Archive for the ‘Beatitudes’ Tag

The Communion of Saints, Part III   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

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Gendered language does not bother me.  Gender is, after all, a reality of human life.  Besides, neutering language frequently blurs the divide between the singular and the plural, hence my objections to the singular “they,” “them,” “their” and “themselves.”  One can–and should–be inclusive linguistically in such a way as to respect the difference between the singular and the plural.  I do understand the issue of clarity, however.  I know that how members of one generation, in a particular cultural context, perceive a gendered term, such as “sons,” differs greatly from how others elsewhere, at another time, do.  Certain modern English translations of the Bible, in an admirable attempt to be inclusive, obscure subleties of gendered terms sometimes.  However, translating a text literally does not make those subtleties clear, either.  Commentaries are necessary for that.

Consider, for example, Romans 8:14-17, O reader.  In that passage the Greek for “sons of God” often comes across in modern English as “children of God.”  Likewise, we read “children” when the Greek word means “sons.”  The cultural context, in which sons, but not daughters, inherited, is vital to understanding that portion of scripture, in which Christians, whether they are biologically sons or daughters, inherit, via Jesus.  Thus “sons of God” includes daughters.  None of that is superficially evident, however.

In contrast, “children,” as in “children of God, as opposed to “children of Satan,” in 1 John 3:1 and 3:10 is a literal translation from the Greek; the Greek word is not gender-specific.  That fact is not superficially evident, however, given the recent tendency to gloss over gendered language.  A commentary is necessary to understand that aspect of 1 John 3:1 and 3:10.

Our societies condition us in ways that frequently do not apply to the cultural contexts that informed ancient texts.

In 1929 Lesbia Scott wrote:

They lived not only in ages past,

There are hundreds of thousands still,

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,

For the saints of God are just folk like me,

And I mean to be one too.

The apocalyptic hope present in Daniel 7, the community focus of Psalm 34, and the counter-cultural values of the Beatitudes should encourage us to persist is fidelity to God, to do so in faith community, and without resorting to serial contrariness, to lead lives that reject those cultural values contrary to the message of the Beatitudes.  We must do this for the glory of God and the benefit of people near, far away, and not yet born.  And, when our earthly pilgrimage ends, others will take up the cause we join what Hebrews 12:1 calls

a great cloud of witnesses.

Members of that great cloud of witnesses are sons and daughters of God–inheritors of the promise, by the grace of God.  Certain cultures restrict inheritance rights according to gender, but God does not.  Each of us, by grace and faith, can be among the sons of God and the children of the light.

And I mean to be one, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Attachments, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity:

Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, that we,

running the way of your commandments, may obtain your gracious promises,

and become partakers of your heavenly treasure;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

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1 Samuel 9:15-17; 10:1

Psalm 17

Romans 8:14-39

Luke 18:18-30

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For I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is in store for us.

–Romans 8:18, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Suffering can have a multitude of possible causes; one might be innocent, one might have brought one’s fate on oneself, or reality might be complicated.  One might suffer for the sake of righteousness, due to political perfidy, or one’s misplaced spiritual attachments, among other reasons.

Let us consider wealth, one of the issues in Luke 18:18-30.  We are reading from the Gospel of Luke, which tells us that the poor are blessed (6:20) and the rich (woe to them, the text says) have received their consolation (6:24).  Wealth and poverty are major themes in the Gospel of Luke.  The greater matter in this story, however, is attachment–in this case, to wealth.  To reduce the question to wealth is to oversimplify it and let many people off the hook.  Anything that becomes a crutch, thereby preventing one from acknowledging one’s total dependence on God, is functionally a spiritual problem.

Although we read in Luke 18:23 that the man went away sorrowful, the story is open-ended.  One might wonder if he eventually reordered his priorities.  One function of open-ended stories in the Bible is to invite the reader/listener into the narrative, and thereby to ask him or her how he or she will respond to any given story.

