of what I would like to write, based on the assigned readings, would prove redundant, compared to what I have written in the previous post in this series.  Ackerman crafted his lectionary that well and tightly.

I prefer, therefore, to focus on Matthew 23:13-26.

Those much-maligned scribes and Pharisees were not mustache-twirling villains.  Yes, some of them had spiritual issues pertaining to power and the illusion of control.  And yes, they collaborated with Roman authorities.  But no, they were not mustache-twirling villains.  They were, as Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the retired Episcopal Bishop of Georgia, said, the good, church-going people of their time.  Many–perhaps most–of them sought to honor God by keeping divine commandments, as they understood them.  Yet they were, in the words of Christ, “blind fools.”

How many of us are “blind fools” and do not know it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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God is the Ruler Yet I   1 comment

Icon of the Apocalypse of John

Above:   Icon of the Apocalypse of John

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 46:18-28 (Monday)

Isaiah 33:17-22 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 60:8-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 24 (All Days)

Revelation 21:5-27 (Monday)

Revelation 22:8-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 1:1-4 (Wednesday)

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Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

“Who is this King of glory?”

“The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.”

Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

“Who is this King of glory?”

“The Lord of hosts,

he is the King of glory.”

–Psalm 24:7-10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Here are some thoughts for the time between Proper 29 (Christ the King Sunday) and the First Sunday of Advent.

God wins in the end.  Conquerors fall to other conquerors, who fall to other conquerors.  The faithful who persevere will receive their reward.  Some of them will live long enough to witness the triumph of God in the flesh.  The story of Jesus of Nazareth, attested to by eyewitnesses, contains suffering, death, and resurrection.  The victory of God in that case is one of love and power, not the smiting of enemies, for whom Christ interceded (Luke 23:34).

The Book of Revelation tells of divine creative destruction from Chapters 4 to 20.  Then, in Revelation 21 and 22, God inaugurates the new order.  There is smiting of enemies here, for the deliverance of the oppressed is frequently bad news for unrepentant oppressors.  The new, divine world order, however, contains no oppression.

That divine order has not become reality yet, of course.  Nevertheless, as the Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901) wrote:

This is my Father’s world,

O let my ne’er forget

That though the wrong

Seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died

Shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-29-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Optimism and Pessimism   1 comment

Temple at Jerusalem

Above:   The Temple at Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 10:1-19

Psalm 98

Luke 17:20-37

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Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

–Psalm 98:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 98 is the most optimistic reading for this day.  In Ezekiel 10 (carried over into Chapter 11) the Presence of Yahweh departs from Jerusalem, leaving it open to invasion and destruction by foreigners.  The divine Presence remains absent until Ezekiel 43.  In Luke 17:21 the Kingdom of God is present yet persecution and generally dark, eschatological times are en route.  On the other hand, in Luke 18, Jesus encourages his followers to continue praying and never to lose heart.  There is a way through the difficult times while living or dead, and always faithful to God.

The tone of these readings, taken together, fits the time of the church year well.  In the Revised Common Lectionary and several other lectionaries the selected portions of scripture become increasingly apocalyptic during the last few weeks before Advent and into that season.  Some Confessional Lutheran bodies even go so far as to label the last four Sundays of the Season after Pentecost the End Time Season.

May we remember that out of the creative destruction in Revelation 4-20 comes a new creation in Chapters 21 and 22.  Hope in God is real and well-founded, for God will win in the end.

That is a reason for optimism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Golden Rule, Part III   1 comment

Golden Rule

Above:   The Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 18:1-8, 28-36 (Thursday)

2 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37 (Friday)

Isaiah 7:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-9 (All Days)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-29 (Friday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Saturday)

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Put your trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

–Psalm 37:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days tell of the mercy–pity, even–of God.  In 2 Kings and Isaiah God delivers the Kingdom of Judah from threats.  The core message of Revelation is to remain faithful during persecution, for God will win in the end.  Finally, Jesus takes pity on two blind men and heals them in Matthew 20.

On the other side of mercy one finds judgment.  The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17 and 2 Chronicles 32.  The Kingdom of Judah went on to fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36.  The fall of Babylon (the Roman Empire) in Revelation was bad news for those who had profited from cooperation with the violent and economically exploitative institutions thereof (read Chapter 18).

In an ideal world all would be peace and love.  We do not live in an ideal world, obviously.  Certain oppressors will insist on oppressing.  Some of them will even invoke God (as they understand God) to justify their own excuse.  Good news for the oppressed, then, will necessarily entail bad news for the oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors hurt themselves also, for whatever they do to others, they do to themselves.  That is a cosmic law which more than one religion recognizes.  Only victims are present, then, and some victims are also victimizers.

Loving our neighbors is much better, is it not?

