Archive for the ‘Atonement’ Tag

The Seventh Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Astarte Syriaca, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XI

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Zechariah 5:5-11

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The seventh vision (Zechariah 5:5-11) raises eyebrows.  The tub, with a capacity of 23 liters (21 quarts) is too small to hold the woman, but it does, somehow.  The woman represents wickedness, soon transported to Babylonia, where she/it will get a shrine.  The text names the land of Shinar, the site of the mythical Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

I object to misogyny as much as the next self-respecting liberal.  Unfortunately, misogyny is a staple of some parts of the Bible and of much misinterpretation of certain Biblical texts.  Other details are more productive to explore in this post, however.

The shipping away of wickedness in a container echoes Leviticus 16, with the driving out of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement.  The woman is not a scapegoat, though. No, she is a goddess–probably Astarte, the alleged wife of YHWH.  Putting these two pieces of the puzzle together, we realize that this text is about laying aside both idolatry and guilt for past sins.  Populations and individuals cannot move forward into a better future until they have acknowledged their uncomfortable, painful pasts and vowed to do better.  Learning and applying the germane lessons of the past are crucial and within human power.  The ability to forgive comes from God, who models that behavior.  Yet truth must precede forgiveness.

The burden of guilt is heavy.  I know the burden of survivor’s guilt.  One part of my psyche tells me that I could and should have done more.  Another aspect of my psyche tells me that I did as well as I could with what I had and as best I knew.  That part of my psyche tells me that I did a good job for a long time.  These two aspects of my psyche argue inside my cranium.

Also, forgiving oneself can be more difficult than forgiving others.  Forgiving others can also be a hard task, of course.

The population First Zechariah originally addressed needed to forgive themselves and their ancestors.  The only way forward was through truth and the acknowledgment of it, followed by forgiveness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Fourth Servant Song   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IX

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) lists the Fourth Servant Song as one of three options for the reading from the Old Testament on Good Friday.  Another option is Genesis 22:1-18.  My thoughts on Abraham nearly killing his son, Isaac, are on record at this weblog.  The other option is the Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, 12-24, in which the wicked reject justice.  That reading fits Good Friday perfectly, for, as the Gospel of Luke emphasizes, the crucifixion of Jesus was a perversion of justice.  One may recall that, in the Gospel of Luke, for example, the centurion at the foot of the cross declares Jesus innocent (23:47), not the Son of God (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39).  As I will demonstrate in this post, the applicability of the Fourth Servant Song to Good Friday works thematically, too, but interpretive issues that have nothing to do with Jesus also interest me.

In the original context, the servant in Isaiah 53:13-53:12 is the covenant people during the Babylonian Exile.  The dominant theology in Second Isaiah (chapters 34-35, 40-55) is that the Babylonian Exile was justified yet excessive (40:2; 47:6)–that people had earned that exile.  The theology of Second Isaiah also argues that this suffering was vicarious, on behalf of Gentile nations in the (known) world.  In other words:

Yet the Israelites are still the focus in that these verses offer them a revolutionary theology that explains the hardships of exile:  The people had to endure the exile and the suffering it engendered because that suffering was done in service to God so that God, through their atoning sacrifice, could redeem the nations.

–Susan Ackerman, in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), 1031

Much of the Hebrew Bible, in its final, postexilic form, holds that the Babylonian Exile was divine punishment for persistent, collective, and unrepentant disregard for the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  This attitude is ubiquitous in the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  I know, for I am working on a project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in historical order (with some exceptions), starting with the Book of Hosea.

Yet Isaiah 53:7-9 contradicts that interpretation.  It rejects even 40:1-3 and 47:6, from within Second Isaiah.  Isaiah 53:7-9, not about Jesus, argues that the Babylonian Exile and its accompanying suffering was unjust and the people were innocent.  The thematic link to the atoning suffering of sinless Jesus is plain to see.

Let us not neglect the theme of the vicarious suffering of the Hebrews in the Babylonian Exile, though.  I can read; the text says that, through the suffering of these exiles, Gentile nations would receive divine forgiveness and the Hebrews would receive a reward–renewal.  I try to wrap my mind around this theology, yet do not know what to make of it.  I wrestle with this theology.

Atonement via vicarious suffering is a topic about which I have written at this weblog.  Reading in the history of Christian theology tells me that three theories of the atonement exist in the writings of Church Fathers.  These theories are, in no particular order:

  1. Penal Substitutionary Atonement,
  2. The Incarnation, and
  3. The Conquest of Satan (the Classic Theory, or Christus Victor).

