Archive for the ‘Athens Georgia’ Tag

Life Does Not Consist of the Abundance of Possessions   Leave a comment

Parable of the rich man *oil on panel *31.9 x 42.5 cm *signed b.l.: RH. 1627.

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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Luke 12:13-21 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition, 2002):

One of the multitude said to him [Jesus],

Teacher, bid my brother divide my inheritance with me.

But he [Jesus] said to him,

Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?

And he [Jesus] said to them,

Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist of his possessions.

And he [Jesus] told them a parable, saying,

The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops.?”  And he said, “I will do this; I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.'”  But God said to him, “Fool!  This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

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Luke 6:20, 21, 24, 25a (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition, 2002):

And he [Jesus] lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said:

Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.

But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.

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The quote from which I have taken the title of this post comes from the Parable of the Rich Fool, the entirety of which I have quoted above.  The Rich Fool has more than enough food at the same time that many people in his vicinity lack a sufficient supply thereof.  He could keep enough food to meet his own needs and share the rest with the hungry, but he chooses not to do that.  He trusts in material possessions, not God.  His wealth is his security blanket; his abundance shelters him psychologically from the prospect of hunger and poverty.  In the end he dies (as we all will do) and cannot take anything with him.

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions.  One way to learn this lesson is to move.  Having to pack up one’s belongings, transport them, and unpack them can teach one how much one has and how inconvenient (even detrimental to one’s quality of life) too many of them can be.  I have moved often during my life, going back to my childhood; my father was a minister in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  I recall moving every two or three years (on average) and realizing that I moved with more possessions each time.  I also recall that, as I prepared to leave East Dublin, Georgia, for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, in 2005, I donated many possessions to a thrift store and felt proud of myself for doing that.  Furthermore, I recall that, after I arrived in Athens-Clarke County, I wondered why I had not been more generous to that thrift store.

I have reduced my appetites for material possessions and become fonder of open space in recent years.  The largest category of my possessions is and has long been books.  I have come by this naturally, given the bookishness of my family.  I reduced my library from its height at more than 2500 volumes to about 1000 books a few years ago.  Then, over time, I added to the library before reducing it to about 1000 volumes again a few months ago.  Those nearly 1000 books fill seven tall book cases and a smaller one.  I have concluded that approximately 1000 volumes is the proper size of my library.  Given the size of my living space, having space for a sofa is more important to me than keeping more books.  Living in a relatively small space does help to provide one with a useful sense of discipline in these matters.

I have been inside the home of a hoarder, a woman with a mental illness.  (She has an emotional attachment to her trash.)  Her disorder has placed her health and that of her son at risk and detracted from the quality of their lives.  Certainly, to be able to walk easily in every room of the house and sleep on more than one side of one’s bed (because of the possessions occupying the rest of the bed) would improve the quality of life.  I avoid that house, for the messiness annoys me and something in the air makes me feel ill.

Life certainly does not consist of clutter.  In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), the loose basis of Blade Runner (1982), which is not as dark as its source material, Philip K. Dick has a character, J. S. Sebastian, explain a theory of clutter:  it reproduces asexually.  Sometimes clutter seems to do that, does it not?  A problem with clutter is that it is in the way.  I know of a large, two-story home in Athens-Clarke County.  The wide corridors function as storage space, as do some of the downstairs rooms.  There is no more room in the storeroom.  Much of the contents of the storeroom is inaccessible.  The resident is not a clinical hoarder, however.  She has many possessions, a physical disability, a lifelong tendency toward disorder, and a desire to clean up her home.  I help her off-and-on to rein in the problem.  There is so much to do until we make the interior of the house resemble something other than an anarchistic warehouse.   She is, however, making plans to sell some large pieces of furniture and not to replace them.  Furthermore, I have carried many items away and donated them to thrift stores on her behalf.

I look around my living space and thank God for open space and horizontal surfaces lacking clutter.

