Archive for the ‘Romans 1’ Category

The Sin of Religious Violence   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

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:

Deuteronomy 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-palm-sunday-year-d/

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God Concepts and Violence   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

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:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)

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In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.

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-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Spiritual Responsibility   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)

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The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting in God, Part III   1 comment

Moses

Above:  Moses, by Michelangelo Buonarotti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 26:1-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29 (Both Days)

Romans 1:8-15 (Monday)

Acts 2:37-47 (Tuesday)

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We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

that they might in turn tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

–Psalm 78:4-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To believe in God, in the Biblical sense, is to trust in God.  The Psalm speaks of trusting in God, hence the focus of this post.  Deuteronomy, placing words in the mouth of Moses, reminds people of what God had done for them–how faithful God had been–and how faithful they should be.  Among the commandments to keep were orders to care for the widows and the orphans, and, by extension, all the vulnerable members of society.  There was more than enough for them to eat, dress, and have shelter properly in God’s economic plan.  If we have faith that God will provide enough for all of us to have a sufficient supply of necessities, we will have a secure place from which to extend hospitality to others, as God commands us to do.

We humans are at our worst when we act out of fear.  We protect ourselves and our families at the expense of others at such times.  We might even seek to harm others actively because we imagine that there is not enough for everyone to have enough of necessities.  In such cases we might affirm the existence of God, but we do not trust in God.

Whenever I hear people speaking of belief in God I suppose that they really mean affirming the existence of God.  An Episcopal priest I know has an excellent way of dealing with people who claim not to believe in God.  He asks them to describe the deity in whom they do not believe.  He winds up replying that the does not believe in that God either.  But, to the larger point of trusting in God versus merely affirming the existence of God, I have my own answer.  I affirm the existence of God consistently, but I trust in God most of the time.  And I seek to trust God more often.

How about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-13-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Righteousness, Justification, Justice, and Awe   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 27:1-11, 16-22 (Monday)

Jeremiah 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Monday)

Romans 3:1-8 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 131, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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“Righteousness” and “justification” are English translations of the same Greek word.  “Justification” refers to how we get right with God.  St. Paul the Apostle, understanding faith as something which comes with works as a component of it (as opposed to the author of the Letter of James, who comprehended faith as intellectual and therefore requiring the addition of works for justification), argued that faith alone was sufficient for justification.  The two men agreed in principle, but not their definition of faith.  They arrived at the same conclusion by different routes.  That conclusion was that actions must accompany thoughts if the the thoughts are to be of any good.

A note on page 2011 of The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) makes an excellent point:

In the OT, righteousness and justice repeatedly characterize God’s nature and activity, particularly in relationship  to the covenant with Israel.

Thus we arrive at the lections from Jeremiah, excerpts from a section of that book.  The prophet argued that God had made Judah a vassal state of the Babylonians, so rebellion against them would constitute a sin.  Hananiah was a false prophet who advocated for the opposite point of view.  The argument that a fight for national liberation is wrong might seem odd to many people, but it made sense to Jeremiah in a particular context.

Discerning the will of God in a given context can prove to be challenging at best.  Often the greatest obstacle to overcome is our penchant for confirmation bias–to reinforce what we think already.  Are we listening to God’s message or conducting an internal monologue?  But, when we succeed in discerning the divine will, we might realize that we do not understand or agree with it.  Honesty is the best policy with God; may we acknowledge truthfully where we stand spiritually and proceed from that point.  If divine justice confuses or frustrates us, may we tell God that.  If we argue, may we do so faithfully, and so claim part of our spiritual inheritance from the Jews, our elder siblings in faith.  Jeremiah, for example, argued with God often.

And may we trust in the faithfulness of God, the mysteries of whom we can never hope to explore completely.  Mystery can be wonderful, inspiring people with a sense of awe, the meaning of “the fear of God.”  Such awe provides us with proper context relative to God.  Such awe shows us how small we are relative to ultimate reality, God.  And such awe reinforces the wondrous nature of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Inclusion and Exclusion, Part II   1 comment

23039v

Above:  Tomb of Jonah, Nineveh, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Creator = Matson Photo Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010000417/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-M305- SL16-4828

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

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 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 3:1-10 (2nd Day)

Jonah 4:1-11 (3rd Day)

Psalm 51 (Both Days)

Romans 1:1-7 (2nd Day)

Romans 1:8-17 (3rd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Jonah 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/seventh-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

Jonah 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-1/

Romans 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give me again the joy of your salvation

and sustain me with your gracious spirit;

Then I shall teach your ways to the wicked

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, Common Worship (2000)

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Boundaries play crucial roles in human societies and social systems.  Who is domestic and who is foreign?  Who is godly and who is ungodly?  Who is saved and who is damned?  Such questions obsess many people and are frequently important.  Yet, I suspect, they are not as vital as many people think.  And, I also suspect, they are more important than other people believe.

