Archive for the ‘Song of Songs/Song of Solomon’ Category

Salvation, Past, Present, and Future   1 comment

christ-exorcising-the-gerasene-demoniac

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

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:

Numbers 10:33-36

Deuteronomy 10:11-12:1

Judges 5:1-31

Song of Songs 4:9-5:16

Isaiah 26:1-21

Psalms 7; 17; 44; 57 or 108; 119:145-176; 149

Matthew 7:1-23

Luke 7:36-8:3

Matthew 27:62-66

1 Corinthians 15:27-34 (35-38) 39-41 (42-58)

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In Luke 7:38 the former Gerasene demoniac, recently healed by Jesus, seeks to follow Jesus physically.  Our Lord and Savior has other plans, however.  He sends the man away with these instructions:

Go back home and report all that God has done for you.

–Luke 7:39a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The text informs us that the man obeyed Jesus.

The theme of the Great Vigil of Easter, as evident in assigned readings, is salvation history.  In Hebrew thought God is like what God has done–for groups as well as individuals.  The responsibility of those whom God has blessed is to proclaim by words and deeds what God has done–to function as vehicles of grace and to glorify God.  Salvation history is important to understand.  So is knowing that salvation is an ongoing process.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

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

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-year-d/

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Fidelity and Factions   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth

Above:  Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00671

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 4:1-8 (Tuesday)

Song of Songs 4:9-5:1 (Wednesday)

Psalm 145 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:3-17 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:33-39 (Wednesday)

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The Lord draws near to all who summon him,,

to all who summon him in sincerity.

For his worshippers he does all they could wish for,

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

–Psalm 145:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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They should, therefore, dwell in unity and mutual respect, I suppose, but the opposite is true much of the time.

Two of the three readings contain references to disputes.  (The lovers in the Song of Songs are in harmony with each other.)  The question of fasting–that some people do it and others do not–arises in Luke 5.  And in 1 Corinthians, that community’s notorious factionalism is at issue.  Such divisiveness probably arose from well-intentioned attempts to discern and to act in accordance with the will of God and to hold to correct theology; that is my most charitable guess.  However, again and again we human beings have proven ourselves capable of fouling up while trying to do the right thing.  Then opinions become tribal boundaries.  The result is an unholy mess.

The truth is, of course, that there is such a thing as objective reality, and that each of us is right about some details of it and wrong about others.  Laying competing fundamentalisms aside and acknowledging a proper degree of ambiguity (in what Calvinist theology labels matters indifferent) is a fine strategy for working toward peace and faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Doing What Love Requires   1 comment

Angel at Tomb of Jesus

Above:  The Angel at the Tomb of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Solomon 3:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Mark 16:1-8

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I will give thanks to you, for you answered me

and have become my salvation.

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Psalm 118:21-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Today we have an interesting juxtaposition of texts.  In the Song of Songs a woman seeks her lover and speaks of a royal wedding procession.  Meanwhile, in Mark 16:1-8, women arrive at Christ’s tomb to anoint his corpse properly.  They find an empty tomb and a messenger in a white robe.  He informs them of Christ’s resurrection.  The women flee the scene in fear, terror, and amazement.  Thus the Gospel of Mark came to end, until people started tacking endings (at least three of them) onto it.

In one pericope we have an orderly, stately, and joyous procession, in the other, a fear-inspired recession.  In both pericopes the female(s) act(s) out of devotion.  And in neither pericope does the central man appear.  These readings inspire us to use our imaginations.  What is Jesus doing at that moment?  Where is the monarch?

Jesus is a powerful and mysterious figure in the Gospel of Mark.  There he remains mysterious until the original ending and powerful through the tacked-on conclusions.  There is also a sense of the danger he was in throughout the Gospel of Mark, just as the two lovers in the Song of Songs are in danger.  It is sad that such a beautiful thing as devotion to another (as in romance or friendship) or to a larger group puts one in danger from fearful people sometimes.  Yet this is an accurate summary of reality, is it not?  But pure love–as Christ embodied it in the flesh–proves more powerful and enduring than fear hostility, hatred, and violence.