One might do well to think of clutter metaphorically also.  To simplify one’s interior life–to avoid the temptation to fill the rooms, corridors, nooks, and crannies of one’s being with activities that get in the way of a healthy spiritual life–is a virtue.  One should not be so busy that one cannot stop and listen to God.  God speaks to us, but we do not hear Him if we do not listen.  We do not stop to listen for God’s voice if we are doing something else.  We do not make room for God in our spiritual interiors if we clutter those spaces.  Many people who do not attend religious services on a regular basis report that they are too busy to do so.  Too busy for God is too busy.

The Rich Fool was not rich toward God.  He was one of those who had received his consolation (Luke 6:24) and was the subject of one of the Woes following the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Luke.  The Rich Fool was a man with misplaced priorities–toward possessions, human beings, and God.  The Rich Fool crowded out God with, for lack of a better word, stuff.  He chose poorly.

Life is in God, not the abundance of possessions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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A Prayer for Those Who Suffer from Exposure to the Elements   1 comment

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Above:  The Hearth-Stone of the Poor–Waste Steam Not Wasted (1876), by Sol Eytinge, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-106379

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I wrote this prayer today, during a time especially cold weather in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  There was a freeze warning last night.  Another one will follow tonight, with the promise of relatively warm, yet still cold, temperatures next week.  My home is a properly warm one, I am glad to say, but many people who live within a radius of a few miles are not as fortunate.  Meanwhile, Matthew 25:31-46 has been on my mind.

KRT

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Most compassionate God, father and mother whose quality is to be merciful,

we pray for all those who suffer from exposure to the elements.

Many of us who enjoy proper shelter take our manifold blessings for granted.

Those much less fortunate than we are might even live in close proximity to us

and we might dwell in blissful obliviousness to this reality.

Thus, when the cold, the heat, the snow, the wind, and the rain come

many of our fellow children of God do suffer mightily

as we, in our homes, enjoy a different reality

and might be unaware of this fact or just choose not to recognize it.

May our communities become more just.

 May we care for each other more effectively,

provide necessary and morally proper opportunities to our neighbors,

and obey the commandments of our brother, Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ,

to his glory and the benefit of our communities.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF NATE SAINT AND THE OTHER MARTYRS OF THE ECUADOR MISSION, PROTESTANT MISSIONARIES

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Adapted from this post:

https://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/a-prayer-for-those-who-suffer-from-exposure-to-elements/

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Posted January 8, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 25, Prayers on Various Topics

Tagged with

Rock   Leave a comment

Rock January 19, 2014

Above:  The Rock in Question, January 19, 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Yesterday a certain thought occurred to me.  I enjoy writing,  so why not use the camera in my laptop computer and take some pictures to use as prompts for poems?  Some of those texts have proven appropriate for BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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And God saw that it was good.

–Genesis 1:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Rock I found in the woods nearby,

you prompt me to wonder:

If you could see,

what you have seen?

If you could hear,

what would you have heard?

How old are you?

And where have you been?

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Compared to you, O rock,

we mortals as as transient grass.

Yet both of us are parts of nature;

may human awareness not pass

without admitting that fact sure

even as I acknowledge that the task

reality to reflect on and ponder

is beyond you, not that I mock.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER, U.S. STATESMAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY OF UPPSALA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT WULFSTAN OF WORCESTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Posted January 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 1

Tagged with

Desk   Leave a comment

Desk II January 18, 2014

Above:  My Desk, January 18, 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Yesterday a certain thought occurred to me.  I enjoy writing,  so why not use the camera in my laptop computer and take some pictures to use as prompts for poems?  Some of those texts have proven appropriate for BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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In my home there is a desk

which a friend (now deceased)

gave to me shortly after I moved in,

in August 2007, over six years ago.

I do acknowledge, lest

I forget, that objects needed

and received are often free; sin

it would be gratitude to forgo.

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It came from the Presbyterian Student Center

at UGA; how appropriate, then, that studying

happens there frequently as one tries to master

some aspects of knowledge, facts in one’s head to ring.

