Archive for the ‘Romans 12’ Category

Remaining Positive and Focused on the Morally Justifiable   3 comments

Above:  The View from the Camera Built Into a Computer on my Desk, June 14, 2020

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We live in times of rapid social and political change.  Change–even that which is morally proper–causes disorientation and disturbance.  Sometimes we ought to be disturbed.  Injustice ought to disturb us. The root word of “conservative” is “conserve.”  Whether one’s conservatism is morally defensible depends on what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes one should conserve x.  In certain times, reform is proper.  On other occasions, however, only a revolution is morally defensible.  Yet, even in those cases, nobility must extend beyond the cause and encompass the methods, also.

Call me politically correct, if you wish, O reader.  Or call me a radical or a fool.  If you call me a radical and a revolutionary for justice, I will accept the compliment.  I support what Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a moral revolution of values.

I favor the building of a society in which people matter more than money and property.  I favor social and political standards that brook no discrimination and bigotry while granting violators of those standards the opportunity to repent.  I favor altering society and institutions, inculcating in them the awareness that keeping some people “in their place,” that is, subordinate, underpaid, poorly educated, et cetera, harms society as a whole.  I support building up the whole, and individuals in that context.  I oppose celebrating slavery, discrimination, racism, and hatred, whether past or present.  I stand (socially distanced and wearing a mask, of course) with all those, especially of the younger generations, who are rising up peacefully for justice.  The young will, overall, have an easier time adapting to morally necessary change than many members of the older generations will, no matter how devout and well-intentioned many older people may be.  To quote a cliché,

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless advice for confronting evil:

Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

May all who seek a more just society pursue that goal with shrewdness, courage, and goodness.  To create a better society without incorporating goodness into methodology is impossible, after all.  May all who reshape society remain positive and focused on the morally justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

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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1 Samuel 26:2-23 or Lamentations 1:1-12

Psalm 112

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 18:1-8

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Never pay back evil for evil….Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17a, 21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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All of the lesson from Romans 12 explains itself and constitutes timeless advice about how to live in community.  I encourage frequent reading of it, followed by corresponding actions.  Details will differ according to circumstances, such as who, where, and when one is, of course.  The principles remain constant, however.

“Anger” comes from the Old Norse word for “grief.”  Anger flows from grief, literally.  Others may commit evil or some lesser variety of sin, causing us to suffer.  We may be properly sad and angry about that.  Human beings bear the image of God, not the image of doormats, after all.  Resisting evil is a moral imperative.  So is resisting evil in proper ways.  One cannot conquer evil if one joins the ranks of evildoers.

I have struggled with this spiritual issue in contexts much less severe than the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the time of the Babylonian Exile.  I have known the frustration that results from powerlessness as my life, as I have known it, has ended.  I have learned to read the angry portions of the Book of Psalms and identity with them.  I have also learned of the toxicity of such feelings.  I have learned the wisdom of obeying God and letting go of grudges, even when forgiveness has been more than I could muster.

After all, all people will reap what they sow.  Why not leave vengeance to God?  Why not strive to become the best version of oneself one can be in God?  Why not seek the support of one’s faith community to do so?  Why not support others in one’s faith community in their spiritual growth?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/devotion-for-proper-26-year-c-humes/

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Regarding King Saul   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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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1 Samuel 17:57-18:16 or Jeremiah 32:36-41

Psalm 111

Romans 12:1-8

Luke 17:1-19

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The Books of Samuel, in the final form (probably edited by Ezra; this is an ancient theory with contemporary academic champions), consist of various sources.  If one knows this, one can notice many of the seams.  Inconsistencies become obvious.  For example, one may notice that King Saul knew that David was a son of Jesse in 1 Samuel 16:20 and that David played the lyre for the monarch in 16:23.  One may also notice that Saul did not recognize David in 17:33 or whose son he was in 17:56.  One may notice, furthermore, that David had to identify himself to Saul in 17:58.

I know too much to affirm spiritual inerrancy or infallibility.