I come closest to accepting the Classic Theory.  It has the virtue of emphasizing that the resurrection completed the atonement.  In other words, dead Jesus cannot atone for anything; do not stop at Good Friday.  I like the Eastern Orthodox tradition of telling jokes on Easter because the resurrection of Jesus was the best joke God ever pulled on Satan.  The second option strikes me as being part of the atonement, and the first option is barbaric.  I stand with those Christian theologians who favor a generalized atonement.

Whether the question is about the atoning, vicarious suffering of Jewish exiles or about the atoning, vicarious suffering of Jesus, perhaps the best strategy is to accept it, thank God, and live faithfully.  The Eastern Orthodox are correct; we Western Christians frequently try to explain too much we cannot understand.  Atonement is a mystery; we may understand it partially, at best.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MYLES HORTON, “FATHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUMENIOUS AND PARTHENIOS OF KOUDOUMAS, MONKS AND FOUNDERS OF KOUDOMAS MONASTERY, CRETE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF DAMASCUS, SYRIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1860

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS SPIRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF RUED LANGGAARD, DANISH COMPOSER

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Individual Responsibility Before God   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART III

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Ezekiel 3:18-21

Ezekiel 14:12-23

Ezekiel 18:1-32

Ezekiel 33:1-20

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For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for the ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

–Exodus 20:5b-6; Deuteronomy 5:9b-10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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Maybe not, not withstanding 1 Kings 21:29; Exodus 34:7; Nehemiah 9:17; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:9; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Jeremiah 11:21-23; Jeremiah 15:1; Jeremiah 35:18-19.  To the list of passages arguing against intergenerational reward and punishment I add Jeremiah 31:29-30.  (The Book of Jeremiah contains layers of composition and editing.  Parts of that book contradict each other, as in the cases of intergenerational reward and punishment, and whether the deadline for repentance has passed.)

Sin, responsibility, reward, and punishment, in the Bible, are both collective and individual.  The collective varieties are consistent with mutuality.  Individual varieties exist within the context of mutuality, too.

Intergenerational influences are real.  If you, O reader, know enough about yourself and your ancestors for a few generations, perhaps you can identify intergenerational influences, both positive and negative, in your life.  I can identify some in my life.

For the purpose of this post, I bring together four readings on the same theme.  Three of them predate the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B,B.E.).  Ezekiel 33 postdates the Fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 14:12-23 follows a section of threats against false prophets and diviners, and echoes Leviticus 26.  Certain individuals may be pious, but, if the population is rebellious against God, these holy people will save only themselves.  Divine punishment and reward are individual, we read.

I loved my father, now deceased.  He had his virtues and vices, like all human beings.  He was responsible for his actions.

I am responsible for my actions, not his.

This message of individual responsibility seems to have fallen primarily on deaf ears, despite repetition, within the Book of Ezekiel.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born an exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Think about how hearing these words would have resonated with you.  Imagine, perhaps, that this teaching would have given you hope that God would not judge you for what your ancestors had done wrong.  Imagine, maybe, that these words would have encouraged your spiritual journey.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born in Judea after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Imagine how you may have welcomed the news that, as you strove to live piously, God would judge you based on yourself, not your ancestors.

I am a Christian.  As one, I read passages about individual responsibility, reward, and punishment through the prism of atonement via Jesus.  The atonement–three theories of which exist in Patristic writings–is the game-changer in my theology regarding the topic of this post.  Nevertheless, I affirm that what I do matters.  The atonement does not give me a license to act as I choose.  I am still morally accountable to God and other human beings.  Faithful response to grace is a constant moral principle in Judaism and Christianity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESHCEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Stoicism and Platonism in Fourth Maccabees   Leave a comment

Above:  Zeno of Citium

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IV

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4 Maccabees 1:1-3:18; 13:1-14:10; 18:20-24

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The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, composed in 20-54 C.E., perhaps in Antioch, is a treatise.  It interprets Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy–Stoicism and Platonism, to be precise.  4 Maccabees elaborates on the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother, covered relatively succinctly in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, and set prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

Fourth Maccabees, composed by an anonymous Hellenistic Jew and addressed to other Hellenistic Jews, has two purposes:

  1. To exhort them to obey the Law of Moses (18:1), and
  2. To proclaim that devout reason is the master of all emotions (1:1-2; 18:2).

Cultural assimilation was a common temptation for Hellenistic Jews.  “Keep the faith,” the author urged more verbosely than my paraphrase.  For him, devout reason was a reason informed by the Law of Moses.  Devout reason, in the author’s mind, the highest form of reason was the sole province of faithful Jews.