And how correct that there I draft many a devotion

and study a prayer book and a hymnal new or old,

especially when facing pictures of fathers and sons

whose lineage led to me, a member of the fold.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER, U.S. STATESMAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY OF UPPSALA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT WULFSTAN OF WORCESTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

Desk I January 18, 2014

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Some Poor Liturgical Choices in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC)   Leave a comment

Snapshot_20131018

Above:  The Dedication Plate Inside a Copy of The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (1986)

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I am somewhat traditional in certain matters and not in others.  Thus, for example, I accept that homosexuality is inborn, not a choice.  Homosexuals have as much say in their orientation as I do in mine–none.  So I am quite progressive regarding homosexual rights, a civil rights issue in my mind.  I am quite secure in my heterosexuality, not fearing that extending protections to those who differ from me in that regard will threaten me in any way.  And I think nothing of attending church with homosexuals, for I have broken the body of Christ with a goodly number of them for years.  I continue in this practice each week.

Last Saturday I visited a local thrift store.  I, after dropping off some items, started shopping.  I found some especially interesting additions to the hymnals and service books section of my library, in fact.  Two of these volumes have prompted this post.  They are evangelical, non-denominational hymnals:

  1. Praise! Our Songs and Hymns (Grand Rapids, MI:  Singspiration Music, 1979); and
  2. The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music, 1986).

My copies of these hymnals came from congregations of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), a denomination founded for homosexuals in 1968.

I have had some contact with that denomination in Athens, Georgia.  The local UFMCC congregation has worshiped near the University of Georgia (UGA) campus for years.  Currently it meets at the chapel of the Episcopal Center.   The pastor is a nice lady and the church members seem wonderful also.  My only critique of them is liturgical.  Although they have the good taste to celebrate communion weekly, their bulletins (available at their website) indicate the use of contemporary praise music–“seven-eleven” songs.  This I cannot and will not abide.

My Internet survey of UFMCC congregations has led me to conclude that the Athens congregation’s worship habits are not unusual for the denomination.  I have read of contemporary and/or blended worship often.  Other websites have indicated some high church tendencies here and there, but apparently in insufficient proportion for my tastes.

In this regard the UFMCC is far from alone.  Although I recognize the value of a range of denominations, I stand firmly on my liturgical ground–European classicism.  Some might claim that I am a liturgical snob, as if that is a bad thing.  If I am a liturgical snob, I claim that mantle gladly and wonder why others do not do likewise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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Below:  The Dedication Plate Inside a Copy of Praise! Our Songs and Hymns (1979)

Snapshot_20131018_1

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Idolatry Among Us   1 comment

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Above:  Astarte (1902), by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133676

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 5:2-9 (Protestant Versification)/Micah 5:1-8 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 72

Luke 13:31-35

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-1/

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed be your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled

with your glory.  Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The reading from Luke 13 prompts me to think of the Classic Theory of the Atonement, a.k.a. the Conquest of Satan and Christus Victor.  This interpretation dates to early Christianity, for Origen, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr argued for it.  I have read more recent iterations of it in the works of Gustav Aulen and N. T. Wright.  As St. Irenaeus (died 202 C.E.) wrote:

The Word of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring men to life, for we were tied and bound in sin, we were born in sin and live under the dominion of death.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 109

Perfidious men–men, not people generically (I like to use gendered language precisely)–plotted to kill Jesus.  They succeeded in that goal.  Yet our Lord and Savior did not remain dead for long.  So those perfidious men failed ultimately.

God wins ultimately, despite our best human attempts to thwart that result.  Such is the best definition of the sovereignty of God I can muster.

Micah 5:1-8/5:2-9 (depending on the versification in the translation one reads) sounds reassuring for the Hebrew nation in the late eighth century B.C.E.-early seventh century B.C.E., the timeframe for Isaiah 1-39.  Woe be unto any Assyrian invaders, it says.  If one continues to read, however, one discovers that the Assyrians are not the only ones who should quake in fear of divine retribution, which will fall also on the homefront as well:

In anger and fury I shall wreak vengeance

on the nations who disobey me.

–Micah 5:15, The Revised English Bible

The disobedience in Micah 5 took various forms, including idolatry.

Idols range from false deities to anything which anyone lets stand between him or her and God.  I live in Athens, Georgia, a football-mad town.  Often I note the tone of reverence regarding University of Georgia athletics in the local press.  And frequently have I heard sports fans liken sports to religion.  It is one for many of them.  And, ironically, the Bible functions as an idol for many honest seekers of God.  The Scriptures are supposed to be as icons, through which people see God, but their function varies according to the user thereof.