I also know that King Saul was similar to many potentates in many lands and at many times.  I read in the composite text that Saul was a terrible public servant.  (So were almost all of his successors in Israel and Judah.)  Truth and justice should prosper under a good ruler.  A good ruler should try, at least.  A good ruler knows that he or she is a servant holding a temporary job.  A good ruler seeks to make responsible decisions and does not mistake events as being about himself or herself.  A good ruler thinks about the long-term common good.  Consequences of short-sighted leaders are frequently disastrous, as in Jeremiah 32:36-41.

What passes for a psychiatric or psychological diagnosis of King Saul comes from 1 Samuel 16:23–an evil spirit.  Cultural anthropology tells us that they, in modern times, can mean anything from severe stress to a mental illness.  Either way, the description of Saul is that of a man unfit to rule.  After all, those who govern are still servants.  God is really the king.

Despite all the bad press about King Saul, I feel somewhat sympathetic for him.  I read about him and remember that he never sought the job (1 Samuel 12).  I recall that Saul seems not so bad, compared to Solomon.  I think of Saul, doing his best yet failing.  I know the feeling of working hard yet failing.  I ask myself how Saul may have succeeded in life.  He seems to have needed counseling, at least.

Tragedy, in the Greek sense, has a particular definition.  A good person tries to make good decisions (most of the time, anyway) and fails spectacularly, dooming himself or herself.  The accounts of King Saul do not fit that definition exactly, but Greek tragedy does help me understand the first Israelite monarch.  I read stories while making a combination of good and bad decisions and often trying to decide wisely.  I read of a man with defective judgment.  I read of a man whose demise was not inevitable when he became the first King of Israel.

I, like David, mourn for Saul (2 Samuel 1).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND RELIGIOUS

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

THE FEAST OF JAMES EDWARD WALSH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP AND POLITICAL PRISONER IN CHINA

THE FEAST OF SIMON B. PARKER, UNITED METHODIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, WELSH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/29/devotion-for-proper-25-year-c-humes/

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A Covenant People, Part III   3 comments

Above:  John the Baptist in the Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 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, the Father of all truth and grace, who has called us out of darkness

into marvelous light by the glorious gospel of Thy Son;

grant unto us power, we beseech Thee, to walk worthy of this vocation,

with all lowliness and meekness, endeavoring to keep

the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;

that we may have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 127

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Isaiah 61:1-6

Psalm 27

Romans 12:10-21

Luke 3:1-22

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Never pay back evil for evil.

–Romans 12:17a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The reading from Romans 12 offers some challenging instructions:

  1. Bless, not curse, one’s persecutors (v. 14).
  2. Refrain from repaying evil with evil (v. 17).
  3. Leave vengeance to God (v. 19).
  4. Conquer evil with goodness.  Do not let evil conquer one (vs. 20-21).

Justice is one matter and revenge is another, St. Paul the Apostle understood.  He did not counsel people to live as doormats.  In the context of faith community–a minority population, actually–St. Paul encouraged his audience to take care of each other as they consciously depended entirely on God.  He urged them to be morally superior to their enemies.

The road to evil begins with the delusion that one can and must do x because God either does not exist or care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53, as well as what I have written about them.)  This delusion opens the portal to an approach to life according to which the ends justify the means.

When we, individually and collectively, trust in God, we are free to be better people than those who seek to destroy us unjustly.  We are free to be our best selves and communities.  We are free to take care of each other, individually and collectively.  We are free to refrain from exploiting and making excuses for exploitation.  We are free to gaze upon the loveliness of YHWH and to awake each dawn in the temple of YHWH.  We are free to be a covenant people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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A Covenant People, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Disputation with the Doctors, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, 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 Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 49:5-23

Psalm 72:1-15, 17

Romans 12:1-9

Luke 2:40-52

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The call of God, in both Judaism and Christianity, entails both individuals and groups being lights to the nations.  We Christians have the responsibility to testify to the light that is Jesus, to point toward him.  We cannot do this alone; we need grace and communal context.  The Church is supposed to be a covenant people.  Each congregation is supposed to be a covenant people.  Faithful Jewish communities are supposed to be covenant peoples.

Covenant peoples bear the fruits of justice/righteousness (the same word in the Bible).  These fruits include the presence of economic equity, the lack of oppression, the absence of unnecessary violence, and the presence of an honest judiciary.  Abuse of power has no place in any covenant people.  Neither does assuming that one is better than other people.  Human mutuality and the recognition of complete dependence on God exemplify any covenant people.