Vicarious suffering is also a theme in 4 Maccabees.  In this book, the suffering and death of the martyrs purifies the land (1:11; 6:29; 17:21), vindicates the Jewish nation (17:10), and atones for the sins of the people (6:29; 17:22).  The last point presages Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of several Christian theologies of the atonement via Jesus.

The blending of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy is evident also in the treatment of the afterlife.  The Second Book of the Maccabees teaches bodily resurrection (7:9, 11, 14, 23, and 29).  One can find bodily resurrection elsewhere in Jewish writings (Daniel 12:2; 1 Enoch 5:1-2; 4 Ezra/2 Esdras 7:42; 2 Baruch 50:2-3).  The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, however, similar to the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4, teaches instant immortality, with reward or punishment.  The martyrs achieve instant instant immortality with reward (4 Maccabees 9:9, 22; 10:15; 14:15; 15:7; 16:13, 25; 17:12, 18; 18:23).  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, goes to everlasting torment (9:9, 29, 32; 10:11, 15; 11:3, 23; 12:18; 18:5).

Stoicism, in the Greek philosophical sense, has a different meaning than the average layperson may assume.  It is not holding one’s feelings inside oneself.  Properly, Stoicism teaches that virtue is the only god and vice is the only evil.  The wise are indifferent to pain and pleasure, to wealth and poverty, and to success and misfortune.  A Stoic, accepting that he or she could change x, y, and z, yet not t, u, and v.  No, a Stoic works to change x, y, and z.  A Stoic, therefore, is content in the midst of difficulty.  If this sounds familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of St. Paul the Apostle being content in pleasant and in unpleasant circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Stoicism shows up elsewhere in the New Testament and in early Christianity, too.  It is in the mouth of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Stoicism is also evident in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Why would it not be in the writings of St. Ambrose?  Greek philosophy informed the development of early Christian theology.  Greek philosophy continues to exist in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and Biblical commentaries.  Greek philosophy permeates the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews.  Greek philosophy is part of the Christian patrimony.

Platonism was the favorite form of Greek philosophy in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  Platonism permeated the works of St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) and his star pupil, Origen (185-254), for example.  Eventually, though, St. Albert the Great (circa 1200-1280) and his star pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), successfully made the case for Aristotle over Plato.  Holy Mother Church changed her mind after the deaths of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The Church, having embraced Aristotle over Plato, eventually rescinded the pre-Congregation canonization of St. Clement of Alexandria.  And the Church has never canonized Origen.  I have, however, read news stories of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland trying to convince The Episcopal Church to add Origen to the calendar of saints.  (The Episcopal Church already recognizes St. Clement of Alexandria as a saint.)

Platonism and Stoicism have four cardinal virtues–rational judgment, self-control, justice, and courage.  These appear in 4 Maccabees 1:2-4.  As I read these verses, I recognize merit in them.  Some emotions do hinder self-control.  Other emotions to work for injustice and obstruct courage.  News reports provide daily documentation of this.  Other emotions further the causes of justice and courage.  News reports also provide daily documentation of this.

I also affirm that reason should govern emotions.  I cite news stories about irrationality.  Emotions need borders, and must submit to objectivity and reason, for the best results.

4 Maccabees takes the reader on a grand tour of the Hebrew Bible to support this conclusion.  One reads, for example, of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-12; 4 Maccabees 2:1-6), Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7; 4 Maccabees 2:19-20), Moses (Numbers 16:1-35; Sirach 45:18; 4 Maccabees 2:17), David (2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 4 Maccabees 3:6-18).

Reason can effect self-control, which works for higher purposes.  One of these higher purposes is

the affection of brotherhood.

–4 Maccabees 13:19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In the case of the seven martyred brothers, as the author of 4 Maccabees told their story, these holy martyrs used rational judgment and self-control to remain firm in their faith.  Those brothers did not

fear him who thinks he is killing us….

–4 Maccabees 13:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That is the same courage and conviction present in Christian martyrs, from antiquity to the present day.

One may think of another passage:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

–Matthew 10:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Not surprisingly, many persecuted Christians derived much comfort and encouragement from 4 Maccabees.  These Christians had to rely on each other, just as the seven brothers did in 4 Maccabees.

Mutuality is a virtue in the Law of Moses and in Christianity.

I have spent the first four posts in this series laying the groundwork for the First, Second, and Fourth Books of Maccabees.  I have provided introductory material for these books.

Next, I will start the narrative countdown to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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The Resurrection of Christ and Our Atonement   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

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:

Acts 10:34-43 or Job 19:7-27c

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Corinthians 15:35-50

John 20:1-18

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I am usually at a loss for many words at Easter.  In this case, the readings are mostly self-explanatory.  For my comments on Job 19:7-17c, however, read the germane posts at this weblog.