My generally liberal tendencies lead me to seek to include people more often than I exclude them.  Yet I affirm that some boundaries exist for good reasons.  Thus I acknowledge the validity of theological definitions.  All of us are heretics to varying degrees; some of us are more orthodox than not.  It is vital that all of us affirm certain theological boundaries or lose cohesiveness in our church bodies.  If we lose this cohesiveness we might as well become Unitarian Universalists, affirming a range of theological systems from Buddhisms to Humanism.

The character of Jonah, a satiric figure representing the worst elements of post-Exilic Judaism, was overly attached to the idea of Nineveh as an enemy.  His idol was the unwillingness to see a foe cross cross from one side of the godly-ungodly line to the other or to facilitate that process.  But would it really have been bad for such a thing to occur in real life?

Who is in?  Who is out?  These questions mater so much for s many of us because of the tendency to identify oneself in opposition to another or others.  Thus the prospect of an enemy becoming an ally or a notoriously sinful person repenting might terrify one.  It should not do this, but it does under some circumstances.  No, we ought to rejoice in these cases.  It is good to have an ally, not an enemy, is it not?  And for one to repent and turn toward God is certainly wonderful.

St. Paul the Apostle created great controversy by welcoming Gentiles into what was still a small Jewish sect without insisting that they become Jews.  Thus he did more than blur the line separating Jews from Gentiles; he announced that Jesus had erased it.  This theology created much discomfort for a large number of observant Jews steeped in a certain understanding of their identity.

The proper standard by which to measure our boundaries, St. Paul said, is Jesus.  He was correct.  So, with that standard in mind, I wonder how well many contemporary boundaries fare.  Whatever we do, may we never exclude those whom God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/devotion-for-the-second-and-third-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Whether They Listen Or Not   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Ezekiel

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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 everlasting 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:

Ezekiel 2:1-3:11

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

Romans 1:18-32

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 2-3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/

Romans 1:

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One of the surest ways to misread a text–especially one from the Bible–is to read anachronistic assumptions into it.  The modern psychiatric category of homosexual orientation is modern, so it could not have been an issue for Paul.  So, what was “unnatural” sexual  behavior?  One aspect could have been the impossibility of conceiving a child.  If we accept this explanation, what about the sexual lives of older couples?  And, if we read the text from Romans as referring to homosexual acts yet not orientation, then those acts are unnatural for the people involved.

I chose to address that aspect of Romans 1 first because I wanted to get it out of the way and move my focus to the main idea which links the Romans and Ezekiel lessons.  God commanded the prophet to speak divine pronouncements regardless of  whether people listened or not, “for they are rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:7).  And, in Romans, those who have rejected God behave in ways (mostly non-sexual; read the list) destructive of themselves and others.  Their rebellious deeds flowed from their rejection of God; those deeds did not separate them from God.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Sometimes divine love becomes tough love, but is love nevertheless.  My prayer for you, O reader, and for myself is that we–you and I–will not try the love of God very often.  May we reciprocate instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF KEREOPA AND MANIHERA OF TARANAKI, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF PAVEL CHESNOKOV, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER GRAVES, ACTOR

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/devotion-for-january-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

And the Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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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 everlasting 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:

Ezekiel 1:1-14, 22-28

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

Romans 1:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-2/

Romans 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who has faith–Jesus first, but Greeks as well–for in it is revealed the saving justice of God:  a justice based on faith and addressed to faith.  As it says in scripture:  Anyone who is upright through faith will live.

–Romans 1:16-17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Ezekiel struggled with the questions of why God had allowed the destruction of the First Temple, Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah.  The situation looked grim.  It was grim.  Yet, the prophetic book said, God’s promises are sure and the divine work of transforming the world and its social orders and arrangements will come to fruition for the benefit of people and the glory of God.

Judaism survived the cataclysm of the Babylonian Exile and a new Temple came to occupy space where the original one had stood.  And so it happened that, in the first century CE, Christianity began to emerge from Judaism.  The message of salvation by faith via Jesus, Paul wrote, was for the Jews first but also for Gentiles.

