Archive for the ‘Agape’ Tag

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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The Commandment to Commit Agape   1 comment

Rebekah (2)

Above:  Eliezer Meeting Rebekah at the Well

Image Source = Elsie E. Egermeier, Bible Story Book (1939)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 24:34-41, 50-67

Psalm 140

1 John 2:7-11

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I know that Yahweh will give judgement for the wretched,

justice for the needy.

The upright shall praise your name,

the honest dwell in your presence.

–Psalm 140:12-13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Genesis 24 might prove confusing unless one reads the entire chapter.  In it Abraham sends a servant (whom the text does not name) to find a wife for Isaac.  The standard for a wife is good character.  Rebekah, daughter of Laban, passes the test by extending hospitality (a matter of life or death in that place and culture) to the servant.  She becomes Isaac’s beloved.  On the other hand, we read of her devious side in Genesis 27.  That, however, is another story for a different story.

The standard for righteousness in 1 John 2:7-11 is love–agape, to be precise.  Agape is unconditional and selfless love, the variety of love that leads one to sacrifice for another person.  The person who lacks agape resides in spiritual darkness, but he or she who has agape knows the way to go.

This is an appropriate standard to apply to questions of individual actions and governmental policies, especially when lives are at risk.  Extending hospitality might constitute the difference between people living or dying, or of living in a better situation or in worse circumstances.  The commandment to love unconditionally and selflessly applies, does it not?  It might be politically unpopular, but it still applies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, JULIA ANNE ELLIOTT, AND EMILY ELLIOTT, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPHREY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

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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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-8-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Acting According to Agape   1 comment

Corinth

Above:   Washerwomen at Ancient Roman Fountain, Corinth, Greece

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = https://www.loc.gov/item/2003681458/

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 24:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 29:10-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 16:1-12 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 16:13-24 (Tuesday)

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How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked

and does not stand in the path that sinners tread,

nor a seat in company with cynics,

but who delights in the law of Yahweh

and murmurs his law day and night.

–Psalm 1:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is one side of Psalm 1.  The other is that the way of the wicked is doomed.  The path of the misguided is likewise treacherous, but, if they change course, divine mercy will follow judgment.

One line from the readings for these two days stands out in my mind:

Let all that you do be done in love.

–1 Corinthians 16:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“Love” is agape, meaning selflessness and unconditional love.  It is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter.  This is the type of love God has for people.  How we respond to that great love is crucial.  Will we accept that grace and all of its accompanying demands, such as loving our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Will we live the Incarnation of Christ?  When we sin, will we turn to God in remorse and repentance?  None of us can do all of the above perfectly, of course, but all of us can try and can depend on grace as we do so.

Who are our neighbors?  Often many of us prefer a narrow definition of “neighbor.”  Our neighbors in God are all people–near and far away, those we like and those we find intolerable, those who think as we do and those who would argue with us about the weather, those who have much and those who possess little, et cetera.  Our neighbors are a motley crew.  Do we recognize the image of God in them?  Do we seek the common good or our own selfish gain?   The truth is that whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves also, for human societies are webs of interdependency.  To seek the common good, therefore, is to seek one’s best interests.

Do we even seek to do all things out of agape?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 27, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE LINE AND ROGER FILCOCK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BALDOMERUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HERBERT, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTOR THE HERMIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-3-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Listening to the Holy Spirit   1 comment

Pentecost Dove May 24, 2015

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Source = St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, May 24, 2015

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 48 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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We reflect on your faithful love, God,

in your temple!

Both your name and your praise, God,

are over the whole wide world.

–Psalm 48:9-10a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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I teach a Sunday School class in my parish.  We adults discuss the assigned readings for each Sunday.  I recall that, one day, one of the lections was 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter in which the form of love is agape–selfless and unconditional love.  I mentioned that St. Paul the Apostle addressed that text to a splintered congregation that quarreled within itself and with him.  A member of the class noted that, if it were not for that troubled church, we would not have certain lovely and meaningful passages of scripture today.

That excellent point, in its original form, applies to the lection from 1 Corinthians 2 and, in an altered form, to the readings from Joel and Ezekiel.  A feuding congregation provided the context for a meditation on having a spiritual mindset.  The Babylonian Exile set the stage for a lovely message from God regarding certain people with hearts of stone:

Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

–Ezekiel 11:20b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As for those who refuse to repent–change their minds, turn around–however,

I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 11:21b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, in the wake of natural disaster and repentance new grain, wine, and oil will abound in Joel 2.  Divine mercy will follow divine judgment for those who repent.  That reading from Joel 2 leads into one of my favorite passages:

After that,

I will pour out My spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy;

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

I will even pour out My spirit

Upon male and female slaves in those days.

