Archive for the ‘Romans 13’ Category

God and Country–God First and Foremost   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

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Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I spun off this weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

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Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

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Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/devotion-for-independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

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Preparation for the Second Coming   1 comment

Above:   Icon of the Second Coming

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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Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:36-44

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The thematic unity of the pericopes is evident.  One reads mainly of the future, when God will engage in creative destruction then set the world right.  In the meantime, one reads, one has moral imperatives to follow.

The pairing of Isaiah 2:-15 and Psalm 122 works well.  In Isaiah 2, Gentiles make pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the future; they seek instruction.  In that future God also settles disputes nonviolently.  In Psalm 122 Jews make pilgrimage to Jerusalem in what was then their present.  If one continues to read Isaiah 2 after the fifth verse, one finds a text of divine judgment against the proud and the arrogant, against those who commit idolatry, against those who glorify humankind, not God.  It is a message as pertinent in 2018, when I write this post, as it was during the lifetime of First Isaiah.

We read in Matthew that nobody–not even Jesus–knows when the Second Coming will occur, but that one should, for one’s sake, remain alert and be prepared.  It is obvious from Romans 13 that St. Paul the Apostle, in 56-57 C.E., expected that event to occur sooner rather than later relative to his present day.   Not one of we mere mortals knows any more about the actual timing of the Second Coming than St. Paul did, but his advice to live honorably is always germane.

This is a devotion for the First Sunday of Advent, a season with eschatological overtones and concerned with preparation for the coming of Christ.  Given the fact that Advent precedes the season of Christmas, one might expect an emphasis on the First Coming.  There is some of that, yes.  Nevertheless, we ought never to forget the aspect of the preparation for the Second Coming, as is evident in this set of readings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED 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

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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Posted March 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 2, Matthew 24, Psalm 122, Romans 13

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In the Wilderness   Leave a comment

Above:  An Oasis, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07236

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

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Almighty God, you have taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son.

Save us from undue love of the world, that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord,

and so abide in him, that when he shall appear we may not be ashamed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Malachi 3:1-7b

Psalm 1

Romans 13:8-14

Mark 13:33-37

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The readings from Malachi 3 and Mark 13 sound the note of divine judgment.  The Day of the Lord will be bad news for many, we read in Malachi 3, a text indicative of the Hebrew prophetic concern for the conditions of the vulnerable members of society.  Those who oppress them come in for divine condemnation, as do those who swear falsely, commit adultery, and practice sorcery.  Our lesson from Mark 13 concludes the miniature apocalypse of that Gospel, in the context of Holy Week.  May we all perform our sacred duties faithfully.

The decision to assign a portion of Mark 13 for the First Sunday of Advent is appropriate, given the apocalyptic character of the season of Advent.  That decision also seems consistent with the practice of reading the same set of passages on the First Sunday of Advent as on Palm Sunday, per certain Lutheran and Moravian lectionaries.  Not all is light and joy, we perceive.  Yes, the King is coming, but this is not entirely happy news, even for the King, much less his enemies.

Love cannot wrong a neighbour;

therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That verse from St. Paul the Apostle is consistent with our reading from Malachi 3.  As we read in Psalm 1, the wicked, despite any appearances of long-lasting prosperity and success, will perish, and the righteous, despite any appearances of failure, will flourish in the long term.  They are, after all, like trees planted by streams of water.  The timeframe for this success and prosperity of the faithful might not satisfy us or otherwise meet human expectations, but God works on a different schedule.

The wilderness imagery of Psalm 1 is appropriate for Advent.  It is of a piece with the wilderness themes in Lent and accounts of St. John the Baptist in the desert.  In a desert plants with roots in streams will have enough water; they will persist in otherwise hostile circumstances.

The season of Advent is a time to prepare for the twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).  May we certainly observe all the days of Christmas as the sacred season they are.  May we also give Advent its due and be ready for Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks   1 comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

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 7:1-5

Psalm 141:1-4

Romans 13:1-7

Mark 13:21-23

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On this, the penultimate Sunday of Lent, we read of Jesus nearing Jerusalem.  If I could summarize the ministry of Jesus in one word, that word would be love, often in opposition to authority figures.  I raise that point because of the readings from Deuteronomy 7 and Romans 13, I refuse to condone or commit genocide and to support an oppressive government.

The context of Deuteronomy 7, certainly read in the context of two exiles, is the fact that sin is contagious; people influence each other.  That fact, however, does not justify genocide, as the text does.  Also, I cannot imagine Jesus commanding his followers to kill populations–or individuals.

As for Romans 13, certain leaders of the young and vulnerable church sought to avoid persecution of the church and counseled a “go along and get along” approach to the empire much of the time–except for sacrificing to false gods, of course.  As I read Jesus in the Gospels, however, he died at the hands of the Roman Empire on the charge of being a threat to imperial security.  He challenged authority, but not violently.  St. Paul the Apostle was wrong in Romans 13:1-5.