Religion is a basic human need.  Even many militant fundamentalist Atheists possess the same irritating zeal as do many fundamentalists of theistic varieties.  I stand in the middle, rejecting both excessive skepticism and misplaced certainty, overboard materialism and rationality with the haunting fear that having sex standing up will lead to (gasp!) dancing.  So I reject idols on either side of my position while know that I need to examine my own position for the presence of idols, as abstract as they might be.

Perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge is to identify and reject all idols, which do not seem as what they are to us because the most basic assumptions people carry do not look like assumptions to us.  Thus we justify ourselves to ourselves while we stand in serious error.  Sometimes our idols and false assumptions, combined with fears, lead us commit violence–frequently in the name of God or an imagined deity, perhaps understood as being loving.

We are really messed up.  Fortunately, there is abundant grace available to us.  But can we recognize that if idolatry blinds us spiritually?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF HANNAH, MOTHER OF SAMUEL

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/devotion-for-january-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Mark, Part I: Liberation Via Jesus   2 comments

christ-church-norcross-ga

Above:  Christ Episcopal Church, Norcross, Georgia, March 11, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreVisitsChristChurchNorcross#5718734851583930626)

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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:

Exodus 1:1-22

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 14:12-31

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/

A Prayer to See Others As God Sees Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/a-prayer-to-see-others-as-god-sees-them/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-the-holy-eucharist/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent/

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Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

–Total Depravity Paragraph, A Brief Statement of Belief (1962), Presbyterian Church in the United States

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The midwives who spared Hebrew boys were heroines.  Too often readers of Exodus might read past the names of Shiphrah and Puah quickly.  Yet may we pause and repeat these names with much respect.  They put themselves at great risk for strangers.  It was the right thing to do.

Jesus, in the other main reading, was about to put himself at risk.  (Look ahead:  Gethsemane occurs in the next day’s Gospel lection.)  He put himself at risk for those he knew and many more he did not–in his generation and succeeding ones.  First, though, he instituted the Holy Eucharist, a sacrament in which we take him (literally) into our bodies.  If we are what we eat and drink, may the Holy Eucharist make us more like our Lord and Savior.

I have heard and pondered a convincing theological case that the Exodus is the central theme of the Christian Bible.  the miracle of the Exodus, according to the Book of Exodus, is not that the waters parted.  14:21 speaks of

a strong east wind

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures),

an attempt at a natural explanation.  (If one accepts nature as an expression of God, divine workings through nature are natural, not supernatural; no they are just a form of natural we might not understand in the way in which we grasp other natural events.)  No, the miracle of the Exodus is that God freed the Hebrews from slavery.

Is not the message of the living Jesus (from the Incarnation to the Resurrection) liberation?  Is it not the message of liberation from societal sin (including economically exploitative and/or religiously-backed systems), not just personal peccadilloes?  As a supporter of civil rights for all people, I know that this conviction has fueled movements to end Jim Crow in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa, to name just two examples.  ”Sacrament” derives from the Latin word for or an oath or a solemn obligation.  (Thanks to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language for that information.)  The solemn obligation I make every time I partake of the Holy Eucharist is to follow my Lord, including in social liberation for my fellow human beings.

Recently I spent a rather intense two days working on a local history project for a fellow parishioner.  Athens, Georgia, is the home of the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, an abandoned resting place for the remains of African Americans in Clarke County.  I prepared a spreadsheet presenting information (derived from death certificates issued from 1919 to 1927) and available from the State of Georgia online) for 236 people.  How old were they when they died?  Why did they die?  What did they do for a living?  As I worked two-hour shifts I learned a great deal.  And I wondered what their lives were like.  Many were former slaves.  Others had been born after emancipation.  But all who died between 1919 and 1927 lived at the height of Jim Crow in Georgia.  And I know that many self-described God-fearing white Christians defended Jim Crow, as many had done for the same relative to slavery.  Some argued that God had ordained slavery and segregation–or just segregation.  (I have read some of these defenses.  I have note cards full of citations and can point to secondary studies on the subject.)  Those whites, I am convinced, did not love all of their neighbors as they loved themselves, for they would not have subjected themselves to such an oppressive system and second-class citizenship.