–Joel 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a devotion for the first two days after the day of Pentecost.  The assigned readings fit the occasions well, for they remind us of the necessity of having a spiritual mindset if we are able to perceive spiritual matters properly then act accordingly.  The Holy Spirit speaks often and in many ways.  Are we listening?  And are we willing to act faithfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-pentecost-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Our Insufficiency and God’s Sufficiency   1 comment

Manna

Above:  Manna

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:16-23, 31-32 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 8:1-20 (Tuesday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43 (Both Days)

Ephesians 4:17-24 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (Tuesday)

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Whoever is wise will ponder these things,

and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

–Psalm 107:43, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Sometimes the Bible harps on a theme, repeating itself.  I notice this most readily while following a well-constructed lectionary and trying to find new ways to make one post in a series based on that lectionary read differently than some of its preceding posts.  This is easier on some occasions than on others.

The repeated theme this time is that we humans depend on God for everything, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.  I have written about this many times, including in the previous post.  We ought not to cling to the idol of self-sufficiency, the assigned readings tell us.  No, we have a responsibility to trust and obey God, who is faithful to divine promises.  God, who fed the former Hebrew slaves in the desert, calls people to lead holy lives marked by the renewing of minds and the building up of the community of faith.  Love–agape–in 1 Corinthians 13, which follows on the heels of the reading from 1 Corinthians 12, is selfless, self-sacrificial love, a virtue greater than faith and hope.

If acceptance of our insufficiency injures our self-esteem, so be it.  Humility is a virtue greater than ego.  Actually, a balanced ego–a realistic sense of oneself–is a virtue which includes humility.  Raging egos and weak egos are problems which lead to the same results–destroyed and missed opportunities, lives of selfishness, and the failure to acknowledge one’s complete dependence on God.  The desire to build up oneself at the expense of others damages not only one but the group(s) to which one belongs and the people around one.

May the love which 1 Corinthians 13 describes define our lives, by grace.  May acceptance of our total dependence upon God, our reliance upon each other, and our responsibilities to and for each other define our lives, by grace.  And may a faithful walk with God, who is trustworthy, define our lives, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-13-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Love and Forgiveness   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:1-6

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13

John 12:44-50

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Isaiah 52:1-6 speaks of a time, in our past yet in the original audience’s future, when foreigners would no longer hold sway in Jerusalem.  One might imagine faithful Jews saying, in the words of Psalm 65:1,

You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet, in John 12, Jerusalem was not only under Roman occupation, but a Roman fortress sat next to and towered over the Temple complex, the seat of a collaborationist and theocratic state.  Jesus, about to die, is in hiding and the Temple rulers have been plotting since John 11:48-50 to scapegoat Jesus, for in the words of High Priest Caiaphas,

…it is better for you to have one man die to have the whole nation destroyed.

–John 11:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That was not the only germane conflict, for the Gospel of John came from marginalized Jewish Christians at the end of the first century C.E.  They had lost the argument in their community.  Certainly this fact influenced how they told the story of Jesus.  I know enough about the retelling and reinterpretation of the past to realize that we humans tell history in the context of our present.  The present tense shapes our understanding of events which belong in the past tense; it can be no other way.

What must it be like to experience great hope mixed with subsequent disappointment–perhaps even resentment–inside which we frame the older hope?  Faithful Jews of our Lord and Savior’s time knew that feeling well when they pondered parts of the Book of Isaiah and other texts.  The Johannine audience knew that feeling well when it considered Jesus.  Perhaps you, O reader, know that feeling well in circumstances only you know well.

And how should one respond?  I propose avoiding vengeance (in the style of Psalm 137) and scapegoating.  Anger might feel good in the short term, but it is a spiritual toxin in the medium and long terms.  No, I point to the love of Jesus, which asked God to forgive those who crucified him and consented to it, for they did not know what they had done and were doing.  And I point to Isaiah 52:3, in which God says:

You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I point to the agape God extends to us and which is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  Love and forgiveness are infinitely superior to anger, resentment, and scapegoating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-10-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Agape, Might, and Right   1 comment

king-solomon-fresco

Above:  Fresco of King Solomon, Elmali Kalise, Cappadocia, Turkey, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005003194/PP/)

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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:

1 Kings 1:1-4, 15-35 (August 21)

1 Kings 2:1-27 (August 22)

Psalm 15 (Morning–August 21)

Psalm 36 (Morning–August 22)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–August 21)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–August 22)

1 Corinthians 12:14-31 (August 21)

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (August 22)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 1-2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

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

1 Corinthians 12-13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/week-of-proper-19-wednesday-year-2/

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There are many spiritual gifts, Paul wrote, but the greatest of them is love, that is, agape–self-sacrificial, unconditional love.  This is the kind of love which God has for we humans.  I notice a consistent thread running through Chapters 12 and 13:  The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the faith community, to which every member is essential.  There is no proper place for self-promotion at the expense of others.