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-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Seeking, Finding, and Following Divine Guidance   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beautiful God, you gather your people into your realm,

and you promise us food from your tree of life.

Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit

we may love one another and the world you have made,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Proverbs 2:6-8 (Friday)

Proverbs 2:9-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Acts 15:36-41 (Thursday)

Acts 16:1-8 (Friday)

Luke 19:1-10 (Saturday)

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May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in aw of him.

–Psalm 67, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Seeking divine guidance, which God provides, is a noble and frequent occurrence.  But how commonplace is discerning that guidance properly versus mistaking one’s inner voice or the opinions of others for divine guidance?  St. Paul the Apostle sought to spread the Gospel in certain regions yet God’s purpose was for him to so in Macedonia instead.  One can seek to do something to glorify God and still misunderstand God’s call on one’s life, this story has taught for almost 2000 years.

Sometimes texts can prove to be ambiguous.  Does Proverbs 2:1-15 indicate that knowing and acting on the will of God protects one from evildoers?  If so, the passage is falsely optimistic.  If, however, it is in the spirit of Matthew 10:28a (“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul….”), Proverbs 2:1-15 is true.

Luke 19:1-10 (verse 8, specifically) contains other subtleties.  The passage is the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, a tax collector who has been defrauding his neighbors for years.  He was literally a tax thief for the Roman Empire.  According to Exodus 22:7, the rate of restitution in the case of the theft of money or goods from someone’s house was 200%.  In Luke 19:8b (Revised Standard Version–Second Edition, 1971, consistent with the Greek text), Zacchaeus said,

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.

–present tense.

That sentence can mean one of two things–that Zacchaeus did that already or planned to do that.  The translation of the Bible or a portion thereof is an act of interpretation.  Thus, in the New International Version (1978, 1984, and 2011 permutations) and in Today’s New International Version (2005) one reads:

Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.

The “here and now,” not present in the original Greek text, occurs also in The New English Bible (1970) and The Revised English Bible (1989).  Other translations opt for the future tense, as in the case of The New Revised Standard Version (1989).

The context of Luke 19:1-10 indicates that Zacchaeus repented–turned around, changed his mind–that Jesus approved, and that Zacchaeus found restoration to his community.  He had violated the Biblical injunction not to exploit others and paid the price for it.  Resolving to do the right thing then following through set him on the path to justice.  Zacchaeus did even more than the Law of Moses required him to do.  This course of action was costly in material terms yet much more rewarding spiritually and socially.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the practical, circumstantial details of the will of God, but I have paid attention to certain Biblical principles.  Among them is the fact that economic exploitation is sinful.  The Law of Moses, Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Revelation 18 agree on this point.  Opposing economic exploitation might place one opposite certain corporate leaders and most of the hosts on the FOX News Channel, but so be it.  One can follow mammon or Jesus, but not both.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH SETON, FOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Kingdom of Our Lord and of His Christ   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing.

Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that,

made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace,

through your Son, 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 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 7:13-14 (Friday)

Daniel 7:27 (Saturday)

Psalm 148 (Both Days)

Revelation 11:15 (Friday)

Revelation 11:16-19 (Saturday)

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Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 148:13-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The fact that the Apocalypse of John quotes the Book of Daniel is old news.  The “son of man,” or as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the term, “One like a human being,” in Daniel 7, is a heavenly figure the text never identifies specifically.  He might be the archangel Michael.  In subsequent Jewish interpretation “the son of man” is a representation of Israel.  Whoever the “son of man” is in Daniel 7, he receives an everlasting dominion on earth in a vision in that chapter.  In Revelation Jesus receives that everlasting dominion.

Revelation 11:15 cues Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” to start thundering inside my head, it was one of the passages of the composer used in that portion of theMessiah.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989) renders the text as:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord

and of his Messiah,

and he will reign forever and ever.

The translation in The Revised English Bible (1989) is less traditional:

Sovereignty over the world has passed to our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever!

In Revelation 12-18 God proceeds to destroy the corrupt human order on earth before inaugurating the divine order in chapters 19-22.

Many of the texts regarding the Kingdom of God in the New Testament indicate its partial presence, at least from a human perspective.  It is evident among people, but there will be more to come.  We need not wait for the complete realization of the Kingdom of God to praise and exalt God, whose mighty acts are numerous.  The full Kingdom of God will come to pass and become obvious in human sight in time.  Until then reminders of divine sovereignty are still in order, for appearances often prove both deceptive and discouraging.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #1450 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Apocalyptic Warnings   1 comment

jeremiah-sistine-chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 19:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 20:7-13 (Friday)

Jeremiah 20:14-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 65:5-12 (All Days)

Revelation 18:11-20 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 10:13-16 (Saturday)

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Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels;

the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise.

