Archive for the ‘Romans 5’ Category

Rhapsodic Faith   1 comment

Above:  The Grief of Hannah

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 1:1-20 or Jeremiah 14:1-22

Psalm 101

Romans 5:12-21

Luke 11:27-36

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Your love and justice will I sing,

to you, Yahweh, will I chant,

I will rhapsodize about your dominion complete.

When will you come to me?

–Psalm 101:1b-2a, Mitchell J. Dahood (1970)

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The Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) renders the third line quoted above as,

I will strive to follow a blameless course…

The germane notes in Dahood’s third (of three) volumes on the Book of Psalms for The Anchor Bible series cite Hebrew words and linguistic nuances to justify his choice of translation.  Part of the pleasure of reading Dahood on the Psalms is studying, after a fashion, under a master of his field–in his case, ancient Semitic languages.  I recommend purchasing his three volumes on the Psalms if one seeks to study the Book of Psalms deeply.

Part of the Hebrew text of Psalm 101 can legitimately read in English as,

I will strive to follow a blameless course,

and as,

I will rhapsodize about your dominion complete.

Think about that, O reader.  One rendering focuses on deeds; the other zeroes in on joyfulness and singing.  No single English-translation can capture the richness of the Hebrew text.

The attitude of the Psalmist, like that of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:1-20, contrasts with that of the wicked people and generations in the other assigned readings.

  1. Human nature is flawed; that is obvious to me.  Human depravity is not even an article of faith for me; I need no faith to accept that for which I have evidence.
  2. Sadly, false prophets (frequently supporting a political establishment) remain with us.  One may read of the false prophets in the Book of Jeremiah and think readily of some of some of their contemporary counterparts.
  3. The quest for signs indicates faithlessness.  Furthermore, human memories and attention spans can be fleeting.  Consider, O reader, John 6.  One reads of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in the first fifteen verses.  One also reads in verse 30, set on the following day, “Then what sign will you do, that we may see, and believe you?”

May we, by grace, pay attention.  May we mark, learn, and inwardly digest the law of of God.  May we find that law written on our hearts.  Then may we rejoice.  May we rhapsodize consistently and strive to follow a blameless course.  And may we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1012

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMMA OF LESUM, BENEFACTOR

THE FEAST OF MARY C. COLLINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, HISTORIAN, LITURGIST, MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH LITERATURE;” AND HIS BROTHER, LAURENTIUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH HYMNODY”

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/devotion-for-proper-15-year-c-humes/

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Pity   1 comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth 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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Almighty God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers,

that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright,

grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers,

and carry us through all temptations;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 131

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Isaiah 51:1-12

Psalm 63

Romans 3:21-26; 5:18-21

Mark 1:29-45

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When we despair, as we frequently have sound reasons to do, do we wallow in that emotion?  Or do we look to God?  We, as human beings, need to release our emotions.  Crying out to God is a healthy way of doing so.  We may, as the author of Psalm 63 did, pray that God will smite our enemies.  We may also recall Romans 12:10-21, however.  Yet we feel what we feel.  If we give it to God, we let go of a great spiritual burden.

Grace is free, costly, and scandalous.  If falls upon us, people like us, those unlike us, and our enemies.  Grace ignores our socially-constructed categories and our psychological defense mechanisms.  Grace makes us whole, if we permit it to do so.  If we reject grace, we do not remain as we are.  No, we became worse off.

The pity of Christ provides us with a model to follow.  Do we pity others as often as we ought?  Do we want them to be their best selves, physically, spiritually, et cetera?  Assuming that we do, do we know how to act accordingly?  Aye, there is the rub!

I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  I frequently see panhandlers at or near busy intersections.  One cannot walk through downtown Athens for long without encountering panhandlers.  Signs in downtown Athens advise giving funds to certain organizations that help homeless people instead.  This makes sense to me, for many panhandlers are capable of getting jobs and make much money, too.  This breed of panhandlers cast a pall of judgment upon those actually in desperate straits.

