Archive for the ‘Revelation of John 3’ Category

To the Church in Laodicea   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING REVELATION, PART VIII

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Revelation 3:14-22

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The church in Laodicea had existed since the time of St. Paul the Apostle.  John of Patmos insisted that choosing God’s side against the Roman Empire and the worship of the Emperor of Rome was crucial.  Yet the congregation in Laodicea was lukewarm and complacent.  It had lost the ability to make moral and spiritual distinctions.

Yet that congregation had an opportunity to repent–or else.

Some of the members of that church in that commercial city relied on their wealth, not on God.  The poor members could not rely on wealth, of course.  They apparently relied on other idols.

Whenever any portion of the Church relies on God instead of God, it errs severely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF ALBAN BUTLER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HAGIOGRAPHER

THE FEAST OF HENRY STEPHEN BUTLER, EPISCOPAL ORGANIST, CHOIRMASTER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOAO BOSCO BURNER, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1976

THE FEAST OF VINCENT TAYLOR, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Posted October 13, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Revelation of John 3

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To the Church in Philadelphia   Leave a comment

Above:  Alasehir, Turkey

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING REVELATION, PART VII

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Revelation 3:7-13

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Philadelphia was an unremarkable city.  A center of the wine trade, the city’s chief God was Dionysius.

The church there was small, poor, and faithful.  It suffered persecution, including some from local Jews.  More persecution was coming down the pike, but Jesus promised to stand with this flock.

Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel wrote of the similarity between the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia.  The church in Smyrna was poor yet rich.  The church in Philadelphia had no power yet had an opportunity of which nobody could deprive it.  Both congregations were rich in faith.  Stoffel, applying the passages about these congregations to the contemporary church, wrote:

We can think of our emphasis on resources and programs, on technique and structure.  We can also think on our declining influence.  There might be a connection.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 35

He may have been right.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, IRISH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, ENGLISH NURSE AND MARTYR, 1915

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FRY, ENGLISH QUAKER SOCIAL REFORMER AND “ANGEL OF THE PRISONS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Posted October 12, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Revelation of John 3

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To the Church in Sardis   Leave a comment

Above:  Gymnasium and Roman Baths, Ancient Sardis

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING REVELATION, PART VI

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Revelation 3:1-6

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Sardis, the former capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, was a center of the imperial cult.  An earthquake had severely damaged the city in 17 C.E., but the empire had invested in the city’s recovery.  This recovery had been rapid.  A temple dedicated to Emperor Tiberius was prominent in Sardis.

The church in Sardis may have been prosperous, but it was spiritually dead.  Yet some of its members were faithful.  They had the metaphorical white robes.

White robes, a prominent motif in Revelation, were an image borrowed from other literature, especially the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.  In 1 Enoch 12:15-16, the righteous and elect ones on the day of judgment wore “garments of glory” that never wore out.  These garments were symbols of immortality and righteousness.  In the Ascension of Isaiah 9:9, the saints, in the seventh heaven, received new garments and were like angels in glory.  2 Baruch 51:5 made a similar point.  In the canon of scripture, the faithful would put on a “second garment” (2 Corinthians 5:4) and put on immortality and imperishability (1 Corinthians 15:53-54).

I have been around a few spiritually dead congregations.  Maybe you, O reader, have been around some, too.

The spiritual death of congregations is sad.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Living with Integrity, and Some Troublesome Texts   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART VIII

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1 Peter 2:1-3:17

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Whenever Christians to my right speak or write about what the Bible says about various matters, I invariably roll my eyes, at least metaphorically.  Literalists overlook a documented fact:  the Bible contradicts itself.  Reading the germane texts for what they are reveals that context is key.  If one mistakes St. Paul the Apostle for a systematic theologian, one may overlook the cultural contexts in which he ministered.

The cultural and geographical context of First Peter was northern Asia Minor, the Roman Empire, 70-90 C.E.  The culture was hostile to Christianity, a young, small, and growing religion.  Slavery, and patriarchy were cultural norms.  The author bought into these norms, although he moderated them.  The attitude of submission to civil authority (the Roman Empire, in this case) contrasted with the attitude of “John of Patmos,” who wrote Revelation.  According of Revelation, the Roman Empire was in league with Satan, so submission to the empire was submission to Satan.  Such submission was sinful, according to Revelation.  Not surprisingly, the attitude of submission to the empire (in 1 Peter) has long been more popular with governments than the contrasting attitude in Revelation.

As always, context is crucial.

I argue with much of 1 Peter 2:1-3:17.  I oppose all forms of slavery at all times and in all places.  I affirm equality within marriage.  I contend that one can belong to a powerless minority in a society and still say,

X is wrong.  The social and cultural norms are askew.