May we focus on that which builds up others and ourselves, for what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we affirm the sacred worth of people–including those quite different from us–by words and deeds.  And, if love–regardless of the form of it of which one speaks and thinks–requires sacrifice and entails risk, may we do what love requires.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/devotion-for-wednesday-in-easter-week-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Sacramentally   1 comment

Shaker Barn

Above:  Shaker Church Family Round Barn, Hancock, Massachusetts, June 1962

Photographer = Jack E. Boucher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS MASS,2-HANC,9–1

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs/Song of Solomon 7:10-8:4

Psalm 34

John 6:25-35

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The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon/Canticle of Canticles is love poetry.  I distrust attempts to spiritualize it by transforming it into an allegory between Yahweh and the Hebrews, God and faithful people, or Jesus and the Church.  Such readings indicate an unhealthy dichotomy between matters of the flesh and those of the spirit, the physical and the spiritual.  Much of Christian theology reflects a fear and distrust of the physical and sets related pleasures, which can function as vehicles of grace when one approaches them properly.  I have encountered profound theology in novels, but I have also read of strict Christian condemnations of of reading novels in general.  I understand the historical roots of such negative attitudes without approving such a mindset.  So I embrace the healthy pleasures of this life, no matter how fleeting or mundane they might be.

Jesus, in John 6, is the bread of life.  One of the greatest spiritual teachings relative to sacraments, one of which (the Holy Eucharist) is germane to that metaphor, is that God makes the ordinary extraordinary.  Bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  Water becomes an outward sign of inner renewal.  Words become means of grace.  The laying on of hands becomes a method of transforming a person.

If God can do so much with words, hands, water, bread, and wine in official sacramental actions, how much more can God do in meals, good books, mundane deeds, and acts of human love?  Washing the dishes, for example, can be merely a household chore or a great service for another human being.  The circumstances make all the difference.  So may we, by grace, succeed in living sacramentally.  May we, by our lives, with their mundane details, prove to be consistent with Psalm 34:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989):

I will give thanks to the Lord at all times:

God’s praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will glory in the Lord:

the humble will hear and be glad.

O praise the Lord with me:

let us exalt God’s name together.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-23-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Corporeal and the Spiritual   2 comments

Jesus Bookmark

Above:  A Jesus Bookmark

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 2:8-15 (5th Day)

Song of Songs 5:9-6:3 (6th Day)

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (7th Day)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

Colossians 4:2-5 (5th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (6th Day)

John 20:11-20 (7th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Song of Songs:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-21/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/proper-17-year-b-3/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-18-19-and-20-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-21-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Colossians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/devotion-for-september-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Corinthians 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

John 20:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/third-day-of-easter-tuesday-in-easter-week/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-23-24-and-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall not rest in hope.

–Psalm 16:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Song of Songs, I heard growing up, is about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Balderdash!  There is also a Jewish allegorical interpretation which claims that the book is about the relationship between God and Israel.  I do not accept that either.  No, the Song of Songs is exactly what it appears to be–a series of poetic texts about a love affair between a man and a woman who may or may not be married to each other but who are in danger because of their love.

Hence the Song of Songs is about human erotic relationships.  And it belongs in the Canon of Jewish and Christian Scripture.  As J. Coert Rylaardsdam writes in Volume 10 (1964) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary:

Its [the Song of Songs’] respect for life is expressed in the savoring of it; and it is this that makes it a very important commentary on the meaning of the confession that God is the Creator of all things.  The presence of the Song in Scripture is a most forceful reminder that to confess God as Creator of all things visible and invisible is to deny that anything is “common” (see Acts 10:9-16) or, to use the cliché of today, “secular.”  This book teaches that all life is holy, not because we, as Christians, make it so, but because it is made and used by the living God.

–page 140

If that analysis seems odd to one, that fact indicates a different worldview than the Song’s authors had.  As Rylaardsdam writes on page 138:

The people who wrote the Bible had no equivalent of our notion of the “secular”; they did not separate the natural from the sacred as we often do, for they took very seriously the confession of God as Creator of all.

As Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says in her 2001 Teaching Company Course, The Old Testament, much of what was normative in biblical times has ceased to be so.  That is certainly true for those of us in the global West, shaped by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  Modernity differs greatly from antiquity, in ways both good and bad.