Where is the border separating clear-eyed realism from uninformed judgment and bad tactics from good tactics?  Finding that boundary can be difficult.  Realism can resemble insensitivity.  Good-hearted foolishness can look like the proper course of action.  May we, by grace, be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents as we seek to follow Christ and have pity for each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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A Covenant People, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  The Calling of Peter and Andrew, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third 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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Almighty and Everliving 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 Worship (1947), 129

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Numbers 24:10-17

Psalm 33:6-22

Romans 5:1-5

Mark 1:14-28

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Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;

Let the search for Thy salvation

Be our glory evermore.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

Serving Thee whom we adore,

Serving Thee whom we adore.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), “God of Grace and God of Glory” (1930)

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God is sovereign, despite appearances to the contrary.  Innocent and faithful people suffer.  Many of them died unjustly.  Yet, ultimately, that world order will pass away and the fully-realized Kingdom of God will replace it.  The Gospel of Matthew, which uses “Kingdom of God” four times, calls the fully-realized Kingdom the Kingdom of Heaven.  (See:  Jonathan Pennington.)

Do we accept the sovereignty of God?  Doing so is difficult much of the time, after all.  “The sovereignty of God” becomes an empty platitude too easily and frequently.  I understand why.  Perhaps you, O reader, also understand this.

One challenge of faith is to move beyond what is and to hope for what can be.  This requires imagination sufficient to act positively, therefore, to improve the world, if only slightly.  This is one task of a covenant people–to cooperate with God, to leave the world better than we found it.  We have no excuse for folding up our arms in resignation and despair when we should reach them out to others.

God will save the world.  God is sovereign.  Thanks be to God!  May we not forget our duties, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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A Glorious Mystery, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

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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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

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Trinity Sunday is the only feast on the calendar of Western Christianity solely about a doctrine.  Other feasts have events, as in the life of Jesus, attached to them.

The three persons (“masks,” literally, in Nicene terminology) of the Trinity are present in the assigned readings for this feast.

  1. Proverbs 8 offers Sophia, the divine wisdom personified as a woman.  Sophia influenced the Logos, identified as Jesus in John 1.  Portions of the text also sound as if they could refer to the Holy Spirit.  And does the Holy Spirit proceed from just the Father or from both the Father and the Son?  Trying to reason through the theology of the Holy Spirit makes my head hurt, figuratively, so I rarely delve too deeply into it.
  2. YHWH is God in Psalm 8.  God is unitary in Jewish theology.  We humans are, according to the text, literally, “a little less than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  “The gods” are members of the court of YHWH.  The Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim.
  3. Romans 5:105 mentions that the Holy Spirit does not act independently, and that it glorifies Christ.

By the way, “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of God” is feminine in Hebrew and Arabic yet neuter in Greek.  The Holy Spirit is technically an “it,” not a “he,” in the New Testament.

My advice regarding the Trinity is to frolic in its glorious mystery, not to try to understand it.  One cannot understand the Trinity.  Attempts to do so have frequently yielded or reinforced heresies.  I try not to commit any of these.

How can God simultaneously be on the Earth, getting baptized, in Heaven, and descending from Heaven?  That is a mystery.  We can accept the findings of early Ecumenical Councils Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, et cetera) while bowing in humility before God, who loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-c-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XIII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Finding of Moes, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who seest that we are prone to bring back the troubles of yesterday,

and to forecast the cares of tomorrow:

give us grace to throw off our fears and anxieties, as our Lord hath commanded;

that, this and every day, we may by kept in thy peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 2:1-15

Romans 5:1-11

Luke 9:51-62

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The balance of divine judgment and mercy interests me.  Both seem to be like sides of a coin; judgment for some is part of mercy for others, and mercy tempers judgment.

Mercy does not eliminate properly high standards of conduct, of course.  Excuses for not following Jesus are never acceptable.  Abusing slaves is always wrong.  Having slaves is always morally unacceptable.  Sometimes violence in the defense of slaves or by slaves is the only way to resist oppression in the moment.  Yet even oppressors are people for whom Jesus died.

