That Which Defiles, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Seal of the President of the United States

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I ask for a few characteristics in a President of the United States.  I seek a stable, level-headed person who safeguards the civil rights of Americans, is not trigger-happy (especially with nuclear weapons), and conducts himself or herself in such a dignified manner.  I have no President, although I am a citizen of the United States.  For more of my thoughts regarding that disgraceful man, I refer you, O reader to a category at my SUNDRY THOUGHTS weblog.

In Euclidian geometry one needs only two points to form a line.  In the case of the man one conservative journalist from Orange County, California, today called “Andrew Dice Trump,” we have a lifetime that forms a pattern.  Trump is simultaneously the eldest and the most juvenile (in a negative way) temporary occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  The most recent point in that pattern comes from yesterday, when, in a meeting with U.S. Senators, he referred to “shithole” countries (all of which have majority populations of color) and longed for more immigrants from Norway (with a majority White population).  Trump has continued other patterns–lying and blaming his self-inflicted wounds on others.

Perhaps the most appropriate theological commentary on the Dishonorable Donald Trump, Racist Vulgarian-in-Chief, is comes from Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew:

What goes into the mouth does not make anyone unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean.

–Matthew 15:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Here ends the lesson.

I refuse to be silent.  If I cannot condemn this easily, what can I condemn?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, DEAN OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/that-which-defiles/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Posted January 12, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 15

Tagged with ,

Yet Another Chance, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, our heavenly Father:

Guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth,

and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness,

that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), pages 154 and 155

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 37:1-6, 11-14

Psalm 48

2 John 3-4, 6 and 3 John 1-11

John 8:1-11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As we read in 2 John and 3 John, God commands us to love one another.  God loves us after all; we therefore have an order to love God fully and to love each other as we love ourselves.  The love of God surpasses human comprehension.  Via that love, we read in Ezekiel 37, a text assigned at Easter Vigils yet not really about the resurrection of the dead, exiles from Judah will return to their ancestral homeland one day.  (They did.)  The love of God is more powerful than any earthly empire.

John 7:53-8:11 is a pericope absent from the oldest extant copies of the Gospel of John.  The pericope is actually Lukan in style, and one can skip from John 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  Regardless of the literary context of the pericope its messages remain constant.  Certain opponents of Jesus violate to attempt to trap him with his words.  Then Jesus reverses the trap and ensnares them in their deeds.  Next Jesus forgives the woman–a pawn–caught in adultery with a man our Lord and Savior’s enemies never attempted to bring before him.  The woman literally has a new lease on life.  One might assume that she made the most of it and took Christ’s words to her to heart.

The love of God frees us to lead better lives in service to God–not as pawns or exiles, but as liberated human beings.  The love of God grants us yet another chance again and again.  May we make the most of them, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Yet Another Chance, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, you have joined together diverse nations in the confession of your name:

Grant us both to will and to do what you command, that your people,

being called to an eternal inheritance, may hold the same faith in their hearts

and show the same godliness in their lives;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 55:1-7

Psalm 45

Philemon 1-3, 10-16

Luke 15:11-32

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God extends us second, third, fourth, fifth, et cetera chances.  Do we welcome these?

Consider the Letter to Philemon, O reader.  It is a text a long line of exegetes reaching back into antiquity has misinterpreted.  It is not, as St. John Chrysostom, a man fearful of the possibility that people in the Roman Empire would associate Christianity with the emancipation of slaves, thought, an argument for returning fugitive slaves to their masters.  Neither is the text a defense of slavery, as many defenders of chattel slavery in the antebellum United States argued.  Furthermore, nowhere does the letter indicate that Onesimus was a thief; the conditional tense makes a difference.  And, as certain scholars of the New Testament note, the correct translation of verse 16 is actually

…as if a slave,

not the usual

…as a slave.

The conditional tense makes a difference.  Tradition of which I have no reason to doubt the veracity holds that the rest of the story was a second chance for both Onesimus and Philemon, both of whom became bishops.  That point aside, I enjoy the pun, for Onesimus means “useful,” and he will be useful again, we read.  Also, the manipulation of Philemon is at its positive full force:  I could tell you to do the right thing, but I know that I do not have to do that because of the kind of man you are, the letter says.  One might conclude that Philemon did not have much of a choice in this scenario.