In contrast, Solomon, new to the throne as sole ruler of the Kingdom of Israel, was in a politically weak position.  Adonijah, his older brother and rival for the throne, enjoyed crucial support, which Solomon needed.  And Adonijah did not take Solomon’s accession well.  So Solomon did what many weakened rulers have done:  he conducted a bloody purge.  There was no love in that.

Might does not make right; agape does.  And maintaining power by means of bloodshed makes one morally unfit to govern and corrupts one’s soul.  What can anyone give in exchange for one’s soul?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/devotion-for-august-21-and-22-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Rejecting Agape   4 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  ”who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thus agape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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The Good and the Bad, Mixed Together   1 comment

Above:  Mixed Bag

(http://www.cpsu.org.au/campaigns/news/13207.html)

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Exodus 24:3-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses came and told the people all of YHWH’s words and all the judgments.  And the people answered, one voice, and they said,

We’ll do all the things that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses wrote all of YHWH’s words.  And he got up early in the morning and built an altar below the mountain and twelve pillars for twelve tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, and they made peace offerings to YHWH:  bulls.  And Moses took half of the blood and set it in basins and threw half of the blood on the altar.  And he took the scroll of the covenant and read in the people’s ears.  And they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken, and we’ll listen.

Psalm 51:11-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Matthew 13:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the crop came up and began to ripen, the weeds appeared as well.  Then the owner’s servants came up to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where did all these weeds come from?” “Some enemy of mine has done this,” he replied.  ”Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?” said the servants.  ”No” he returned, “if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them.  Let them both grow together till the harvest.  And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, ‘Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.’”

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Follow the URL for my thoughts on the reading from Matthew.

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

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Often people treat the Ten Commandments as if no other commandments follow them immediately.  But reading Exodus 21-23 contains a host of pronouncements the Book of Exodus says come from God.  I am dubious about this claim with regard to certain commandments, such as 21:17, which reads,

And anyone who curses his father and his mother shall be put to death.

This is just one of many death penalty offenses in Chapters 21-23.  Other commandments, such as 21:26, acknowledge the existence of slavery without condemning it.

On the other hand, there is 23:9, which reads,

And you shall not oppress an alien–since you know the alien’s soul, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

These chapters also contain great compassion.

How shall one distinguish among the good laws and the bad ones?  I propose a simple standard:  Agape.  This is the unconditional love God extends toward us.  Agape is the word for love in 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophesy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man , I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  So faith, hope, and love, abide,these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I cannot argue with that.

Love is the law of God.  May we do as God as instructed us; may we love ourselves as God loves us.  Then may we extend this love to all others, seeking the best for them.  By grace, may God’s best for everyone become reality.  And may rejoice in each other’s good fortune and be agents of God in bringing that to fruition, as opportunities to do so present themselves and we are able to participate.

This is the best way I know to differentiate within the mixed bag of commandments.  My guiding principle is to follow Jesus, for I am a Christian.  My history-oriented brain understands that death penalty offenses are numerous in societies with limited resources.  To feed an offender constitutes a drain on scarce supplies.  So I understand the death penalties in the Law of Moses in that context.  But, I ask, what about love and possibility of forgiveness and reform?  Are these not Jewish and Christian virtues?  Of course they are.  So I side with virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MILAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAUD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

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The Sin of Jealousy   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Daphni, Greece

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 4:1-15, 25 (Revised English Bible):

The man lay with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain.  She said,

With the help of the LORD I have brought into being a male child.

Afterwards she had another child, Abel.  He tended the flock, and Cain worked the land.  In due season Cain brought some of the fruits of the earth as an offering to the LORD, while Abel brought the choicest of the firstborn of his flock.  The regarded Abel and his offering with favour, but not Cain and his offering.  Cain was furious and he glowered.  The LORD said to Cain,

Why are you angry?  Why are you scowling?

If you do well, you hold hold your head up;

if not, sin is a demon crouching at the door;

it will desire you, and you will be mastered by it.