If we remember that, we will know how to leave certain judgments to God, even as we sometimes have to defend others or ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Posted June 22, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 2, Luke 9, Romans 5

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Humility Before God, Part II   1 comment

Grace Church, Gainesville, GA, September 20, 2015

Above:   Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville, Georgia, September 20, 2016

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 13:1-12

Psalm 92:104, 12-15

Romans 5:12-6:2

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Certain passages of scripture are unduly optimistic.  The lection from Proverbs 13 makes no allowance for the hard-working poor, for example.  It also offers this statement:

Righteousness protects him whose way is blameless;

Wickedness subverts the sinner.

–Verse 6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The second part has the ring of accuracy but the examples of Jesus and of Christian martyrs contradict any interpretation of the first part that holds that righteousness is like a shield from harm.  The reading from Romans paints to the crucifixion of Jesus, an event that occurred because of the lack of righteousness of other people.

The lection from Romans builds to one point:

How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

–6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

We remain sinners, of course, for that is who we are.  We can, however, strive to do the right thing from moment to moment, day to day, and year to year.  That is imperative if we are to follow God.  Fortunately, grace is available to us in copious amounts, for our ability to accomplish this goal is woefully inadequate.  A healthy sense of humility before God is part of this effort.  As Proverbs 13:10 tells us,

Arrogance yields nothing but strife;

Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Humility is the knowledge of who what one is.  It leads to a balanced ego, which avoids the extremes of an inferiority complex on one hand and arrogance on the other.  Humility before God translates into a sense of awe and wonder, that which, in traditional English translation, is “fear of God.”  (I wish that more translators of the Bible would replace “fear of God” with language that expresses its meaning accurately.)

The totality of God is a vast mystery we mere mortals can never understand completely.  We can grasp certain aspects of divinity, but the whole reality remains gloriously mysterious.  May we accept that fact, embrace the mystery, and recognize it as the thing of beauty it is.  And may we be humble before it and resist the lure of easy and inadequate answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 27, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE LINE AND ROGER FILCOCK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BALDOMERUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HERBERT, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTOR THE HERMIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-3-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted February 27, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Proverbs 10-14, Psalm 92, Romans 5

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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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Grace Abounds   1 comment

Cedars of Lebanon

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11738

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation from

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 13:1-12

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

Romans 5:12-6:2

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The readings from Proverbs and Romans share the motif of contrasts.  In Proverbs 13:1-12 there is an A-B pattern, with the first line standing in contrast to the second yet not in contradiction to it.  Sometimes the text is overly optimistic.  For example:

A lazy man craves, but has nothing;

The diligent shall feast on rich fare.

–Proverbs 3:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Some of the laziest people live off inherited wealth, and some of the hardest working people live in poverty.  (One might also read that excessive optimism into Psalm 92.)  Nevertheless, Proverbs 3:1-12 indicates a generally firm grasp of human nature, with some exceptions.

Grace abounds in Psalm 92 and Romans 5-6.  After a well-developed contrasts  between Adam (as a type representing sinful humanity) and Christ (as a type representing obedience and grace), in which we read that, through Jesus, something new has happened, we learn of the supremacy of grace over sin.  Grace abounds because sin does, but not in proportion to it.  No, grace is more abundant than sin.  One might imagine St. Paul the Apostle quoting a certain psalmist:

It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,

and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night season;

On the psaltery, and on the lyre,

and to the melody of the harp.

For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD;

and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

–Psalm 92:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

I like that grace abounds, because of or in spite of what we do.  Sometimes we might have the finest of intentions and the best of deeds by which we become vehicles of grace.  That is wonderful.  On many other occasions, however, grace abounds despite our intentions and deeds.  The logic of St. Paul the Apostle was that sin existed prior to the Law of Moses, the Law increased and provoked sin, and grace abounded.  Everything leads to grace.  Much leads to the opposite of grace also, but grace still results.  Divine favor for those who obey God remains undefeated.

That message encourages, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Giving Sacramentally of Oneself   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 36:1-13

Psalm 146

Romans 5:6-11

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Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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Numbers 36:1-13 is a sequel to Numbers 27:1-11.  Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters and no sons.  The old man was dead, and his daughter requested and received the right to inherit.

Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no sons!  Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!

–Numbers 27:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The rule became universal among the Hebrews (verse 8).  Yet regulations governing the inheritance of property (such as land) continued to favor males, so, if a daughter of Zelophehad were to marry a man from another tribe, her inheritance would become her husband’s property and remain with his tribe in perpetuity.  The transfer of land from one tribe to another was a major concern, for, as James L. Mays wrote,

each tribe’s share of the Promised Land was the visible reality which constituted its portion in the Lord’s promise and blessing.

The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 4 (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1963), p. 143

The solution to the problem was to restrict the marriage options of the daughters of Zelophehad to men of his tribe.  The rule became universal among the Hebrews.

A second issue involved in the matter of ownership of land in Numbers 36 was the link between people and property.  To give away a possession was, in that culture, to give something sacramental of oneself.

To give something sacramental of oneself was what God did via Jesus.  That the great gift and sacrifice was for people–many of whom, once informed of it, would still not care–was remarkable.  Furthermore, when we move beyond the timeframe of Jesus of Nazareth and consider all the people born since then, the scope of the divine gift and sacrifice increases, as does the scale of the acceptance, rejection, and ignorance of it.  Nevertheless, the divine love evident in Jesus, being a form of grace, is free yet not cheap.  No, it requires much of those who accept it.  Many have paid with their lives.  Such sacrifices continue.  The fact that people create and maintain circumstances in which martyrdom becomes the most faithful response to grace is unfortunate.

Most Christians, however, will not have to face the option of martyrdom.  We who are so fortunate must make other sacrifices, however.  They will depend on circumstances, such as who, when , and where we are.  To love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves can require much of us.  Sometimes it might cause us to become criminals.  I think, for example, of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made helping a slave get to freedom illegal.  Those who risked a prison term to help slaves become free people were brave.  I think also of all those (including many Christians and Muslims) who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.  Nazis captured many of these brave rescuers who violated the law to protect their neighbors.  Mere decency should never place one in peril, legal or otherwise, but it does that sometimes.

On a mundane level, giving of oneself to others and giving oneself to God requires abandoning certain habits, changing certain attitudes, and thinking more about others and God than about oneself.  Doing those things can prove to be daunting, can they not?  Yet giving something sacramental of oneself requires no less than that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-27-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Judgment, Mercy, and God   1 comment

Kings (2009)

Above:  Captain David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa, from Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 18:17-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 74 (Both Days)

Revelation 20:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 20:7-15 (Tuesday)

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Till when, O God, will the foe blaspheme,

will the enemy forever revile Your name?

Why do you hold back Your hand, Your right hand?

Draw it out of Your bosom!

–Psalm 74:10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

–Revelation 20:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

–Romans 5:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Where does judgment end and mercy begin with God?  I do not know, for (A) the mind of God is above me, and (B) the scriptural witnesses contradict each other.  How could they not do so, given the human authorship of the Bible and the range of human perspectives on the topic of divine judgment and mercy.  I am not a universalist, so I affirm that our works have some influence on the afterlife, but I also rejoice in divine forgiveness.  And, as for works, both James and St. Paul the Apostle affirmed the importance of works while defining faith differently.  Faith was inherently active for Paul yet purely intellectual for James.

What we do matters in this life and the next.  Our deeds (except for accidents) flow from our attitudes, so our thoughts matter.  If we love, we will act lovingly, for example.  Our attitudes and deeds alone are inadequate to deliver us from sin, but they are material with which God can work, like a few loaves and fishes.  What do we bring to God, therefore?  Do we bring the violence of Elijah, who ordered the slaughter of the priests of Baal?  Or do we bring the desire that those who oppose God have the opportunity to repent?  Do we bring the inclination to commit violence in the name of God?  Or do we bring the willingness to leave judgment to God?  And do we turn our back on God or do we seek God?

May we seek God, live the best way we can, by grace, and rely upon divine grace.  May we become the best people we can be in God and let God be God, which God will be anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-5-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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