This story challenges me, for I have my own attachments.  You, O reader, also have your attachments.  All of us have attachments that stand between us and God.  The story should therefore challenge all of us.  How will we deal with the challenge?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Jesus, Threat   1 comment

Christ Before Pilate

Above:  Christ Before Pilate, by Mihaly Munkracsy

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through your Son, 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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:21-27

Psalm 126

John 11:45-47

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When the LORD restored Zion

it was as though we were dreaming.

We could not speak for laughing,

we could only utter cries of joy.

Then the saying arose among the nations,

“The LORD has done something great with these people.”

The LORD has done something great with us;

we were delighted.

–Psalm 126:1-3, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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The remembrance of what God has done (as in Psalm 126) and was about to do (as in Exodus 12) was supposed to inspire reverence for God, measurable in various ways, including how people treated others.  The plot to scapegoat Jesus (in John 11) contradicted that ethic.

Celebrating Passover, the annual commemoration of God liberating the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, in occupied Jerusalem was politically sensitive.  Furthermore, the Temple was the seat of collaboration with the Roman occupying forces.  Jesus was a threat to the Temple authorities and, by extension, to their Roman overlords and partners.  When he entered the city at the beginning of that fateful week leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus arrived in the manner of a triumphant king en route to peace talks after a battle.  Our Lord and Savior, the Gospel of John makes clear, rejected offers to seek to expel the Romans, but many people, including Pontius Pilate, thought that Jesus might lead an insurrection.  Even after Pilate realized that Jesus was not a political rebel, he understood our Lord and Savior to be a threat nevertheless.  Jesus was a threat, but not in the way Pilate thought.

Jesus was a threat to a form of piety which privileged wealth and depended on a certain amount of it in a society which consisted primarily of illiterate peasants.  Jesus was a threat to religious legalism.  Jesus was a threat to religious practices which draped economic injustice in the cloak of piety.

Man Nobody Knows

Above:  The Table of Contents from The Man Nobody Knows:  A Discovery of the Real Jesus (1925), by Bruce Barton

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Jesus remains a threat to such practices in our time.  We cannot kill him again.  Besides, he did not remain dead for long the last time.  We are capable, however, of attempting to domesticate Jesus.  People left, right, and center have been engaged in this practice for a very long time.  One might, for example, ignore the Beatitudes and Woes from Luke 6:17-26, downplay or ignore his apocalyptic teachings, or portray him as always nice and smiling.  The genuine article, however, was–and remains–a threat to a variety of misconceptions about Jesus.  I like to think that, even if I had not grown up in the Christian faith, I would have become a Christian because of the portrayal of Jesus in the four canonical Gospels.

The remembrance of what God has done and some awareness of what God is doing compel me to have reverence for God.  Among the examples to which I point is Jesus.  His life invites me to examine my life.  Much of what he reveals to me makes me uncomfortable, but identifying a problem is the first step in correcting them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Wrestling With Biblical Texts   1 comment

moses-with-the-tablets-of-the-law-rembrandt-van-rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

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:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/third-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/devotion-for-the-eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/devotion-for-the-forty-ninth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Yahweh: Accept No Substitutes   1 comment

Above:  Baal 

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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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1 Kings 17:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Elijah the Tishbite, an inhabitant of Gilead, said to Ahab,

As the LORD lives, the God of Israel whom I serve, there will be no dew or rain except at my bidding.

The word of the LORD came to him:

Leave this place; turn eastward and go into hiding by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.

He proceeded to do as the LORD had bidden:  he went, and he stayed by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  The ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and every morning, and he drank from the wadi.

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

Matthew 5:1-12 (An American Translation):

When Jesus saw the crowds of people he went up on the mountain.  There he seated himself, and when his disciples had come up to him, he opened his lips to teach them.  And he said,

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them!

Blessed are the mourners, for they will be consoled!

Blessed are the humble-minded, for they will possess the land!

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness, for they will be satisfied!

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called God’s sons!

Blessed are those who have endured the persecution for their uprightness, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you, and falsely say everything bad of you, on my account.  Be glad and exult over it, for you will be richly rewarded in heaven, for that is the way they persecuted the prophets who went before you!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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:

Week of Proper 5:  Monday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Remember Your Servants, Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/remember-your-servants-lord/

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HISTORICAL INFORMATION:

With this post the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following returns to 1 Kings.  The last time I was here via this reading plan was at this URL:  http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-2/.  So it is appropriate to begin with grounding in the narrative.  The dates come from The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), page 2111.