Cain said to his brother Abel,

Let us go out into the country.

Once there, Cain attacked and murdered his brother.  The LORD asked Cain,

Where is your brother Abel?

Cain answered,

I do not know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?

The LORD said,

What have you done?  Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.  Now you are accursed and will be banished from the very ground which has opened its mouth to receive the blood you have shed.  When you till the ground, it will no longer yield you its produce.  You shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth.

Cain said the the LORD,

My punishment is heavier than I can bear; now you are driving me off the land, and I must hide myself from your presence.  I shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth, and I can be killed at sight by anyone.

The LORD answered him,

No:  if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be exacted from him….

Adam lay with his wife again.  She gave birth to a son, and named him Seth,

for,

she said,

God has granted me another son in place of Abel, because Cain killed him.

Psalm 50:7-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

16 But to the wicked God says:

“Why do you recite my statutes,

and take my covenant upon your lips?

17 Since you refuse discipline,

and toss my words behind your back?

18 When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast in your lot with adulterers.

19 You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

20 You are always speaking of evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

21 These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

22 “I have made my accusation;

I have put my case in order before your eyes.

23 Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

24 Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

Mark 8:11-13 (Revised English Bible):

Then the Pharisees came out and began to argue with him.  To test him they asked for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said,

Why does generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you:  no sign shall be given to this generation.

With that he left them, re-embarked, and made for the other shore.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Part of the process of writing each of these posts is deciding which image to place at the top.  Moody Jesus fits the bill for today, based on the reading from Mark.

The sin of jealousy ties the Genesis and Mark readings together.  We have continuing mythology in Genesis.  Two brothers, Cain and Abel, are quite different from each other.  Each makes a sacrifice to God, and, as Richard Elliott Friedman translates the text,

And YHWH paid attention to Abel and his offering, and did not pay attention to Cain and his offering.  And Cain was very upset, and his face was fallen.

Cain’s reply,

Am I my brother’s keeper?

is familiar in the English language.  Professor Friedman, however, translates this question differently:

Am I my brother’s watchman?

This, he says, is consistent with a deeper meaning in the Hebrew texts.  People, he reminds the reader of his notes inCommentary on the Torah (2001), were supposed to watch over the Garden of Eden, God commanded cherubs to watch over the tree of life, and Cain was supposed to watch over his brother.  Friedman concludes that the use of this Hebrew verb

becomes a standard expression in the Torah for conveying loyalty to God.

Jealousy is born of resentment, not love.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love those whom we can see.  This love of God, which entails loyalty thereto, is consistent with arguing with God.  I have heard Judaism described as a faith system in which people argue with God; the name “Israel” derives from the story in which Jacob wrestles with an angel (or God).  Indeed, much of the Book of Psalms, when not in overly polite translations, reads much like

Look, Yahweh!  Where have you been for so long?

And whoever coined the cliche “the patience of Job” seems not to have familiar with that text.  The title character is quite argumentative.

Yet this argument can occur “within the family” without leading to broken relationships.  God loves us always, but do love God?  And, in Genesis, God both punishes Cain and protects him; the murder must have consequences for the murderer, but death will not be among them.  Both judgment and grace and present.  The situation could have been worse, but how much better might it have been for all involved had Cain controlled his jealousy?

The sacrifices God desires, Psalm 50 tells us, are obedience and thanksgiving.  And Psalm 51:18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer) tells us,

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Love (in Greek, agape), St. Paul the Apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, does not insist on its own way.  With that in mind, let us consider the Pharisees in Mark 8:11-13.  Textual context is vital here; Jesus has just fed about 4000 people with a little bread and a few fishes, with many leftovers filling hamper-sized baskets.  And what do these “orthodox” religious men want?  They desire a sign.  Were they blind?  No, they were jealous.  The mere existence of Jesus disproved much of what they held dear.  His presence threatened their viability.  They were jealous.  And, if I were Jesus, I would be moody, too.  I would leave, also.  Who wants to spend much time around negative people?

Assuming that we love God, why do we?  Is it just because of signs?  I hope not.  This is selfish and shallow.  I propose that we ought to love God because God is God, and we are not.  Being God entails demonstrating certain attributes, among them grace.  Grace is scandalous; it reaches “good” religious people as well as prostitutes and half-breed heretics; it protects sinners and summons penitents.  Grace is inherently unfair, and therein lies its splendor.  And let us not be jealous; no, may we rejoice with our brethren.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 21, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CAREY, FATHER OF MODERN MISSIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 4, Mark 8, Psalm 50

Tagged with , , ,