Whenever I hear someone go on and on about the crucifixion of Jesus, especially regarding the Atonement, I have a critique.  That critique is to keep going.  Do not stop at the death of Jesus.  Dead Jesus cannot save anyone from anything.  No, the Resurrection completed the Atonement.

Christ is alive!  It’s true!  It’s true!

Happy Easter!  Enjoy all 50 days of the season.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 10, 2021

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

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

THE FEAST OF ALLEN WILLIAM CHATFIELD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF IGNATIOUS SPENCER, ANGLICAN THE  ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND APOSTLE OF ECUMENICAL PRAYER; AND HIS PROTEGÉE, ELIZABETH PROUT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE CROSS AND PASSION

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM GAY BALLANTINE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-year-d-humes/

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Grace and Enemies, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Bethany

Image in the Public Domain

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For Wednesday in Holy Week, Year 2

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

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

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Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation;

that we may enter with joy upon the mediation of those mighty acts,

whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947),160

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Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 55:1-14

1 John 4:7-11

Matthew 26:1-16

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The attitude in Isaiah 62:11-63:7 and Psalm 55 (in its entirety, not just verses 1-14) differs sharply from that in the other two readings.  In Isaiah 62:11-63:7, the love of God for Israel entails divine destruction of enemies (especially the Moabites) of Israel.  And, in Psalm 55, the love of God for an individual involves the destruction of his foe or foes.  In Matthew 26:1-16, however, divine love for people entails Jesus dying for them.  (I affirm a generalized atonement, not Penal Substitutionary Atonement.)  That sacrificial death is a topic in 1 John 4:7-11.

Do we affirm and trust that God loves us and our enemies?  Do we believe that our foes are within the grasp of redemption?  Do we prefer that our enemies reform or repent, or face destruction.  The answers to those questions reveal much about us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Proper for the Incarnation   2 comments

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Lord Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine,

thank you for the glorious mystery of your Incarnation,

essential to the Atonement, and therefore, our salvation.

May we, affirming your full humanity and full divinity without necessarily understanding them,

grow, by grace, into our full stature as human beings and achieve our full potential in God.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Genesis 1:26-31

Psalm 110

Hebrews 1:1-14

John 1:1-18

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Adapted from this post:

https://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/proper-for-the-incarnation/

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/proper-for-the-incarnation/

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Posted April 25, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 1, Hebrews 1, John 1, Psalm 110

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The Intersection of the Spiritual and the Physical II   Leave a comment

Above:  Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy Name,

increase in us true religion;

nourish us with all goodness,

and of thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 194

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Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm 28

Romans 6:3-11

Mark 6:31-44

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I detect a contrast between the scene in Exodus 20 and the scene in Mark 6:31-44.  The scene in Exodus 20, the giving of the Ten Commandments, was one in which the people at the base of the mountain had orders to keep their distance (19:21f).  The scene in Mark 6:31-44 (one of the four accounts of the Feeding of the 5000) is one in which Jesus was close to the people.  May we remember, O reader, that the same Jesus was the instrument of the Atonement, which St. Paul the Apostle mentioned in Romans 6:3-11.

God is our strong shield, Psalm 28 tells us.  We read in Mark 6:31-44, among other segments of the Gospels, that Jesus cared about both spiritual and physical needs.  Indeed, people must eat.

Physical and spiritual needs are related to each other.  We are physical beings, for we have bodies.  We are mainly spiritual, though.  We are spiritual beings having spiritual experiences, not physical beings having spiritual experiences.  The image of God in me recognizes the image of God in you, O reader.  And physical experiences often have spiritual components.

I have heard of Christian missionaries who have found that meeting physical needs has been necessary before they could preach effectively.  Medical supplies and equipment for drilling wells have paved the ways for the proclamation of the Gospel many times.  Why not?  Tending to physical needs, as able, is living according to the Golden Rule.

On other occasions, however, physical needs may seem to work against spiritual needs.  I write these words during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.  My bishop has acted responsibly; he has forbidden in-person services for a while.  I am one of the churchiest people around, so I miss attending services.  Furthermore, the Holy Eucharist is one of the pillars of my spiritual being.  My week does not go as well when I do not take communion.  Maintaining faith community can be difficult during a time of isolation.  My faith does not falter, for I do not imagine that a pandemic negates the existence and mercy of God.  I do become lonely and pine for the Holy Eucharist, though.