The story traditionally labeled the Parable of the Prodigal Son offers three compelling characters:  a father and two sons.  An observant student of the Bible might think of the motif of a father having two sons; something bad will happen.  Consider, O reader, the brothers Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau, for example.  In this case we have a loving father and two sons–an ungrateful, disrespectful wastrel and his dutiful older brother.  The father knows and loves both of his sons.  He does not force them to do the right thing.  The father lets his younger son go in the expectation that he will return.  The father is jubilant when the younger son returns.  The older brother should also rejoice, but he wonders why he receives so little attention.  He is actually in a much better state than the returned younger brother, who will have to live with the concrete consequences of his folly for the rest of his life.  The older brother will still inherit the estate, however.

Each of us, throughout his or her life, might fill all three roles in the parable.  Many of us might identify most easily with the resentful and dutiful older brother, who does as her father tells him to do.  This resentful, holier-than-thou attitude is a gateway to Donatism, however.  We should actually rejoice when the penitent return.  We ought to welcome divine grace showered upon those we do not like.  When we do not do this, we commit a particular sin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sins of Omission, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, you are the author of truth, of beauty, and of goodness:

Inspire all who enrich the lives of the people,

all artists and poets, dramatists and musicians,

that our common life may be made radiant with the beauty of him

in whom your fullness dwelt, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amos 5:18-24

Psalm 39

2 Timothy 2:1-13

Matthew 25:14-30

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

These four readings, taken together, teach the imperative of individual and collective righteousness, or justice.  (“Righteousness” and “justice” are translations of the same words in the Bible.)  The prophet Amos emphasizes social justice.  The author (not St. Paul the Apostle) of 2 Timothy reminds us of suffering that results from one obeying God.  The author of Psalm 39 reminds us of the brevity of life.  May we use well the time God has given us.

Two readings cry out for unpacking.  The first of these comes from Amos 5.  The Torah orders certain rituals.  They are not the problem; the abuse of them is.  To engage in pious rituals cynically so as to maintain a veneer of holiness, while living in a way that pays no heed to righteousness, is to make a mockery of those rituals, which are far more than what Pietistic heretics dismiss as “externals.”  This is not a case or righteousness or rituals; no, it is a call for both of them.

The other reading to unpack is the Parable of the Talents.  The definition of “talent” in this context is more than fifteen years’ wages of a laborer.  Thus a steward of just one talent is responsible for a large, especially in relative terms, sum of money.  The meaning of the parable is the mandate to take risks for God, not to do nothing when one ought to act.

This is a difficult teaching.  Sins of commission are relatively easy to identify, for one can point to what a person (perhaps oneself) has done wrong.  Sins of omission are more challenging, though.  I suspect that I am guilty of more sins of omission than of commission, but only God knows for sure.  A sin of omission is “safe,” from a certain perspective, but God commands us to take risks for the sake of righteousness.  After all, my life is short; what will I do with the rest of it, however long that will be?  What will you, O reader, do with the rest of your life?

The commandments to live longingly fits neatly into this matter.  Attempting to live thusly does not guarantee that one will succeed, but it is a positive development; at least one knows that one should do that and is trying to obey.  Success is only possible via the power of God, however.  May we seek, find, and use it as effectively as possible, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sins of Omission, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Widow’s Mite, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being:

We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit that in all the

cares and occupations of our daily life we may remember that we are ever walking in your sight;

for your name’s sake.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 18:23-32

Psalm 38

James 1:17-27

Luke 21:1-4

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Responsibility comes in two varieties–collective and individual.  My Western culture emphasizes the latter, frequently to the exclusion or minimization of the former.  Other cultures commit the opposite errors.  A balance is proper.

The theme of individual responsibility is present.  Ezekiel 18 (as well as 3:16-21; 14:12-23; and 33:1-20) argues against the theology of Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, whereby God holds members of subsequent generations accountable for one’s sins.  Yes, one’s life can have consequences for members of subsequent generations.  I can, for example, identify how two of my great-grandfathers on my father’s side influence me, for good and ill.  I am not responsible for their sins, however.  I am, of course, responsible for my own.