This faith is inherently active, leading to deeds.  It cannot be any other way, for such as we think, so we are.  And this faith, which comes from God without cost to us, requires much–a positive response–from us.  This theme of faith recurs in the epistle and frames much of that letter’s content.

Think about it:  After destruction comes rebuilding.  The light is for all people, not just the designated (self- or otherwise) spiritual elites.  There is always reason for hope in grace.  And nobody is part of the riff-raff in a grace-filled context.  A positive faith response to God requires us to, among other things, lay aside human categories and barriers which make us feel good about ourselves yet label others as “unclean” and “unworthy.”  All of us are actually unworthy, so who are we to judge each other?

May we recognize the glory of God in each other and in ourselves then act accordingly.  We are God’s, not our own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Faith and Works, Part I   1 comment

Above:  James Tissot’s (Public Domain) Depiction of Saint Paul

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 1:16-25 (Revised English Bible):

For I am not ashamed of the gospel.  It is the saving power of God for everyone who has faith–the Jew first, but the Greek also–because in it the righteousness of God is seen at work, beginning in faith and ending in faith; as scripture says,

Whoever is justified through faith shall gain life.

Divine retribution is to be seen at work, falling from heaven on all the impiety and wickedness of men and women who in their wickedness suppress the truth.  For all that can be known of God lies plain before their eyes; indeed God himself has disclosed it to them.  Ever since the world began God himself has disclosed it to them.  Ever since the world began his invisible attributes, that is to say his everlasting power and deity, have been visible to the eye of reason, in the things he has made.  Their conduct, therefore, is indefensible; knowing God, they have refused to honour him as God, or to render him thanks.  Hence all their thinking has ended in futility, and their misguided minds are plunged in darkness.  They boast of their wisdom, but they have made fools of themselves, exchanging the glory of  the immortal God for an image shaped like mortal man, even for images like birds, beasts, and reptiles.

For this reason God has given them up to their own vile desires, and the consequent degradation of their bodies.  They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and have offered reverence and worship to created things instead of to the Creator.  Blessed is he for ever, Amen.

Psalm 19:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

Luke 11:37-41 (Revised English Bible):

When he [Jesus] had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to a meal, and he came in and sat down.  The Pharisee noticed that he had not begun by washing before the meal.  But the Lord said to him,

You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and plate; but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools!  Did not he who made the outside make the inside too?  But let what is inside be given to charity, and all is clean.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 1:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/there-is-a-book-who-runs-may-read/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/eve-of-the-feast-of-saint-francis-of-assisi-october-3/

Mark 7 (Similar to Luke 11):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 15 (Similar to Luke 11):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

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“Faith” is a word with more than one meaning.  In Hebrews 11, for example, it means “conviction issuing in action,” as Volume IX of The Interpreters’ Bible (1954) describes it.  Such faith empowers one to endure suffering rather than deny a proposition one cannot prove empirically.  The author of James understood faith to mean intellectual acceptance of a proposition, hence most of James 2.  Faith of that sort is insufficient alone; one needs works, too.

Paul, however, understood faith differently.  For him faith was “the attitude of condition of perfect trust in God’s mercy or ‘grace,’ complete reliance on it–rather than one’s own effort or merit–for one’s salvation, and eager receptivity.”  (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, 1954, page 392).   So, when Paul wrote of the sufficiency of faith, he meant this–not what James did when the author of that short epistle wrote,

You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified….As the body is dead when there is no breath left in it, so faith divorced from action is dead.  (James 2:24 and 26, Revised English Bible)

Yet for Paul, writing in Romans 1, faith and action could not be divorced from each other.  Rather, his understanding was close to that in Hebrews 11.  These are examples of fine distinctions that merely casual readers and not-so-casual scoffers do not consider important.  Yet such details matter greatly.  I begin with them because starting with an accurate grasp of the text increases my probability of arriving at a correct understanding of what it means.

Let us consider the portion from Luke 11.  (We will continue the story with the post for the next day’s readings.)  Ceremonial washing of hands, pots, and other items was part of Judaism.  It still is, especially if one is Orthodox.  There is nothing wrong with this, for all of us, in our religious traditions, engage in certain acts which make no or little sense to those who believe and practice differently.  The problem was legalism, however.  Insisting on ritual washing while ignoring the Biblical imperatives for social and economic justice annoyed Jesus.  First Century C.E. Palestinian Jewish orthodoxy of the sort Jesus condemned was the kind that one could not afford to practice if one were poor, as were most Jews at that time and place.  So our Lord and Savior condemned an exclusive, self-congratulatory system of religious practice.

