Archive for the ‘Advent’ Tag

Pointing Toward Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy power, and come,

with great might to succor us, that by the help of thy grace

whatsoever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished,

through thy mercy and satisfaction;

who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

ever, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 111

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-12

Luke 1:59-80

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Before I get to my main point, two assigned passages call out for elucidation.

  1. The literal translation of the line from Psalm 8 is, “a little lower than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  The “gods,” or elohim, in Hebrew, are members of YHWH’s heavenly court.
  2. Isaiah 9:2-7 speaks of the ideal Davidic king.  Perhaps the original monarch was Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.).  The description fits Jesus better.

The juxtaposition of Luke 1:59-80 and Hebrews 12:1-12 may seem odd at first.  Upon reflection, however, its purpose becomes clear and plain.  This juxtaposition functions as a reminder of the purpose behind the Incarnation:  the Atonement, via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  One may recall that Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into the Christmas Oratorio.  We are correct to rejoice during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, but one must not stop there.  No, we need to follow Jesus to Calvary then to an empty tomb, too.

We read foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus in the lesson from Luke 1.  Do we not know the fat that befell St. John the Baptist?

What then will this child become?

–Luke 1:66b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

A question for each of us is,

What then will I become?

May all of us become agents of God whenever and wherever we are.  We cannot, temporally, be forerunners of Jesus.  We can, however, point to him, as St. John the Baptist did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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Feeling Uncomfortable   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

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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Micah 5:1-5

Luke 1:46-56

Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent is, appropriately, a time to focus on the Messiah.  As I wrote in the previous post, Zephaniah 3:14-20 is not a messianic prophecy.  Micah 5:105 is, however.

The Magnificat is a beautiful and a familiar text.  Perhaps the main problem one has when reading a familiar text is going on autopilot.  I challenge you, O reader, as much as I challenge myself, to resist that temptation.  Read the Magnificat again, with eyes as fresh as possible.  Consider the theme of reversal of fortune; that theme is prominent in the Gospel of Luke.  Does that portrayal of God make you uncomfortable?  Does it challenge any of your values?

The Magnificat is one of the texts that remind me of an observation I read on the back of a church bulletin years ago:

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

That description applies to the Gospel of Luke.

Then turn with me, O reader, to Hebrews 10:5-10, usually a text for Good Friday.  One may recall that the Passion Chorale is present in the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Reading Hebrews 10:5-10 on this Sunday and hearing Hans Leo Hassler‘s Passion Chorale in the Season of Christmas reminds us of why the Incarnation occurred.

That becomes very uncomfortable quite quickly.  If we find it uncomfortable, we need to consider how Jesus felt on the cross.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Eschatological Ethics VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Visitation

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given to us, thy servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity;

we beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who livest and reignest, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 182

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Isaiah 35

Psalm 98

Romans 1:16-25

Luke 1:39-56

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Apocalyptic writing serves at least two legitimate purposes.  One is to keep hope alive, to remind people to remain faithful until the full-realized Kingdom of God becomes reality and justice is ubiquitous.  Another purpose is to point out the extent to which human governments, institutions, and societies fall short of the divine standard of justice.  They fall short of that standard because people do.

Advent is not so much a time of preparation for the twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5) as it is a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.  Do we believe that the full-realized Kingdom of God will become manifest on Earth?  And do we imagine that it will in no way displace some aspects of society from which we benefit?  Divine justice is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for those who oppress them and who consent to the oppression.  The return of Jewish exiles, foretold in Isaiah 35, followed the reckoning of their Chaldean overlords.  One may also think of Revelation 18, in which, following the fall of Babylon (read:  Rome), those who benefited from violence and exploitation mourn.

God is faithful and just.  If we are, too, we stand with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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A Glorious Mystery, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Zephaniah 3:14-20

Luke 1:67-80

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:57-66

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St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.  Perhaps one would expect the pericope from the Hebrew Bible to be a messianic prophecy, given the cluster of readings for this Sunday in Advent.  One would be mistaken.  Zephaniah wrote of a time when God would rule directly on the planet; the prophet did not write of the Messiah.  Bishop N. T. Wright picked up on God ruling directly on the planet, as in Zephaniah 3.  Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) that God (YHWH), not Jesus, is the king in Biblical eschatological prophecy, even in the New Testament.

I write and think of the Trinity with all due theological caution; I prefer not to commit any of the plethora of Trinitarian heresies.  My reading of the history of Christian theology informs me that well-meaning attempts to explain the Trinity have frequently led to or bolstered heresies.  I also know that I have been guilty of entertaining notions bordering on Sabellianism, although I did not know that term when I did so.  Yes, I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth (the human being whom Roman officials executed on false allegations in 29 or 30 C.E.) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity.  In my mind, “Jesus” runs together with “Second Person of the Trinity” after the beginning of the Incarnation.  Likewise, I refrain from calling the pre-Incarnation Second Person of the Trinity “Jesus” or “Christ,” due to my chronological manner of thinking.  And, when I write “God,” the meaning varies, according to context.  Sometimes I mean the Trinity.  On other occasions, I narrow to the focus to one of the three Persons (literally, “masks,” in Greek) of the Trinity, especially YHWH.  (That is mask, as in a mask a Greek actor used.)  Etymology is one issue.  How accurate Greek word choices are is another matter.  Sometimes language fails us; even our our descriptions cannot always do justice to reality.  I do not attempt to explain the Trinity, a glorious mystery.

