Archive for the ‘Revelation of John 21’ Category

The Kingdom of God and the Law of Love   Leave a comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly:

Grant us, in all doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask for what you would have us to do,

that the spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices,

and that in your light we may see light and in your straight path may not stumble;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 153

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1 Chronicles 29:10-18

Psalm 27

Revelation 19:1, 4, 6-8

Matthew 25:31-40

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In Jewish and Christian theology, when they are what they ought to be, one of the great overreaching commandments of God is to love God fully.  A second is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  So said Rabbi Hillel.  The rest of the Torah is commentary, he continued; go and learn it.  Many people have repeated the first part of the quote (“the rest is commentary”) but not the second (“go and learn it”).  Jesus obviously knew teachings of Hillel, as Matthew 22:34-40 demonstrates.

The term “Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the canonical Gospels.  On occasion it refers to Heaven, as in afterlife with God.  Sometimes the translation more accurate than “kingdom” is “reign,” without a realm.  On other occasions, however, the reference is to a realm, so “kingdom” is a fine translation from the Greek.  This is the case of “Kingdom of Heaven,” which the Gospel of Matthew uses all but four times.  As Jonathan Pennington argues convincingly, “Kingdom of Heaven” is not a reverential circumlocution–a way of not saying God, out of reverence–but rather a reference to God’s rule on the Earth.  Thus the Kingdom of Heaven and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22) have much in common.  Furthermore, frequently the language of the Kingdom of God in the canonical Gospels indicates that the kingdom belongs simultaneously in the present and future tenses; the kingdom is here, but not in its fullness.

The commandment to love is essential.  The historical record is replete with shameful examples of professing Christians defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible and tying themselves into logical knots while giving lip service to the law of love.  There is never a bad time to live according to the law of love, as difficult as doing so might be sometimes.  The commandment is concrete, not abstract.  It is to meet the needs of others as one is able.  The list in Matthew 25:31-46 is partial yet sufficient to make the point plainly.  A modern-day expanded list might include such tasks as mowing an elderly person’s lawn and washing, drying, and putting away a disabled person’s dishes.  When we help each other, we do it for Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Best Wishes for the New Year II   Leave a comment

Above:  Happy New Year Lithograph (1876), by Currier & Ives

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-09060

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FOR NEW YEAR’S DAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Eternal God, always the same,

Grant us so to pass through this coming year with faithful hearts

that we may be able in all things to please you;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Ecclesiastes 11:6-9; 12:13

Psalm 27

Revelation 21:1-6a

Luke 9:57-62

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The readings from Ecclesiastes and Luke say, as Ecclesiastes 12:13 states succinctly,

Revere God and observe His commandments!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In the case of Luke 9:57-62 one does well to recall that Jesus was en route to Jerusalem to die.  It makes sense, then, that he made no excuses and accepted none either.

Psalm 27 encourages confidence in God, even in the midst of many enemies.  This is well-placed trust, for God is the one whose new world order of righteousness (as in Revelation 21) does not depend on human actions to come to fruition.  We are still waiting, of course, but we can also have confidence in God.

These themes of obedience and confidence come together nicely for New Year’s Day, a traditional time for new beginnings.  It is also a traditional time to make quickly abandoned and broken resolutions.  My prayer for all people is that God’s best for them may be their reality.  Regardless of the status of your plans, O reader, to do better in some way–diet, career, spiritual development, et cetera, may the new year find you in a continual state of enjoying God’s best for you as your reality.  May you trust in God more than you do already and respond more faithfully to God than you do already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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The In-Between Time   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Lowered into the Dungeon

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:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 142

Revelation 21:15-21

John 7:32-36

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This is Ascension Sunday.  For this date David Ackerman schedules an interesting set of readings.  The lives of Jeremiah and Jesus are in peril.  Certain officials arrest the prophet.  Other officials seek to arrest Jesus.  One might imagine Jeremiah uttering Psalm 142 while in the muddy pit on the prison grounds.  As Ackerman writes, in Jeremiah 38 we have a story about

a righteous Gentile raising a faithful Jewish prophet from the mud of death to new life.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), page 60

Opposite the ascension of Jeremiah is the descent of what the Gospel of Matthew usually–not always– called the Kingdom of Heaven (not out of piety but for other theological reasons; see the germane works of Jonathan Pennington) to the earth.