I wonder what my racial attitudes would have been had I been born in 1873, not 1973.  It is easy for me to be a racially liberal white person in 2012, but what would I have thought in Georgia in 1912, given the socialization then?  Damning racist forebears is like picking low-hanging fruit, not that there is anything wrong with that.  Yet I need to examine my own attitudes for the higher-hanging fruit.  Everyone needs to examine himself or herself for negative attitudes.  Which neighbors (especially as defined by groups) do we love less than others? And which, if any, do we dismiss, despise, or consider inferior?  Which, if any, do we think unworthy of fewer civil liberties and civil rights?  Do not all of us bear the image of God?  Yet we approve of these sinful hierarchies and place ourselves in privileged positions at the expense of others.

The liberation via Jesus is not just of others from ourselves and of each of us from our personal peccadilloes; it is also liberation from ourselves, our biases, our prejudices, and our blind spots.  It is liberation to love all our neighbors, people who bear the image of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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A Preacher’s Kid’s Defense of Clerical Continence   4 comments

Above:  A Pulpit

I begin with definitions, for the meanings of words matter to me very much.  The question of factual accuracy is vital, especially when building a subjective case.  One might disagree with my opinion, but may my facts be iron-clad.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.  So, courtesy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, here are some definitions.

  1. Clerical.  adj.  2.  Of, relating to, or characteristic of the clergy or a clergyman.

  2. Celibacy.  n.  The condition of being unmarried, especially by reason of religious vows.

  3. Continent.  adj.  2.  Partially or completely abstaining from sexual activity.

A person can be celibate while not being sexually continent.  And two people can be married while being sexually continent, as in the case of “white marriages.”   So sexual continence (often paired with celibacy) pertains more to the case I will make than does celibacy.

I support widespread and affirmed sexual continence among members of the clergy of various denominations.   This might be an ironic case for me to make, one might argue.  I am, after all, a Preacher’s Kid, albeit one who predates his father’s clergy status.  My experiences explain why I affirm clerical continence, for I know what it is like to live under unrealistic expectations of lay people.  And I do not argue for mandatory continence, for allegedly one-size-fits-all solutions do not work for all affected people.  Yet I do state that nobody should look askance at a member of the clergy who has chosen to live as a single and continent person.

Some people do look askance at them.  Many Evangelical and Fundamentalist congregations expect their pastors to be married.  So many single Evangelical ministers have difficulty getting hired.  Homophobia plays a role in some of these attitudes, for the suspicion among some is a single man of a certain age must be a homosexual.  But another factor is acclimation to a certain religious subculture, complete with a certain common pattern of human relationships.

Marriage is a sacrament, one to which many members of the clergy have a vocation.  But many also have the opposite vocation.  Both come from God.  I will not chase a rabbit too long here and now, but the biblical teachings regarding sexual activities are not a clear-cut as many people think.  Read Genesis 38, for example.  And, for orders to stone people who have committed various sexual infractions, read Deuteronomy 22:13-30.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in rural southern Georgia.  Each house was more like a fishbowl than a home.  The expectations of many church members was that I ought to be super holy.  (It is difficult to grow up with those unrealistic expectations.)  And people volunteered me for more Christmas plays and other church activities than I counted.  Would it have been too much to ask that people ask me, not assume?

Even worse, the frequent moving (about every two or three years) was devastating.  The causes were issues pertaining entirely neither to my father or to certain lay people, but I did know of some individuals who had been primarily responsible for moving successive ministers.  Having to start at a new school and to meet new people was painful for me, an introvert.  So I withdrew into my own head after a little while; life was easier that way.  I have spent the last few years  unlearning those emotional self-defense tactics I adopted as a child and adolescent.  They had their time and places; what else was I supposed to do?

Yet circumstances have changed.  As I type these words I have lived in the same town for almost seven years.  I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, longer than I have lived anywhere else.  And I want to remain as long as that is prudent, which will hopefully be for a long time to come.