The theme of collective responsibility is also present.  In Luke 21:21:1-4 we read the story of the widow’s mite.  If we read immediately before and after it also, however, we find context.  In Luke 20:45-57 Jesus denounces those scribes who “devout widows’ houses” while seeking and enjoying social status, as well as maintaining the appearance of piety.  Then we read of a devout and impoverished widow donating money she cannot spare to the Temple.  Next, in 21:5, Jesus predicts the destruction of that Temple.  A progression is evident.

We are responsible for what we do in groups as well as by ourselves.  We are also responsible for sins of omission.  May we, by grace, care effectively for each other, individually and collectively, and never “devour widows’ houses” or stand by idly and silently while that happens, when we have an opportunity to say or do something to protest, if not to protect the exploited.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Laying Down Burdens, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You have shown us, O Lord, what is good;

enable us, we pray, to perform what you require, even

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 6:1-4, 5b-8

Psalm 44

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6

Matthew 8:23-27

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I prefer to use language correctly.  Therefore I like the title of S. I. Hayakawa‘s classic work, Use the Right Word.  Consider the word “faith,” O reader.  It, like many other words in the Bible, has a range of meanings in the sacred anthology.  In the Letter of James, for example, faith is intellectual, so works must accompany it; justification with God comes through works, not words, in James.  In Pauline theology, however, faith is inherently active; works are part of the package deal.  Thus justification comes by faith, not works, according to St. Paul the Apostle.  The two actually agree, for they arrive at the same point from different directions.  We read of another definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

If we have concrete evidence for a proposition, we have no need for faith to accept it.  With that in mind, O reader, consider the following statement:  Human depravity is not an article of faith for me, for I have evidence from the past and present for it.  I reserve faith for issues (such as the resurrection of Jesus) for which there is no concrete evidence to prove or disprove.

We cannot repay God for any, much less all, God has done for us and continues to do, but we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  If we cannot respond as faithfully as we know we should, we can do something, at least.  The inability to do everything is no excuse for not doing anything.  Storms of life leave us battered, do they not?  Frequently we emerge from them angry–perhaps justifiably.  Anger of a certain sort, channeled properly, can be socially constructive and spiritually beneficial.  However, frequently, if not usually, anger functions negatively in societies, communities, organizations, families, and individual lives.

By faith we can see the way to lay down that burden, and to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.  Laying down that burden of anger can prove difficult; I know this from experience.  I wish that doing what I know God tells me to do were easier and more appealing to me than the alternatives.  The struggle is palpable, but the strength necessary to succeed is divine, not human.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Repentance and Restoration, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, our refuge and strength, you are the author of all godliness:

Be ready, we pray, to hear the devout prayers of your Church;

and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nahum 1:1-8

Psalm 37

Hebrews 13:1-6

Matthew 18:15-22

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

These four readings, taken as a unit, constitute a masterpiece of liturgical cohesion; the lectionary committee’s work for the Fifth Sunday of Kingdomtide stands the test of time.

As the great Jewish Biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman points out, the Hebrew Bible balances divine judgment and mercy; the stereotype of YHWH as more prone to smite than to act mercifully is misleading, as stereotypes are inherently.  Neither is the composite depiction of God in the New Testament that of a warm, fuzzy deity.  One might think of Lewis Black‘s joke that the difference between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that having a kid calmed Him down.  No, the truth of divine judgment and mercy is one we find in the balance of the two factors.  Furthermore, there is the issue of the Arian heresy.

Much of what we humans call the wrath of God looks like proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Actions and inactions have consequences, after all.  Simply put, that which we sow, we also reap.  When we have an opportunity to sow righteousness, may we do so.  Righteousness is a concrete standard; it boils down, much of the time, to how we treat one another.  Another factor in righteousness is how we behave when we are alone.

The reading from Matthew 18 emphasizes opportunities for repentance–literally turning one’s back on sin.  Judgment might come, but one can avert it by changing one’s mind and ways.  In Jewish and Christian ethics we humans are responsible for and to each other as we stand together before God, upon whom we depend completely.  Facilitating repentance is one of our occasional responsibilities to each other; may we take it seriously, not write people off.  May we value restoration.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++