Much of the Christian tradition–including the legacy of St. Paul the Apostle, a great evangelist who suffered much, to the point of martyrdom–contains discomfort with the corporeal.  Human bodies can be messy and otherwise unpleasant, to be sure, but their potential for temptation has attracted much attention.  Much of Christian tradition has obsessed about the latter fact excessively, even encouraging a universal, false dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit–a dichotomy absent from the Song of Songs.

That frequent and erroneous distrust of the flesh has influenced the Christology of many people negatively, leading them to commit heresy.  To say that Jesus was fully human and fully divine is easy.  To deal with the “fully divine” aspect of that formulation can prove relatively uncontroversial.  Yet to unpack the “fully human” aspect holds the potential–often realized–to upset people.  In the early 1990s, for example, my father said in a sermon in southern Georgia, U.S.A., that Jesus had a sense of humor.  One lady, a longtime member of the congregation, took offense, claiming that he had insulted her Jesus.

Yet the Incarnation is about both the corporeal and the spiritual.  And the resurrected Jesus was no phantom, for he had a physical form.  The Incarnation means several things simultaneously.  Among them is an affirmation of the goodness of creation, including human physicality.  If that physicality makes us uncomfortable–if we perceive it as antithetical to spiritual well-being–we have a spiritual problem, one of erroneous categories and at least on false dichotomy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sixth-and-seventh-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part III: Violating Social Norms   1 comment

william-lloyd-garrison

Above:  William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672098/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 6:4-7:5 (May 22)

Song of Songs 7:6-8:14 (May 23)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–May 22)

Psalm 97 (Morning–May 23)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–May 22)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–May 23)

John 6:22-40 (May 22)

John 6:41-59 (May 23)

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Some Related Posts:

John 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-18-and-19-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/seventeenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/nineteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twentieth-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

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The Song of Songs ends with a note consistent with the rest of the book:  this love violates social norms.  To consumate it is risky, and the lovers must be prepared for a risky parting or a flight together; the Hebrew text is ambiguous regarding whether the lovers will remain in each other’s company.

Speaking of violating social norms, the discourse of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood violated Jewish social norms.  Such potent language offended sensibilities.  It sounds like cannibalism, does it not?  And more is happening in the narrative.  The Greek text in John 6 echoes the Greek text of the Septuagint in reference to grumbling Israelites in the desert after the Exodus.  So those who complained regarding Jesus received especially negative press.  And Jesus was (and remains) far more than manna.

In my North American context celebrations of the Holy Eucharist are routine, with no legal attention paid to them.  Yet, a few centuries ago, Roman Catholic priests risked their lives to say the Mass in England.  Following Jesus violated social and norms at that time and place.

Sometimes I think that following Jesus has become too respectable, not that I favor religious persecution.  Early Christianity, like the love in the Song of Songs, had an edge an element of risk to it.  And it had value.  As Thomas Paine wrote,

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  ’Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.

The American Crisis, Number 1, December 23, 1776

And, when religion becomes respected–the establishment even–it loses its prophetic edge.  I think of the uses of Christianity in  U.S. history to justify slavery then segregation and to criticize prostitutes while affirming the sexism and patriarchy which pushed many women into that situation.  Such hypocrisy, in the case of these women, blamed the victims.  Simply put, Jesus did not die because he was respectable and affirmed social injustice.  No, he died because Roman imperial officials considered him a threat to Pax Romana, a desert called peace, as Tacitus referred to it.

Respectability is overrated.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part II: Risk and Faithfulness   1 comment

traditional-site-of-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand

Above:  Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 5:2-6:3

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

John 6:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

John 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-17-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fourteenth-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/proper-12-year-b/

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The theme of risk unites these lessons.  In Song of Songs the love relationship runs afoul of certain people who have done violence to the woman in an attempt to prevent a liaison.  And a crown of people follow Jesus and the Apostles around in John 6.  Impressed by our Lord’s signs, they want to set him up as a political revolutionary leader.  That would fulfill a certain vision of Messiahship yet would certainly lead to his death at Rome’s hands.  That consequence came true anyway, but not because Jesus was a rebel leader.

If one continues to read in John 6, one finds advice not to follow him because of his wonderful signs.  That is a selfish motive.  No, his call is one to service–what we can do in this world. What is God calling each of us to do for each other’s benefit?  That is a question to explore so to know how to respond faithfully to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-21-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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