I hold that living the Golden Rule, individually and collectively, is a divine mandate, not a suggestion.  Living reverently in Christ (1 Peter 3:15) requires nothing less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL VI, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BRIGHT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN BYROM, ANGLICAN THEN QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LANCELOT ANDREWES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER THEN OF ELY THEN OF WINCHESTER

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Ezekiel’s Vision of the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VI

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:23

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:13, the product of more than one person, contains some unusual editorial choices and odd shifts of attention.  I mention that matter to get it out of the way, so that nobody can legitimately claim that I do not know it.  Now that I have gotten that matter out of the way, I focus on themes, details, and the application thereof.

The figurer who looked like a man (or fire, depending on translation) in 8:2 is the divine Presence, Ezekiel’s guide.  This figure recurs in 40:3f.

The date of the vision in 8:1-11:13 is September 592 B.C.E.

Idolatry recurs as a sin of the people of Judah.

We read that, contrary to what many people think, God has not abandoned Judah–yet–and does see what people are doing (9:9).

Above:  Ezekiel’s Vision, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Chapter 10 reads like a redux of Chapter 1, with some differences.

God departs Judah in Chapter 11.

We read of the divine promise of restoration and cleansing of exiles already in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  We read that those still in Judah are doomed (11:41-21).  We read that God has moved to the exiles in Babylon (11:23).

Ezekiel 11:21 cautions that divine renewal of the exiles is not automatic; it requires human vigilance.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 is thematically similar to Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26.  We read that, in an ideal future, by divine action, disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, as well as in the Revelation to John, divine faithfulness is never in doubt, from the author’s perspective.  Also, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Creative destruction by God makes way for the establishment for the new, divine order.  In Christian terms, God must destroy the old, corrupt order before the fully-realized Kingdom of God can become visible on the Earth, from a human perspective.  As C. H. Dodd reminds me from the printed page and his grave, the Kingdom of God is; it does not come.  Yet, from a human point of view, certain events make its presence more palpable than it used to be.

Another idea, frequently repeated in the Bible–especially Hebrew prophetic books–is that human sins have consequences.  We human beings condemn ourselves.  We leave God.  We are the faithless ones.  We are arrogant; we do not stand in awe of God.  We read what he have sown.

Yet grace remains.  As the great Southern Baptist theologian Will Campbell said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

And our only hope is in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Wealth as an Idol   1 comment

Above:  Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

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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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Genesis 8:1-13 or Acts 26:1, 9-23, 27-29, 31-32

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-18

Revelation 3:14-22

John 8:31-47

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Laodicea was a wealthy city, a center of the refining of gold, the manufacture of garments, and the manufacture of a popular salve for eyes.  The church in that city was also wealthy, not on Christ.  Jesus said to keep his commandments.  St. Paul the Apostle relied on Christ.

As I have written many times, deeds reveal creeds.  To quote Proverbs, as a man thinks, he is.  And as one thinks, one does.  God is like what God had done and does, in Jewish theology.  Likewise, we are like what we have done and do.

Are we like the Laodicean congregation?  Are we lukewarm?  Are we comfortable, resting on our own laurels and means?  Do we have the luxury of being that way?  (FYI:  “We” can refer either to congregations or to individuals.)

Wealth is not the problem.  No, wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to wealth are not morally neutral.  To the extent that a person or a congregation may rely on wealth, not God, one makes wealth an idol.

There was once a man who owned a large tract of land.  He enjoyed boasting about how much land he owned.  One day, the landowner was bragging to another man:

I can get in my truck early in the morning and start driving around the edge of my property.  Late in the day, I haven’t gotten home yet.

The other man replied,

I used to have a truck like that, too.

The Bible burst the proverbial balloons of those who trust in their wealth, not in God.  Aside from Revelation 3:14-22, one may think readily of the Gospel of Luke and various Hebrew prophets, for example.  One may also quote 1 Timothy 6:10 (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls to any number of fatal wounds.

One may also quote Luke 6, in which the poor are blessed (verse 20), but the rich are having their consolation now (verse 24).

Wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to it are not.  May we always trust in God and acknowledge our duties to one another, in mutuality, under God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF EDGAR J. GOODSPEED, U.S. BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

THE FEAST OF W. SIBLEY TOWNER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/devotion-for-proper-16-year-d-humes/

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The Idol of Success   1 comment

Above:  Stamps of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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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Genesis 7:11-24 or Acts 24:1, 10-23, 27

Psalm 131

Revelation 3:7-13

John 8:12-30

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We Gentiles need to be very careful to push back against any Anti-Semitic interpretations of our assigned readings from Revelation 3, John 8, and Acts 24.  We may need someone to remind us that the struggle within the Gospel of John was intra-Jewish.   So was the conflict between the Jewish Christian community that produced it and the Jews around them.  We may need a reminder that St. Paul the Apostle was Jewish, too.

The church at Philadelphia was Gentile.  It was also small, poor, and at odds with many local Jews.  Conflict produced invective.