–Psalm 65:7, Common Worship (2000)

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The prophet Jeremiah would have been thrilled for that statement to have applied to Jerusalem.  Alas, some people there even sacrificed their children to pagan gods at the valley whose name became the source for the label “Gehenna,” a place of suffering in the afterlife.  Jeremiah condemned such idolatrous and violent practices and pronounced divine punishment.  For his trouble he faced flogging and imprisonment.  Yet those who mistreated him would, he said, die as exiles in Babylon.  That prediction came true.

A common expectation in New Testament times was that Jesus would return quite soon.  It was an age of apocalyptic hopes that God would end the violent and exploitative rule of the Roman Empire, set the world right, and that the divine order would govern the planet.  In that context a lack of repentance was especially bad, as in Luke 10:13-16.  In Revelation 18 the Roman Empire had fallen (within the Johannine Apocalypse only), but the imperium survived well beyond the first century of the Common Era.  Discouragement and scoffing had become evident by the 80s and 90s, the timeframe for the writing of 2 Peter.  Yet the calls to repentance remained applicable.

Divine time and human time work differently, but some things remain the same.  Fearful theocrats react badly to honest prophets.  The realization that God has not met a human schedule leads to bad spiritual results.  Violent, oppressive, and exploitative governments continue to exist.  And the promise that God will destroy the evil order then replace it with a holy and just one remains a future hope.  In the meantime we would do well to consider the moral lessons of Revelation 18.  For example, do we benefit from any violent, oppressive, and/or exploitative system?  If so, what is the “Babylon” or what are the “Babylons” to which we have attached ourselves, from which we benefit, and whose passing we would mourn?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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“But I Say to You”   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 4:1-5 (Monday)

Micah 4:6-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 79 (Both Days)

Revelation 15:1-8 (Monday)

Revelation 18:1-10 (Tuesday)

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Do not remember against us the sin of former times:

but let your compassion hasten to meet us, for we are brought very low.

–Psalm 79:8, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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Psalm 79 prays for divine violence against enemies while seeking forgiveness for sins and deliverance from the consequences of sin.  Micah 4 and Revelation 18 speak of that deliverance, which comes with divine violence in Micah 5 and Revelation 15 and 18.  Yet I recall Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:43-48 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You have heard how it was said:  You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you:  love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad man as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.  For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit?  For the tax collectors do as much, do they not?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Even the pagans do as much, do they not?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Perfect,” in this case, indicates being suited to one’s purpose.  Thus a sacrificial animal which met the standards was perfect, even though it had some physical imperfections.  If our purpose as human beings is to love, glorify, and enjoy God forever, as the Westminster Catechisms tell us, that is our standard of perfection.  Grace will enable us to attain it.

We cannot be suited to our high calling if we carry grudges around.  This baggage is too heavy a burden and a distraction from our sacred vocation.  Yes, sometimes oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, so good news for the oppressed is dire news for the oppressors, but the righteous ought not to rejoice in the bad fortunes of others.  The Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist, has compassion for the Chinese oppressors of Tibetans.  The Chinese oppressors are hurting themselves also, he says correctly.  He puts many Christians to shame with regard to Christ’s teaching about loving one’s enemies.  He puts me to shame in this matter.

Recognizing that a problem exists is the first step in the process of correcting it.  I know well the desire for vindication at the expense of those who have wronged me.  I also know the spiritual acidity of the desire for revenge.  God has intervened in my life with regard to this issue.  Grace has arrived and continues to be necessary, for I am weak.  Yet I keep trying to become stronger.  Even a minimal effort is something which God can use, I am convinced.  A humble beginning plus ample grace equals wonderful results.

This is a devotion for Advent, the season of preparation for the arrival of Jesus.  Liturgically the build-up is to Christmas (December 25-January 5), but the assigned readings include references the Old Testament Day of the Lord and to the Second Coming of Jesus.  The expectation in such lessons is that Yahweh or Jesus will replace the old, corrupt, and exploitative human order with the new, divine, and just order.  This has yet to happen, obviously, but that vision of how things ought to be should propel we who call ourselves Christians to oppose all that exploits our fellow human beings and denies them all that a proper respect for human dignity affords them.  The test of whether we should support or oppose something comes from Jesus himself:  Is it consistent with the command to love others as ourselves?

A perhaps apocryphal story tells of the aged St. John the Evangelist/Divine/Apostle.  He visited a congregation, the members of which anticipated what he might tell them.  The Apostle said,

My children, love one another.

Then he left the room where the congregation had assembled.  One person followed John and asked an ancient equivalent of

That’s it?  Is there not more?

The Apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Often we cannot even love those similar to ourselves, much less pray for our enemies.  Thus we are not suited to our divine calling.  We can be so, however.  May Christ, who entered this world long ago on a mission of mercy, find in many people metaphorical stables in which to continue arriving among us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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