The use of externally Jewish or Christian rhetoric to argue against characteristics of a covenant people constitutes a mockery of faith and the Kingdom of God.  Unfortunately, such rhetoric for that purpose remains ubiquitous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part IV   3 comments

Above:  Icon of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124-125

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1 Samuel 3:1-10

Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 16:13-23

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Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Discerning when God is speaking to us can be difficult.  Many people confuse internal monologues with dialogues, which is why God always seems to agree with certain individuals, at least according to them.  Maybe we are distracted or fixated, so, when God speaks to us, we do not recognize that God is doing so.  Furthermore, when we do correctly identify God as speaking to us, we may not comprehend fully.

We can apply a test, however.  Love of friends and enemies is one mark of godly religion.  We must be careful to resist evil in such a way that we do not surrender to it or join its ranks.  Being willing to forgive is part of a successful strategy of resisting evil.  If we cannot forgive yet, we can take that spiritual problem to Jesus.  At least we know we ought to forgive and want to do so.  That is a good start.

Perfectionism is an unrealistic and harmful attitude in religion.  We are, as we read in the Book of Psalms,

but dust.

God knows this about us.  Will we try to do as we know we should, at least?  Will we try to forgive?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF AMALIE WILHEMINE SIEVEKING, FOUNDRESS OF THE WOMAN’S ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE OF THE POOR AND INVALIDS

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WASTRADA; HER SON, SAINT GREGORY OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT; AND HIS NEPHEW, SAINT ALBERIC OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Posted July 21, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 3, Matthew 16, Romans 12

Tagged with ,

Vocation and Spiritual Maturity   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Jeremiah 1:4-12

Romans 12:1-13

Luke 5:1-11

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One of the themes that repeats in the Bible is that God qualifies the called; God does not call the qualified.  In the readings for today Jeremiah and St. Simon Peter were not qualified; they said so.  They knew who they were, what they were, and what they were not.  God transformed them into far more than they were originally.  Both men also made lasting contributions and met terrible fates.

The passage from Romans encourages various virtues, including humility.  Another virtue in Romans 12 is perseverance during hardship, something Jeremiah and St. Simon Peter did.  If we keep reading, we find the following order:

Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them.

–Romans 12:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jeremiah cursed his persecutors repeatedly, as I would have done in his place.  I, having suffered much less than he, have cursed my enemies repeatedly.

I do not condemn Jeremiah for his anger.  If I were to do so, I would have to condemn myself, too.  No, I try to leave matters of judgment in such cases to God, whose property is also mercy.  I like that Jeremiah was honest with God about his frustrations and anger.  Such openness with God is a sign of spiritual maturity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Holy God, who sent thy Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the Law:

mercifully grant that by our actions we may show forth his perfect love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Micah 3:5-12

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

Matthew 5:38-48

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I could replicate much of the previous post and remain on topic in this post, but I choose not to do so.  No, I refer you, O reader to that post for that duplicate material as I focus on the reading from Matthew 5.

According to The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), the translation of Matthew 5:39 should read, in part,

Do not use violence to resist an evildoer,

not

Do not resist and evildoer.

Matthew 5:39, in its proper translation, is a problematic passage.  It joins the company of Pauline passages commanding submission to governments, as in Romans 13.  Yet, as some prominent Biblical scholars have asked, especially in the context of World War II, does this advice tell people that they should have obeyed Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin?  One may reach back to Micah 3, with its condemnation of leaders who despise justice.  Should people submit to such rulers?

Matthew 5:43-48 places 5:38-42 in some context.  Although the Law of Moses never says to hate one’s enemies, doing so seems quite natural.  The commandment of Jesus is to resist evil with righteousness, and to love even enemies.  Perhaps they will repent.

Violence is necessary and proper sometimes.  Usually it is improper, though.  May we, obeying Jesus, resist without sinning, without compromising ourselves morally.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As Pelagius wrote,

The enemy has overcome you when he makes you like himself.

What moral leg do we have to stand on then?  This question applies far beyond the individual level–all the way to the national level, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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Humility and Arrogance, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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