Being small may or may not be beautiful.  What is beautiful is being faithful.  And Christ promises to honor that faithfulness.

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 34

If we stop thinking about importance in human terms, we will do well spiritually.  Large does not equal important, in the eyes of God.  Neither does wealthy.  Neither does successful.  Neither does being free.  Neither does being popular.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said that God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  Many people have worshiped at the altar of success, long a popular idol.  The heresy of Prosperity Theology has appealed to many people for a very long time.  Yet the prophet Jeremiah, by human standards, was a failure.  So was Jesus.

Does anyone reading this post want to argue that Jeremiah and Jesus were failures?  Not I.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH POET, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/20/devotion-for-proper-15-year-d-humes/

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Alive in Christ   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Sardis

Image Source = Google Earth

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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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Genesis 7:1-10 or Acts 23:1-11

Psalm 128

Revelation 3:1-6

John 7:1-2, 14-24

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I do not apologize to Biblical literalists for pointing out that Genesis 6:19-21 and Genesis 7:2-3 contradict each other.  The explanation for the two sets of instructions is simple:  an editor “cut and pasted” different sources together.

Psalm 128 is overly simplistic.  Sometimes people suffer for keeping the faith.  Consider, O reader, the death threats against Jesus in John 7 and the suffering of St. Paul the Apostle in Acts 23.

The message of the church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) remains relevant in many places, unfortunately.  A congregation may seem to be alive and thriving.  It may be full for worship services.  It may have many active programs.  It may even have a large and impressive physical structure.  Yet such a place is spiritually dead if it has forgotten to make Christ and divine grace central.

I have certain liturgical sensibilities.  Good, proper liturgy sets the spiritual table for me in corporate worship.  Some people from churches with less formal liturgies regard my liturgical preferences as dead formalism and as going through the motions.  They mistake simplicity of worship for sincerity of worship.

I have visited congregations with liturgical styles I regard as insufficient and uninspiring.  I have attended worship services at these churches.  Functionally, I have merely attended social events.  I have, of course, been sociable and well-behaved when doing so.  Through it all, though, I have wanted to be somewhere else.

Despite this, I affirm that congregations alive in Christ come in a variety of liturgical styles.  Liturgy reflects various factors, including personality, which has a bearing on one’s preferred liturgical style.

Being alive in Christ is another matter, though.  It takes congregations and their members through good times and difficult times.  It endures.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, U.S. HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/19/devotion-for-proper-14-year-d-humes/

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This is post #2500 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Growing in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, from whom all good things do come; grant to us thy humble servants,

that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be right,

and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 173-174

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Jeremiah 20:11-14

Psalms 133 and 134

Revelation 3:14-22

John 17:1-19

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The complaint against the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 is being spiritually lukewarm.  Although the assigned Psalms differ in time with the lament of Jeremiah, one can state accurately that the authors of these texts were spiritually hot.  The Book of Jeremiah fits neatly into a wonderful Hebrew tradition–arguing faithfully with God.  The relationship is not always pleasant, but it exists, at least.

Jesus of Nazareth, the historical figure and the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity (however that works and whatever it means) had a unique relationship with YHWH.  This was a priest the author of the Gospel of John kept emphasizing.  That author reserved “son” for Jesus and wrote that we, through Jesus, can become children of God.

In other words, each of us can have a relationship with God.  It will also be unique, particular to each person’s circumstances.

May we, by grace, encourage one another in our journeys with Christ, our relationships with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

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Posted April 9, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah 20, John 17, Psalm 133, Psalm 134, Revelation of John 3

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The Faithfulness of God, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Coastal Landscape with Balaam and the Ass, by Bartholomeus Breenburgh

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Easter, 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 God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth,

to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness;

grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion

that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession,

and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 169-170

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Numbers 22:1-21

Psalms 121 and 123:1-3a

Revelation 3:1-6

John 16:12-22

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Appearances deceive sometimes.  Consider, O reader, the case of the church at ancient Sardis at the time of the writing of Revelation.  We read that, despite its reputation, the congregation was spiritually dead.  There was still hope, however, we read.

After all, one purpose of pronouncing judgment is to convince people to repent, so that condemnation ill no longer is necessary.

Do the right thing, we read.  God will help you to do it, we read as we continue.  God is faithful, the readings tell us.

Do we believe that?  The beginning of evil is the rejection of all the above.  When we think that God does not exist or does not care, at least, we conclude that we can and must do everything on our own.  Then we slip into amorality; the ends justify the means, we tell ourselves.

Trusting in the faithfulness of God liberates us to grow into our best spiritual selves, thereby leaving the world better than we found it.

May we trust in God, or continue to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 7, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON OF MOSCOW, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MONTFORD SCOTT, EDMUND GENNINGS, HENRY WALPOLE, AND THEIR FELLOW MARTYRS, 1591 AND 1595

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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