The imagery of the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven comes from a three-tiered cosmology in which the realm of dead is the underworld, God lives above the sky, and we mere mortals reside in the middle.  I know that this cosmology is scientifically inaccurate yet recognize that the ancient world view informs the narrative.   To quote Galileo Galilei, my favorite theologian,

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

Thus I interpret the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven as metaphors.  I accept that Jesus, for lack of a better explanation, went home, not necessarily upward.  I suppose that one might file the event under the heading of

You had to be there,

so even the best words prove inadequate to describe the event adequately.  As for Revelation 21, the entire book is replete with imagery, given its genre (apocalyptic writing).  To read the Apocalypse of John literally is to miss to point and to read the text in a manner in which the author did not intend.

Hang in there, the Book of Revelation tells persecuted Christians.  God will win eventually, the last book of the New Testament says, even if the victory follows one’s martyrdom.  The Bible opens with God creating order from chaos then with people ruining paradise.  The sacred anthology concludes with God’s creative destruction of human-made chaos and the restoration of paradise.  We live in the in-between time, with those, who like Jeremiah, long ago, suffer for the sake of righteousness and do not necessarily meet happy ends in this life.  But we must hang in there.

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-seventh-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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Life   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Elijah

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:

1 Kings 17:1-6

Psalm 134

Revelation 20:11-14a

John 4:46-54

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Easter is a season that lasts for fifty days, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  The Sixth Sunday of Easter falls late in the season, with just two weeks left until Pentecost.

Late in the season of Easter the theme of new life from death continues.

  1. God provides for the physical needs of the unpopular prophet Elijah during a drought.  Later in 1 Kings God acts through Elijah to restore a widow’s son to life from physical death (17:17-24).
  2. The author of Psalm 134 affirms the value of blessing and praising God.  The text is a priestly benediction.  And why not bless and praise God, upon whom we depend totally, who has given us life and upon whom we depend for the sustenance of life?
  3. God acts through Jesus to restore a young man near death to health in John 4.  Notably Jesus dos this from a distance, thereby proving that he does not need to be in the proximity of the ailing person.
  4. God rescues the faithful from cosmic death in Revelation 20, after the final divine victory over evil and prior to th descent of the New Jerusalem in Chapter 21.

Life is precious.  We ought to enjoy it while using our time (however much God grants us) to glorify God and help each other as much as our talents, abilities, and circumstances permit.  May we help each other do this as we are able to do so.  And may others do the same for us as they are able, all for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

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-sixth-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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Proclaiming God Among the Peoples   1 comment

Above:  The Fiery Furnace

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 3:19-30

Psalm 57:8-11

Revelation 11:15-19

Luke 1:5-20, 57-66

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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 praise to you among the nations.

For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,

and your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

–Psalm 57:8-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Revelation 11 we read the announcement that

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

–Verse 15b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Nevertheless, we must wait until Chapter 21 for that sovereignty to become apparent.

The sovereignty of God is indeed a challenging concept.  In the Gospels the Kingdom of God is already partially present.  The Roman Empire and its agents, one of whom goes on to order the execution of St. John the Baptist, born in Luke 1, is fully present.

Truly bad people who wield authority always seem to present somewhere.  Nebuchadnezzar II, hardly a nice man, is a figure of ridicule in the Book of Daniel.  He is fickle and seems unaware of the extent of his authority at times.  He is willing to send people to die for refusing to serve the gods, so how nice can he be? He, as monarch, can change the law, too.  Later in the Book of Daniel (Chapter 4) he goes insane.  Also troubled and in one of the readings (sort of) is King Saul, a disturbed and mentally unwell man.  The not attached to Psalm 57 contextualizes the text in 1 Samuel 22-24 and 26, with David leading a group of outlaws while on the run from Saul.  In the story David saves the life of the man trying to kill him.  (Aside:  Chapters 24 and 26 seem to be variations on the same story.  The Sources Hypothesis explains the duplication of material.)

One might detect a certain thread common to three of the readings:  The lives of the faithful are at risk.  That theme is implicit in Luke 1.  God will not always deliver the faithful, hence the martyrs in Revelation 14.  The sovereignty of God will not always be obvious.  But we who claim to follow Christ can do so, by grace, and proclaim God among the peoples in a variety of circumstances.

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-second-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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