These have been my reflections; I have spoken only for myself.  My mother had a different yet overlapping set of issues, to which I do not presume to speak.  When I reached adulthood I flirted briefly with clergy status.  For a time I pondered the Episcopal priesthood.  Indeed, I would be more likely to succeed as an Episcopal priest than as a United Methodist minister, especially in Georgia–and especially in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, as opposed to the more conservative and less cosmopolitan Diocese of Georgia.  But I chose not to pursue the clergy path, even as an Episcopal deacon.  The liberation of being among the laity has long appealed to me.

My most basic argument for widespread and affirmed clerical continence is that is generally better that parsonage families not exist than that they do.  The price members of parsonage families pay is too high.  That has been my experience.

The statistical likelihood is that you, O reader, are a lay person if you are a Christian.  (Indeed, this blog is unapologetically Christian.)  I hope that, if your priest or pastor is married, you will consider these perspectives from a Preacher’s Kid and act toward your parsonage or rectory family as an angel, not one who lays unrealistic expectations on them.  They face challenges with which you might not be able to identify.  Yet you can support your parsonage or rectory family with words, deeds, and prayers.  And you can prevent some needless relocations.  Please do that in any situation.  An unnecessary move is rough on a family and a single person alike.

I conclude with a reading recommendation.  For a glimpse into being a collar-wearing member of the clergy read Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church.  It describes another set of challenges to which I do not presume to speak.  Yet, based on my experiences, I relate to the memoir.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANFRANC OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET POLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

There Is No Such Beauty As Where You Belong   1 comment

Above:  The Reverend Beth Long, Rector of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, with Mr. Andrew Lane, also of St. Gregory the Great Church, at the 2012 Georgia Interfaith Power and Light Sixth Annual GIPPY Awards, Atlanta, Georgia, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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I had to absent myself from church one recent Sunday morning.  Allergies attached me when I had a dearth of over-the-counter medications.  So, instead of going to church, I drove to a local Dollar General store and purchased what I needed.  I would have been bad company in church that morning.  My absence meant that I was not in the choir to sing an anthem which contained a memorable line:

There is no such beauty as where you belong.

This line, unlike many others I have read, heard, and sung, has remained with me.  And I think I know why.

I arrived in Athens, Georgia, in Fall 2005 to pursue a Ph.D. in history at The University of Georgia.  That dream died during a sad and frustrating saga of personality conflicts, historical disciplinary disagreements, and the perfidious action of one professor (whose name I will not reveal in any print or online source) with a weak ego.  Since then I have had an off-and-on internal debate as to whether I belong in Athens.  My father, who lives in Americus, in the opposite corner of the state, is ailing and my mother is his caregiver.  Should I start over there?  Ought I to live closer to my family?

I have established a personal network in Athens.  Having lived longer in Athens than I have lived anywhere else, I have come to like being rooted.  And I have belonged to and attended the same congregation–St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church–all that time.  It is a wonderful group of people.  There I fit in culturally.  The choir performs wonderful music and has earned a community-wide reputation for excellence.  And, at St. G’s, I am no longer (as I was too often in South Georgia) the resident heretic; there are plenty of people to my left, and I have not changed my mind much since shortly before August 2005.  The parish is also a leader in environmental stewardship through its recycling program and plan to add solar panels soon.  And I participate in the card ministry, mailing get-well cards.  I serve also as a Eucharistic Minister, put stray Prayer Books and hymnals in their proper places, and rearrange chairs (we have chairs, not pews) at the priest’s request from time to time.  And I even tell puns to those who appreciate them.  I have become accustomed to the place.

I belong in Athens and at St. G’s, at least for now.  I am where I belong.  There is no such beauty as where I belong, and I rejoice in the fact that I live in it.  Deo gratias!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOMAS KEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF BATH AND WELLS

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POSTSCRIPT

A few weeks ago I donated my 1969-2002 run of the Journals of the South Georgia Conference, The United Methodist Church, to the UGA Main Library.  The fact that I felt comfortable doing that indicated how much my attitude toward that institution of higher learning had changed and have changed.

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2012 COMMON ERA

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“St. Gregory is Going Green”–Athens Banner-Herald, April 6, 2012:

http://onlineathens.com/faith/2012-04-05/st-gregory-going-green

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