Archive for the ‘Annunciation’ Tag

Human Doubts and the Mighty Acts of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Most loving Father, who would have us give thanks for all things

and dread nothing but the loss of thee:

preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties;

and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the

light of thy love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 23:3-8

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:26-38

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The readings for this Sunday speak of corrupt rulers, the promise of divine deliverance of the nation, the restoration of exiles to their homeland, the practice of making considering for others a defining characteristic of oneself, the practice of trusting in God, and of the conception of Jesus and the annunciation of that event.  That is quite a variety of material.  Much of it speaks for itself.  Obviously the lectionary points toward linking Jeremiah 23 to Luke 1, with Philippians 4 providing commentary.

Instead of checking off all the above items in this post as I continue to write, I prefer to focus on one line:

For nothing is impossible with God.

–Luke 1:37, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Do you, O reader, affirm that?  Do I?

I speak, er, write for myself, the only person for whom I can do so.  A rationalist lives between my ears and behind my eyes.  I am one of the people most likely to ask pesky, inconvenient questions, and one of the least likely join a cult.  St. Thomas the Apostle, the great doubter, is my favorite Biblical character, for I identify with his skepticism.  One of the reasons I am an Episcopalian is the premium Anglican theology places on reason, in the context of scripture and tradition, for balance.  I am an intellectual, not a mystic.  I possess a healthy dose of skepticism.  Nevertheless, I also affirm the necessity of Kierkegaardian leaps of faith.  Such a leap of faith is necessary for one to accept the Incarnation, regardless of whether one affirms of rejects the Virgin Birth.

Yes, I affirm that nothing is impossible with God.  I affirm it more on some days and less on others.  My faith is a work in progress.  I bring my doubts to God; doing that constitutes an act of faith.  God, as I understand Him, does not strike anyone down for asking questions faithfully and honestly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Glorious Paradoxes   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Annunciation

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:

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45 or 40:5-10

Hebrews 10:4-10

Luke 1:26-38

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The date of the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord is theological, not historical, as I have written elsewhere.  Scholarship regarding the development of the Western Christian calendar reveals that, by the 200s, March 25, according to popular Christian belief in the West, was the

beginning of creation, the date of the incarnation, and the date of the crucifixion, symbolically tying the creation and the new creation together.  The date thus became the new year’s day throughout Europe from the sixth century and remained so in England (and America) until 1752.

–Philip H. Pfatteicher, Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 315-316.

If one reads the pericope from Isaiah 7 in the context of that chapter, one reads a story about Ahaz, an impious King of Judah under threat from the forces of Aram and Israel.  Ahaz puts on airs of piety, prompting First Isaiah to retort,

Is it not enough for you to treat men as helpless, that you also treat my God as helpless?

–Isaiah 7:13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The divine sign (the one Ahaz refused to seek) of deliverance from the Syro-Ephraimite crisis is that a young woman in the court will give birth to a son, we read.  The crisis will end in Judah’s favor by the time that boy has moral reasoning, we read.

Ahaz was quite unlike the king of Psalm 45 and the author of Psalm 40–that is, pious men.  Yet, if he received a sign without asking, and while mocking God, one might have good cause to wonder what God will give to the righteous, not that obedience to God ensures an easy life.  (Ask Jesus.)

God has never been helpless–or has He?  (Untangling Trinitarian knots is risky theological business.)  Certainly the young incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity was helpless, for a time.  And Jesus seemed helpless on the cross, where, as the author of the thoroughly misnamed Letter to the Hebrews wrote, the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” has consecrated believers (10:10).

The Incarnation was paradoxical.  God assuming human form and becoming fully human–an infant, even–was paradoxical.  God simultaneously being in Heaven and on Earth was paradoxical.  God simultaneously being helpless and not helpless was paradoxical.  All these paradoxes were glorious.

So is the symbolic tying together of the creation and the new creation.  This tying together is something I do not pretend to understand, but that I affirm via faith, regardless of when the conception of Jesus actually occurred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/devotion-for-the-feast-for-the-annunciation-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Posted May 24, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 10, Isaiah 7, Luke 1, Psalm 40, Psalm 45

Tagged with ,

Hail Mary, Full of Grace….   2 comments

Above: The Annunciation, by El Greco

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Isaiah 7:10-17 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD spoke further to Ahaz.

Ask the LORD your God for a sign,

he said,

whether from Sheol below or from heaven above.

But Ahaz replied:

No, I will not put the LORD to the test by asking for a sign.

Then the prophet said:

Listen, you house of David.  Not content with wearing out the patience of men, must you also wear out the patience of men, must you also wear out the patience of my God?  Because you do, the Lord of his own accord will give you a sign; it is this:  A young woman is with child, and she will give birth to a son and call him Immanuel.  By the time he has learnt to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will eating curds and honey; before that child has learnt to reject evil and choose good, the territories of those two kings before whom you now cringe in fear will lie desolate.  The LORD will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house, a time the like of which has not been since Ephraim broke away from Judah.

Psalm 24 (Revised English Bible):

To the LORD belong the earth and everything in it,

the world and all its inhabitants.

For it was he who founded it on the seas

and planted it firm on the waters beneath.

Who may go up the mountain of the LORD?

Who may stand in his holy place?

One who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who has not set his mind on what is false

or sworn deceitfully.

Such a one shall receive blessing from the LORD,

and be vindicated by God his saviour.

Such is the fortune of those who seek him,

who seek the presence of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, you gates,

lift yourselves up, you everlasting doors,

that the king of glory may come in.

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD strong and mighty,

the LORD mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, you gates,

lift them up, you everlasting doors,

that the king of glory may come in.

Who is he, this king of glory?

The LORD of Hosts, he is the king of glory.

Luke 1:26-38 (Revised English Bible):

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, with a message for a girl betrothed to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David; the girl’s name was Mary.  The angel went in and said to her,

Greetings, most favoured one!  The Lord is with you.

But she was deeply troubled by what he said and wondered what this greeting could mean.  Then the angel said to her,

Do not be afraid, Mary, for God has been gracious to you; you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will be king over Israel for ever; his reign shall never end.”

Mary said,

How can this be?  I am still a virgin.

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason the holy child to be born will be called Son of God.  Moreover your kinswoman Elizabeth has herself conceived a son in her old age; and she who is reputed barren is now in her sixth month, for God’s promises can never fail.

Mary said,

I am the Lord’s servant; “may it be as you have said.

Then the angel left her.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I grew up a low church Protestant, specifically Southern rural United Methodist.  This happened in the context of a religious culture in which the Southern Baptists (especially the fundamentalist wing of that denomination) and their ways dominated, with Cleveland, Tennessee, Church of God-ers and their ilk not far behind.  This was a religious milieu in which the Mother of Our Lord and Savior received insufficient attention.

For a long time I did not pay her enough respect.  I have changed my ways since becoming an Episcopalian, however, for I am “one step from Rome,” as an old, fun ditty says:

I am an Anglican; I’m TEC;

I’m not high church, nor low church

but Catholic and Protestant and free.  I’m not a Luth’ran,

nor a Presby,

nor a Baptist white with foam.

I am an Anglican, just one step from Rome.

I am an Anglican, just one step from Rome.

–sung to the tune of “God Bless America,” by the way

Now the Hail Mary is part of my prayer life.

Jesus became the man he did in large part because of who Mary was.  May we honor her, the Mother of God, the Theotokos, and in some way the spiritual mother of us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-20/

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