Reigns of the Kings of Judah (Davidic Dynasty):

Rehoboam (928-911 B.C.E.)–17 years

Abijam, a.k.a. Abihah (911-908 B.C.E.)–3 years

Asa (908-867 B.C.E.)–41 years

The text criticizes all these monarchs, frequently for idolatry.

Reigns of the King of Israel:

House of Jeroboam:

Jeroboam I (928-907 B.C.E.)–22 years

Nadab (907-906 B.C.E.)–2 years–overthrown in a palace coup

House of Baasha:

Baasha (906-883 B.C.E.)–23 years

Elah (883-882 B.C.E.)–2 years–overthrown by a chariot commander, Zimri

House of Zimri:

Zimri (882 B.C.E.)–1 week–overthrown by the army commander, Omri

House of Omri:

Omri (882-871 B.C.E.)–12 years

Ahab (873-852 B.C.E.)–22 years

The text criticizes all these monarchs, frequently for idolatry.

Now we are ready to begin the devotional text.

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Baal, a Canaanite deity, was allegedly responsible for sending the rains.  So what better way, according to the narrative in 1 Kings, for Yahweh to demonstrate the imaginary nature of Baal than to impose a drought upon Israel, where Baal worship was widespread?  This Yahweh, by the way, also protected and fed his prophet, Elijah, who delivered the prophesy of the drought.

The Matthew version of the Beatitudes, in Edgar Goodspeed’s An American Translation, includes this line:

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.

But perhaps the New Living Translation (first edition, 1996) offers the best rendering:

God blesses those who realize their need for him,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

(The second edition (2004) of the New Living Translation, by the way, has a different rendering of the first Beatitude, an odd hybrid of the first line of Matthew and Luke Beatitudes.)

We human beings are inherently religious.  Even varieties of Atheism are merely types of Fundamentalism.  Just listen to militant Fundamentalists, who are evangelical in their unbelief.  For much of human history polytheism was the nearly universal default mode.  Monotheism, a great moral and theological advance, did not gain immediate and widespread acceptance in the corners where it existed.  For much of the Old Testament most Hebrews were polytheists, a reality against which biblical prophets inveighed.  The worship of Yahweh was widespread, but many of his devotees also bowed down to Baal, Astarte, and other deities.  The message of the prophets was to worship Yahweh alone.  The fault with the great bulk of spiritual seekers was that they sought to fill their spiritual needs at too many venues. The blessed spiritual seekers of Matthew’s first Beatitude are those who, if you will pardon my analogy, fill up their gas tanks at God’s gas station only.

May the first Beatitude, not the condemnations from 1 Kings, describe us. May we love and honor the one God who loves us.  There is a God-shaped hole inside each of us; may we fill it with God alone.  May we accept no substitutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF J. ROBERT HARRIS, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST VIANNEY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-2/

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Posted February 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 17, Matthew 5, Psalm 121

Tagged with , ,

Pay It Forward   1 comment

Above: The Decapitation of St. Paul (1887), by Enrique Simonet

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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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2 Corinthians 1:1-7 (An American Translation):

Paul, by God’s will an apostle of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is at Corinth, and all God’s people all over Greece; God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bless you and give you peace.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, and the God always ready to comfort!  He comforts me in all my trouble, so that I can comfort people who are in any trouble with the comfort with which I myself am comforted by God.  For if I have a liberal share of Christ’s sufferings, through Christ I have a liberal share of comfort too.  If I am in trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation, and if I am comforted, it is for the sake of the comfort which you experience when you steadfastly endure such sufferings as I also have to bear.  My hopes for you are unshaken.  For I know that just as surely as you share my sufferings, just so surely you will share my comfort.

Psalm 34:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

Matthew 5:1-12 (An American Translation):

When Jesus saw the crowds of people he went up on the mountain.  There he seated himself, and when his disciples had come up to him, he opened his lips to teach them.  And he said,

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them!

Blessed are the mourners, for they will be consoled!

