Archive for the ‘Thessalonians’ Category

Judgment and Mercy, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, 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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Deuteronomy 30:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

John 17:6-11

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I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to you.

Holy Father,

keep those you have given me true to your name,

so that they may be one like us.

–John 17:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One’s cultural assumptions frequently function as obstacles to proper interpretation of the Bible.  Western individualism, for example, may obscure the plural nature of “you” in many Biblical passages; perhaps one reads “you” and automatically thinking of it as being singular.  Responsibility, judgment, and mercy are both individual and collective in the Bible.  There is an individual aspect to collective matters, of course, but may we never ignore the reality of collective matters.

Faithfulness and faithlessness are collective in the assigned readings.  Those God (the Father) gave to Jesus are supposed to be one, as Jesus and God (the Father) are one.  News of the faithfulness of the Thessalonian congregation, evident in the actions of that assembly and its members, continues to spread, for people continue to read 1 Thessalonians.  Deuteronomy 30:1-10, with its assurance of divine mercy on the people following divine judgment on them for faithlessness, contradicts Deuteronomy 29:15f (with an emphasis on verse 19), where forgiveness and restoration are absent.

I like divine mercy.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  This principle applies to both Testaments, contrary to stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  Actions and the lack thereof have consequences, both positive and negative.  Yet the love of God continues to seek us out, to offer us new chances to do as we should, to be as we ought.  Do we (both as individuals and as collectives) care?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part III   5 comments

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who hast commanded us to love our enemies

and to do good to those who hate us;

grant that we may not be content with the affections of our friends

but may reach out in love to all thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Jeremiah 15:15-21

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Matthew 7:15-29

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The topic of revenge, covered in the previous post, is germane to this post.

The conclusion of 1 Thessalonians uses the word “peace” twice.  People are to live in peace with each other, and God is the God of peace.  Living in mutual peace encompasses both correction and encouragement, always in love.

See to it that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always aim at what is best for each other and for all.

–1 Thessalonians 5:15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a far cry from

O LORD,…

Avenge me on those who persecute me;

Do not yield to your patience,….

–Jeremiah 15:15a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I, having suffered far less than Jeremiah, know that feeling.  Yet the quest for revenge is a path to spiritual destruction.

May we, following Jesus and tapping into grace, overcome evil with good.  May we, in the process of resisting evil, not become evildoers.

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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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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Good Society, Part III   2 comments

Above:  Jeroboam II

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Thou who art God and Father of all:

give us, we pray, an awareness of our common humanity

so that whether we are weak or strong, rich or poor,

we may share what we have with those who have not,

following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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

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Amos 7:10-15

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Matthew 5:27-37

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Amos, like St. Paul the Apostle, did not attempt to curry favor with people, especially powerful ones.  Amos ran afoul of King Jeroboam II, who had the authority to expel the prophet from the Kingdom of Israel and back to the Kingdom of Judah (Amos’s home) yet not to change the course of prophecy.

Amos and St. Paul the Apostle committed themselves completely to serving God.  The main message of Matthew 5:20-48–to commit fully, not to be too clever by half, to play games with God, and to try to get away with the least one can do–has never ceased to be relevant.  Perfection (verse 48)–actually suitability for one’s purpose, which is to follow God–has always been a realistic goal via grace.  Moral perfectionism has always been unrealistic, given human nature, but striving to be the best one can be in God has never ceased to be proper.

Amos 7 offers a sobering lesson for all who imagine vainly that good times will continue unabated.  Consider, O reader, that during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam II, the Kingdom of Israel was economically prosperous and militarily powerful.  Consider also, O reader, that the kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.  Nationalism is a poor substitute for devotion to God.  Kingdoms, empires, and countries rise and fall, but God is forever.  Potentates leave office one way or another; most of them are of little historical significance.  Many who are historically significant are negatively so.  God, however, is the ultimate force for righteousness.

The condemnation of the Kingdom of Israel went beyond idolatry; it included institutionalized economic exploitation (Amos 2:6).  The condemnation of the Kingdom of Israel has never ceased to be germane, for its sins were not unique to it.

The Law of Moses contains a strong element of social justice–of looking out for each other, of being responsible to and for each other.  Do we, in our societies, really look out for each other?  Do we acknowledge that we are responsible to and for each other?  If we do not, we are sowing the seeds of our collective destruction.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT, AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBRG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Exploitation III   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses, by Edward Peck Sperry, 1897

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-31841

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Lord Jesus Christ, our only King, who came in the form of a servant:

control our wills and restrain our selfish ambitions,

that we may seek thy glory above all things and fulfill our lives in thee.  Amen.