The physical and the spiritual overlap considerably.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF LUCY LARCOM, U.S. ACADEMIC, JOURNALIST, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Regarding Faith and Reason II   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image in the Public Domain

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For Easter Sunday, Year 1

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

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

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Almighty God, who through the resurrection of thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ,

hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life;

assist and support us, we beseech thee, the aspirations of thy heavenly grace,

that dying unto sin always, and living unto righteousness,

we may at last triumph over death and the grave, in the full image of our risen Lord:

to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 163

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Isaiah 25:1-9

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

John 20:1-10

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If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

–1 Corinthians 15:19-20, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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I am, to a great extent, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  I make no apologies for this; I value science, evidence, objective reality, liberty of conscience, constitutional government, human reason, the separation of powers, and the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and dissent.  Call me a radical, if you wish, O reader.  I call myself an Episcopalian.  I get to believe in Jesus and accept fossil records, rock layers, geological time, dinosaurs, and evolution.  I am a modernist in both the Enlightenment and late nineteenth-century meanings of that word.

I do not pretend, however, that my intellectual categories are sufficient for all circumstances.  My scientific, Enlightenment, and historical categories prove helpful most of the time.  As I age, however, I find, much to my surprise, that mysticism is becoming a more prominent component of my spirituality.

I also understand the difference between faith and proof.  I need no faith to accept that which I can prove.  I can also disprove many subjective claims by citing objective evidence.  Faith his how believes that which is true yet one can neither prove nor disprove.

I know that human nature is corrupted (despite what certain Enlightenment philosophers argued) because I study the past and have something of a grasp of current events.  I have as much of a grasp of current events as I can without crossing the line into my spiritual and psychological detriment.  I have as much of a grasp of current events as possible without risking turning into General George Patton’s ideal man–one who can swear profanely for three minutes consistently without repeating any word.  Human depravity is a certainty–a fact–for me; it is not an article of faith for me.  On the other hand, I accept the existence of God on faith.  In fact the I reject the possibility of proving the existence of God logically.

Likewise, I believe (trust, literally) in the resurrection of Jesus.  I do so by faith.  I do not know that the resurrection is true; I believe (trust) that it is.  I stake everything on it being true.  I know that Jesus was a historical figure, but I believe that he was the incarnate Son of God, crucified and resurrected.

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the relatively few Christian doctrines one must accept to be a Christian.  The Virgin Birth is an optional doctrine, for example, but the Incarnation is not.  One may also choose to accept or reject the Immaculate Conception of St. Mary of Nazareth and be a Christian either way.  (Yes, I understand the difference between the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth.  The first sets the stage for the second.)  As I was writing, the resurrection of Jesus, like the Incarnation, is mandatory for inclusion in the Christian faith.  Without the resurrection, we have a dead Jesus, who cannot save anyone from any sins and their consequences.  The resurrection completes the atonement, according to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor.

The resurrection also contradicts and violates most of my intellectual categories.  So be it.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT THE AFRICAN, FRANCISCAN FRIAR AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ALFRED C. MARBLE, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI THEN ASSISTING BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF ERNEST W. SHURTLEFF, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF SIDNEY LOVETT, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND CHAPLAIN OF YALE UNIVERSITY

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Innocence   5 comments

Above:  A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

Liturgy of the Palms:

Luke 19:28-44

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:1-13

Luke 23:1-56

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Some texts are standard for Palm/Passion Sunday on the Humes lectionary.  The account of the Triumphal Entry varies from year to year; each of the four versions gets its year.  Likewise, the Gospel reading varies each year.  It is always the Passion, though.  The readings from Psalm 31, Psalm 118, Isaiah 50, and Philippians 2 are evergreen, though.

I focus on Luke 23:1-56 in this post.

The Gospel of Luke hits us over the head with Jesus’s innocence.  Christ’s innocence is a theme in 23:4, 14-15, 22, 40-42, and 47.  Whenever the Bible keeps repeating a theme, we need to pay attention to that theme.

The execution of Jesus was a travesty and an example of judicial murder.

There is an interesting moral and legal question:  Is it better for a court to convict an innocent person or to acquit a guilty person?  The answer is obvious:  the latter.  Innocence should always lead to the absence of a conviction, incarceration, and execution.  I gaze with moral horror at those who would ever approve of convicting any innocent person.

The crucifixion of Jesus has more than one meaning.  It is, for example, a component of the atonement; the resurrection equals the final act.  The crucifixion of Christ should also spur us on to affirm that convicting and punishing the innocent is never acceptable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND CONDUCTOR

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/devotion-for-palm-passion-sunday-year-c-humes/

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