Blessed are the humble-minded, for they will possess the land!

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness, for they will be satisfied!

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called God’s sons!

Blessed are those who have endured the persecution for their uprightness, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you, and falsely say everything bad of you, on my account.  Be glad and exult over it, for you will be richly rewarded in heaven, for that is the way they persecuted the prophets who went before you!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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Life contains many persistent questions.  Among them is this one:  Why do good people suffer?  The answer is simple and multifaceted:

  • A certain measure of suffering seems to be part and parcel of living.  Sometimes nobody is to blame.
  • Bad people, who might not know that they are bad, persecute those who are good.
  • Many people decide that inflicting a certain amount of suffering is acceptable, given the alternatives.
  • We humans tend to fear those we do not understand, and to hate and persecute those we fear.
  • We are interconnected, so the actions on one person affect others.  Sometimes innocent parties become caught up in the negative effects of the actions of others.
  • Sometimes we experience the negative consequences of our own actions.

Yet, as Paul, who knew much suffering for his work in the name of God wrote to the Corinthians, adverse circumstances led to him receiving comfort, which he was then able to extend to others, who could comfort others, et cetera.  I know this feeling, for I have suffered, although not for the sake of righteousness.  I was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But I received great comfort, and I feel the obligation to comfort others.  I know that I ought to pay it forward.  Perhaps you, O reader, have the same sense of obligation fueled by gratitude.

And we know, of course, where Paul’s sufferings led him.  The Romans decapitated him.  Until that point, however, the apostle comforted many people.  Fortunately, many of his words survive to this day, and they provide much comfort and inspiration.  His legacy continues via epistles and the fact that I, a Gentile, am a Christian.  His sufferings were not in vain.

On this day the Canadian Anglican lectionary shifts out of Mark and into Matthew, beginning with the Sermon on the Mount.  I chose to change the translation again, as I do periodically, and to switch to the The Complete Bible:  An American Translation (1939), which renders the Beatitudes nicely without clinging to overly traditional language.  Sometimes reading or hearing a passage in familiar language prevents one from really hearing its meanings.  And I hope that you, O reader, read the Beatitudes again and paid close attention to the words, instead of jumping ahead mentally with a “I’ve read this before” mentality.

You might have heard some or all of the following statements, or variations thereof:

  • Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they will not be disappointed.
  • Do unto others before they do unto you.
  • Nice guys finish last.

The Beatitudes contradict all of them.  Jesus was no stranger to suffering, of course.  So let nobody accuse him of being naive.  Rather, let us recognize without words and lives his moral genius and insight.  The Matthew version of the Beatitudes contains a vision of the world as it ought to be and of how the divine order works.  History tells me that too often human authority figures have labeled the way things are as the divinely appointed order.  Therefore questioning authority and trying to reform society became a sin, officially.  And, too often, Christian leaders have supported this position.  Consider pre-Enlightenment Europe, for example.  Those Enlightenment philosophers who rejected organized Christianity were not entirely wrong, for they looked around and saw bishops in the pockets of princes, kings, and emperors, and they recognized that such had been the case for a very long time.

But there is a distinction between Jesus and organized Christianity, at least some of the time.  We of the Church have misunderstood Jesus intentionally or accidentally, and that is to our great discredit.  We have misconstrued popularity as something to desire, but what did Jesus say?  We have condoned allegedly holy wars, but what did Jesus say?  We have been arrogant, but what did Jesus say?  Fortunately, not all of us have erred to this extent; we have always had our share of pure souls in our midst.  The likes of St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Calcutta have reminded us of where we ought to stand.

We ought to strive for a better world.  We have made this world what it is, so we can leave it better than we found it.  (That is an Enlightenment attitude.)  But only God can make the world what it ought to to be.  (Now I sound like Reinhold Niebuhr.)  And, by grace, we can comfort each other, which is one vocation God gives to us.

And, in Godly community, may we echo the psalm:

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are they who trust in him.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CECILIA, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CLIVE STAPLES (C. S.) LEWIS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-1/

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Posted February 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 2 Corinthians 1, Matthew 5, Psalm 34

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