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

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Exodus 34:1-9

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Matthew 7:24-29

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When I was a boy, I had a collection of Arch Books.  Each volume, a thin paperback book, told one Bible story in words and pictures.  This was a wonderful way for a child to learn Bible stories.  The Arch Book for the parable from Matthew 7:24-27 has lodged itself in my memory.

Jesus likened himself to a rock.  Moses was atop a mountain in Exodus 19 when he received far more than ten commandments from God.  (The commandments fill Exodus 20-24.)  Moses was atop a mountain again, to receive more commandments and stone tablet versions (Exodus 25-31).  While Moses was away, impatient Israelites broke the covenant.  Moses, in anger, broke the first stone tablets (Exodus 32).  Then Moses interceded on behalf of the people (Exodus 32-33).  God restored the covenant in Exodus 34.

We are supposed to read Exodus 34 in the context of the rest of the Torah narrative and of the Hebrew Bible more broadly.  We know of the unfortunate habit of murmuring and of relatively short memories of God’s mighty acts yet long memories of Egyptian leftovers.

I am not a psychologist, but psychology intrigues me.  Therefore, I listen and read closely in the field.  What we remember and what we forget–and why–indicates much about our character and about human nature, for good and for ill.  Often our minds work against the better angels of our nature; much of remembering and forgetting is a matter of the unconscious mind.  As rational as many of us try to be and like to think of ourselves as being, we tend to be irrational, panicky creatures who forget that, when we harm others, we hurt ourselves, too.  We also forget the promises we made recently all too often.

How we behave toward God and how we act toward others are related to each other.  Do we recognize God in others?  If so, that informs how we treat them.  Although I do not see the image of God in Mimi, my feline neighbor whom I feed outside my back door, I recognize her as a creature of God, an animal possessed of great dignity and worthy of respect.  Returning to human relations, the Law of Moses teaches, in terms of timeless principles and culturally specific examples, that we have divine orders to take care of each other, and never to exploit one another.  That commandment applies to societies, institutions, and governments, not just individuals.

Societies, institutions, governments, and individuals who forget or never learn that lesson and act accordingly are like a man who was so foolish that he build his house on sand, not on rock.  The rain will fall, the floods will come, the winds will blow, and the house will fall.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Praying for the Dead   1 comment

Above:  All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of All Saints originated at the great monastery of Cluny in 998.  The commemoration spread and became an occasion to pray for those in Purgatory.  During the Reformation Era Protestants and Anglicans dropped the feast on theological grounds.  In the late twentieth century, however, the feast–usually renamed the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed–began appearing on Anglican calendars.  The difference between All Saints’ Day and All Faithful Departed, in this context, had become one of emphasis–distinguished saints on November 1 and forgotten saints on November 2.

The idea of Purgatory (a Medieval Roman Catholic doctrine with ancient roots) is that of, as I heard a Catholic catechist, “God’s mud room.”  The doctrine holds that all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven, just not yet, for they require purification.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, for I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes “God’s mud room.”  Purgatory is also alien to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also encourages prayers for the dead.

I pray for the dead, too.  After all, who knows what takes place between God and the departed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.

As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-9, 13-14 or Psalm 103:8, 10, 13-18

Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Matthew 25:31-46 or John 11:17-27

The Vatican II Sunday Missal (1974), 1041-1048

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O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers:

Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son;

that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 130 or Psalm 116:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 665

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-souls-commemoration-of-all-faithful-departed-november-2/

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God Cares, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Salonica, Greece, 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-66142

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

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O Lord, you have promised that whatsoever we do to

the least of your brethren you will receive as done to you:

Give us grace to be ever willing and ready, as you enable us,

to minister to the necessities of our fellow human beings;

in your name we pray.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Isaiah 40:1-5

Psalm 53

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 11-12; 2:1-2, 13-15

Luke 17:20-25

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The standard English-language translations of Psalms 14 and 53 (nearly identical poems) do not do justice to the texts.  For example, the fools are actually wicked people.  Also, the wicked do not deny the existence of God.  No, they claim that God does not care.  That attitude explains why they feel free to continue in their wickedness.

That God cares is a point the readings affirm.  God cares enough to have ended the Babylonian Exile.  God cares enough to have brought about the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, who identified with us and our suffering.

God cares about us deeply.  We can never reciprocate fully, but God does not expect us to do the impossible, fortunately.  We can, however, respond faithfully to God.  On concrete measure of this caring is the manner in which we treat our fellow human beings.  Each of us falls short by that standard, but we can improve, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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