How can I explain the Trinity when even orthodox Trinitarian theology makes no sense?  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, right?  Okay.  Then how can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son?  And does one accept or reject the filioque clause?  Orthodox Trinitarian theology, established by a series of Ecumenical Councils, is as close to the Trinitarian reality as one can get in this life.  Nevertheless, The confusion that results from following orthodox Trinitarian theology proves that one should accept the glorious mystery, refrain from overthinking it, and revel in that mystery.  The beautiful reading from Philippians provides some advice for this revelry:

  1. “Let your tolerance be evident to everyone.”
  2. Do not worry; trust in God.
  3. “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.”

The context for this counsel is Christian community, of course.

The translation is The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

May we, in the words of the Larger Westminster Catechism,

glorify God, and fully…enjoy Him forever.

The details of Trinitarian theology, Trinitarian reality, and Messianic prophecy will tend to themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Glorification, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Annunciation

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning;

grant that we may in such wise hear them,

read, mark, and inwardly digest them,

that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word,

we may embrace, and ever hold fast,

the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 107

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Isaiah 55

Psalm 9:1-14

Romans 15:4-13

Luke 1:18-35

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Do we seek to glorify ourselves?  Many people have.  Many do.  Many will.  Human glory, however, is fleeting.  According to The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (1962), human glory means,

weight, importance, consideration.

Often methods of seeking self-glorification entail harming others.

We ought to seek to glorify God instead.  We should be humble before God, not boastful.  God glorifies the faithful.  God, who is trustworthy, provides more richly for us than we can provide for ourselves.  From God we receive what we need, not necessarily what we want.  If we are wise, we acknowledge the limits of our understanding, and we thank God for granting us what we need.

Who was St. Mary of Nazareth by herself?  And who was she in God?  She became the Theotokos, the Bearer/Mother of God incarnate.

Each of us, in a less dramatic way, can bear the light of God wherever we go and whatever we do.  That is a high calling, one to accept.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRIET TUBMAN, U.S. ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES OF ROME, FOUNDRESS OF THE COLLATINES

THE FEAST OF JOHANN PACHELBEL, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SOPHRONIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Posted March 9, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 55, Luke 1, Psalm 9, Romans 15

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Living the Incarnation, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Visitation

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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Malachi 3:1-20/3:1-4:2

Psalm 89:1-8. 11-18

Philippians 1:3-11

Luke 1:26-38

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If one expects God (YHWH, in Malachi) or Jesus to return and set matters right, how does one think and behave?  If such a person is wise and pious, one will revere God and treat people with respect.  One will continue to fulfill one’s duty before God.  One will be heavenly-minded and of earthly good.

The Incarnation is not merely about the life of the Second Person of the Trinity in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, as well as the lives Jesus touched, directly and indirectly.  No, the Incarnation pertains to many theologians have pondered for nearly two thousand years.  I make no pretense of being an intellectual peer of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 130-circa 202), author of The Scandal of the Incarnation.  I do, however, tell you, O reader, that the Incarnation is also about my life and your life.  Is Christ evident in us?  Do we draw people to Jesus and make disciples, or do we drive people away from our Lord and Savior?

I can speak and write only for myself, so I do.  I have a mixed record.  I continue to strive to improve, by grace, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRIET TUBMAN, U.S. ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES OF ROME, FOUNDRESS OF THE COLLATINES

THE FEAST OF JOHANN PACHELBEL, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SOPHRONIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Posted March 9, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Malachi 3, Malachi 4, Philippians 1, Psalm 89

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The Law of Love   2 comments

Above:  Flowers, after E. T. Fisher, Circa 1884

Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-12135

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For the First Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness,

and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life,

in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;

that in the last day, when he shall come again in his

glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 105

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Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 50:1-15

Romans 13:8-14

Luke 1:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  They exist in balance in the assigned readings.  Mercy on exiles is the promise in Isaiah 40.  That mercy balances judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, though.  Judgment and mercy also exist in balance in Psalm 50, in its entirely.  The Incarnation, one must realize, was an occasion of both judgment and mercy; rejecting grace leaves one worse off than one was previously.  As for Romans 13:8-14, actions have consequences.  We judge ourselves, do we not?  Or we help our cases.

He who loves his neighbour has met every requirement of the law….Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:8b, 10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

How often have you or I, O reader, treated someone badly or condoned treating someone badly and felt righteous?  Have we not acted contrary to Romans 13:8-10?  Have we not, perhaps, used the letter of the law while violating the letter of the law?  I refer not to “tough love,” academic rigor, et cetera.  No, I refer to callousness.  I refer to that which is inexcusable, certainly in the context of Judeo-Christian ethics.

Yes, some real-life circumstances present moral quandaries.  Whatever decision one makes, at least one innocent person will suffer, perhaps even die.  We live in an imperfect world.  Yet we can, by grace, do the best we can do.  May that suffice.

On other occasions, however, the decisions are easy.  Sometimes loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is clear-cut and places us in no peril.  Thank God for such circumstances!

Yet, sometimes when the moral choice is unambiguous, loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself places one in physical or legal jeopardy.  This reality pushes back against blind obedience to human authorities sometimes.  In these cases, the higher law (that of God) is the law to follow.  And divine judgment falls on those who perpetuate injustice, as it should.

This Advent and the rest of the year, may we conduct our lives in ways that honor Christ, present in those near, far away, and in places in-between.  May we fulfill the law of God, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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