Psalm 141, unfortunately, turns toward violence after verse 4.  To choose not to be like evildoers is commendable.  Sometimes violence might even be justifiable, as in the case of self-defense or the defense of others.  But we must be careful not to become like our enemies as we resist them.  If we fail in that objective, what good will we be able to commit?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-ackerman/

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Love, the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses   1 comment

Above:  Amos

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:

Amos 2:4-8, 13-16

Psalm 25:16-18

Galatians 5:2-12

Matthew 23:27-36

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The author of Psalm 25 was an observant Jew contending with enemies who disapproved of his piety.  He trusted in God, to whom he appealed for help.

That piety was sorely lacking in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  (Aside:  I recommend reading all of Amos 2, for doing so makes the designated passages thereof more meaningful than they are otherwise.)  That lack of piety, made manifest in ritual offenses and violations of human dignity (including the infamous selling of the poor for a poor of sandals in 2:6) YHWH was most displeased.  Dire consequences ensued.

Although Amos supported the Law of Moses, the attitude of St. Paul the Apostle in Galatians was different.  For St. Paul requiring a Gentile convert to Christianity to become a Jew first was wrong.  The apostle had written earlier in that epistle that the Law of Moses was like a disciplinarian or house servant who performed his or her work until the arrival of Christ (Chapter 3:23f):

The distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised is irrelevant in Christ.  What counts is faith that expresses itself in love, because love is the fulfillment of the Law (5:14; Romans 13:8-10).

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 2087

That love was absent from the attitudes and actions of certain scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-36.

In all fairness I feel obligated to defend the motivations of the Judaizers, of whom St. Paul was critical.  Although I am grateful for St. Paul and his work, from which I, as a Gentile, benefit, I acknowledge the pious motives of the Judaizers, defenders of tradition, as they understood it.  I think of them as pious folk who took to heart passages such as Amos 2 and Psalm 25.  Nevertheless, their error, I perceive, was on of which I have been guilty:  maintaining barriers God has knocked down.

We humans like boundaries, literal as well as metaphorical.  They tell us who falls into what category.  There are divinely established categories, I affirm, but they are not necessarily ours.  Furthermore, we might not know where the differences between God’s plan and our definitions lie.  This fact complicates one’s quest to lead a holy life, does it not?

I offer no easy answers regarding how to read God’s mind, for nobody cam read the divine mind.  I do, however, suggest that trusting in God’s grace to treat each other selflessly and self-sacrificingly is a fine spiritual discipline, for love is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, which contains both timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-ackerman/

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The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part IX   1 comment

icon-of-the-crucifixion

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

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:

Nahum 2:1-13 or Isaiah 48:1-22

Psalm 71:15-24

Matthew 27:31b-56 or Mark 15:20b-44 or Luke 23:33-49 or John 19:17-30

Romans 13:1-7; 14:13-23

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Romans 13:1-7 is a troublesome passage.  Should one always submit to government?  Some of my heroes from the past include those who helped slaves escape to freedom in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and sheltered Jews or helped them escape in defiance of the Third Reich.  Besides, merely obeying law is what Kohlberg called Conventional Morality, which is not the highest form of morality on that scale, nor should it be.

Anyhow, reading Romans 13:1-7 on the same day with the crucifixion of Jesus seems ironic.

The readings, taken together, point toward mercy.  Even the judgment of God, as in Nahum 2:1-13, exists in the context of mercy for the rescued.  The mighty acts of God also testify to mercy.  And the death of Jesus does too.  One should, of course, complete that story with the resurrection, or else one will have a dead Jesus perpetually.  Sometimes mercy requires defiance of civil authority; so be it.

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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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/devotion-for-proper-27-year-d/

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The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part V   1 comment

fall-of-the-rebel-angels

Above:  The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by Hieronymus Bosch

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:

Genesis 6:1-8 or Zechariah 9:1-8 (9-10) 11-17

Psalm 37:(1-2) 12-38 (39-40)

Matthew 24:(36-44) 45-51 or Luke 12:(35-40) 41-48

1 Corinthians 11:2-22 (23-26) 27-34

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Destruction (and the threat thereof) by God for rampant collective sin is prominent in Genesis 6 and Zechariah 9.  Individual sin and divine displeasure over it are prominent in the Gospel readings.  God is full of surprises, we read, and we have an obligation to remain on task spiritually.  God’s timing is not ours, so, if we are on a positive spiritual track, we should be patient.

As for 1 Corinthians 11, the best approach to the material begins with understanding the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally specific example thereof.  For example, do not go to church wearing a hairstyle such as that associated with promiscuous women or pagan priestesses, unless one covers one’s hair, is culturally specific example of a timeless principle regarding decorum in worship.  Furthermore, one should not become intoxicated at the communion meal at the house church.  That is also about decorum in worship, a matter of respect for God and regard for one’s fellow worshipers.

If one respects God, one seeks to obey divine commandments.  The fulfillment of them is love one’s neighbors (Romans 13).  One might also think of love (agape) in 1 Corinthians 13.  Saying “love your neighbors” is easy, of course, but acting on that advice can be challenging.  For example, what does that entail in a given circumstance?  One can be sincerely wrong regarding that point.  May we, by grace, know in each circumstance what one must do to love one’s neighbors as effectively as possible, for their benefit and God’s glory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-14-year-d/

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