Now let us consider Paul’s understanding of faith again.  It is a complete reliance on divine mercy, not one’s merit.  Do see the link between the readings in your life?  In matters of faith–as Paul understood it in Romans 1–are you more like Jesus or his dinner host?  And where ought your answer to that question to lead you spiritually?  I cannot answer that for you.  May you be responsive to God’s leading in your life with regard to this and all other questions.  And may I be likewise responsive to divine guidance in mine.

May the peace of God be with you now and forever.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLORIAN OF LORCH, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GODEHARD OF HILDESHEIM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MONICA, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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Christ Crucified and Raised–Hopefully Not A Disappointment To Us   1 comment

Above:  Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia (Note the cross with triumphant Jesus on it.)

Image Source = Parish Album at the parish website

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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With this post I switch translations again.  I do this occasionally to add some variety, truly the spice of life.  I do this also to make a simple point:  I am writing devotions based on the Bible, not one translation of it.  All translations of the Bible are human efforts, and translating from Language A into Language B can be an inexact process.  Something becomes lost in translation.  In addition, one can become so accustomed to certain wordings that one does not really read or listen to certain passages.  So, to mix things up, why not find another version of the Bible and compare and contrast it with the ones I choose to quote?

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Romans 1:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, servant of Christ Jesus, called by God to be an apostle and set apart for service of his gospel.

This gospel God announced beforehand in sacred scriptures through his prophets.  It is about his Son:  on the human level he was a descendant of David, but on the level of the spirit–the Holy Spirit–he was proclaimed Son of God by an act of power that raised him from the dead; it is about Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him I received the privilege of an apostolic commission to bring people of all nations to faith and obedience in his name, including you who have heard the call and belong to Jesus Christ.

I send greetings to all of you in Rome, who are loved by God and called to be his people.  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Luke 11:29-32 (Revised English Bible):

With the crowds swarming round him [Jesus] he went on to say:

This is a wicked generation.  It demands a sign, and the only sign that will be given it is the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man to this generation.  The queen of the south will appear in court when the men of this generation are on trial, and ensure their condemnation; for she came up from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and what is here is greater than Solomon.  The men of Nineveh will appear in court when this generation is on trial, and ensure its condemnation; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and what is here is greater than Jonah.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

Mark 8 (Similar to Luke 11):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-1/

Matthew 12 (Similar to Luke 11):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-1/

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Paul probably dictated the Letter to the Romans in 57 C.E.  Consider that the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus most likely occurred in 29 or 30 C.E., so Paul wrote about these events within a generation of them happening.  It would be like me writing today about an event from the early or middle 1980s, if only in relative temporal terms.

Paul understood correctly that Jesus was the Son of God prior to the Resurrection (Romans 8:3).  But he also grasped that the Resurrection constituted, among other things, a divine proclamation and declaration of Jesus’ true status.  This was a death and Resurrection for the sake of all people.  As Martin Luther understood, one might not be predestined for Heaven, but one still has access to it via Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus…

The reading from Luke 11 contains references to those who traveled far to preach the word of God to strangers or seek wisdom God has bestowed.  The Queen of Sheba was a Gentile.  The character of Jonah was an idiot, but his story teaches, among other things, that God can work even through such people.  And Jonah had a mission to hostile Gentiles.  The Gentiles, hostile or not, were receptive.  So, Jesus is saying, what is wrong with these local people of his tribe?  They want signs.  When they get them, they do not like them.  Some of these locals have even argued that he performed them on the wrong day of the week–the Sabbath, for example.  They refused to be satisfied.

Why was that?  Jesus was not what they wanted him to be.  He did not confirm that they and their form of organized religion were correct.  He disturbed them.

There is a perhaps apocryphal story about a lady who traveled on the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) lecture circuit in the United States in the late 1800s.  She gave her standard stump speech in one town then did something risky:  she asked if anyone had a question.  One polite young man raised his hand.  She called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

The woman answered,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

Does Jesus disappoint us?  Does he not measure up according to our standards?  If so, we need to reexamine our standards.  He is the incarnate Son of Man.  If anyone did not recognize this, his Resurrection should have made it plain.  If we do not see this and act accordingly, what more do we want?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MERCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-1/

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