Archive for the ‘Beth Long’ Tag

Faithful Servants of God, Part I   1 comment

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Above:  Gordon Bienvenue (Center), at the Diocesan Ministry Fair Held at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Saturday, April 13, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The population of Athens-Clarke County changes as students come and go, retirees move to town, and people move away or die.  Thus the congregation of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, my parish, has an ever-changing quality about it.  I have been here since August 2005, so I will, God willing, begin my ninth year at St. Gregory the Great Church, in a few months.  I have seen graduates move away, members migrate to other churches (including the other Episcopal congregation in town), come from other churches (including the other Episcopal congregation in town), and come to faith in our midst.  People I have come to like and respect very much have died.  And I have forged new friendships.

I look out from my perch in the choir (along a back wall) and see clergymen of other denominations.  One retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation in town died recently;  he had attended services at St. Gregory the Great Church for years.  His widow continues to attend.  A United Church of Christ (UCC) minister and his family have joined our community.  A more recent addition to the community is Gordon Bienvenue, a retired United Methodist minister, of whom I have more to write, all of it positive.

Gordon and Katie, his wife, have become integral parts of St. Gregory the Great Church.  I have not had the opportunities to interact with them as often as I would like, but hopefully time will correct that.  Gordon writes lovely icons.  He has delivered sermons, something he has been glad to do.  Gordon has also assisted at the altar, distributing communion bread and gluten-free wafers, sometimes with planning and sometimes not, but always to the priest’s relief.

Our Rector is Beth Long, of whom I have only positive comments as a priest and a human being.  She is to my theological left.  I, after having spent too much time as the resident heretic in a succession of congregations, find myself, without having changed my mind much, on the relative right in a church.  Actually, I enjoy learning from people to my left.  I even relish the fact that they are there.  And I do to them as I wish many people to my right had done to me.  Beth is, simply put, well-equipped for her duties.  She is in the right place at the right time.  And I thank God for her and that fact.

Beth, due to canonical reasons, may consecrate the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist at St. Gregory the Great Church, but Gordon Bienvenue may not do so.  (I would not object to those with the power to change that rule doing so.)  Anyhow, an allergy has affected Beth’s voice adversely recently.  A few Sundays ago Gordon preached.  Later, after Beth had done what the canons required her to, she rested her voice and Gordon distributed the bread and gluten-free wafers.  Last Sunday, as Beth began to distribute the bread and the gluten-free wafers, her voice required rest.  So Gordon stepped up and took up the task.  Beth was glad.

It is good to attend church with such people–individuals who serve God gladly, with or without notice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2013 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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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVIII: Forgiveness, Divine and Human   1 comment

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Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

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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:

Deuteronomy 29:1-29

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

Matthew 18:21-35

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 29:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/proper-10-year-c/

Matthew 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/eighteenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/proper-19-year-a/

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God demanded complete fidelity in Deuteronomy 29.  Hence there was no forgiveness for the sin of idolatry, turning away from the covenant.  If I understand the Hebrew Scriptures correctly, idolatry led to destruction, which mercy usually followed.  The consequences of actions played out; that constituted judgment.  Then God granted the surviving remnant another chance.  And, if I understand the New Testament correctly, the only unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  In textual context the unpardonable sin is the inability to distinguish good from evil.  Perhaps blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the abandonment of the covenant are the same thing.

I, as a student of the Scriptures, detect recurring themes.  One of them is that God’s forgiveness of our sins depends partially on our forgiveness of those who have wronged us.  As God forgives us, we ought to forgive others.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will you be judged, and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible

In the parable from Matthew 18 the forgiven servant had no way of repaying the enormous debt.  Yet he refused to forgive smaller debts owed to him.  So his former creditor, the king, did to him (the servant) what the servant had done to others.

Forgive us the wrong we have done,

as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.

–Matthew 6:12, The Revised English Bible

then

For, if you forgive others the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.

–Matthew 6:14-15, The Revised English Bible

The paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following line:

In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.—page 181

I like the verb “absorb” in context.  We ought not to carry those hurts around like luggage.  Yes, they will inform us.  We might remember them for a long time, but they need not transform into grudges.

I have struggled with forgiving others.  I still do.  Yes, I have the free will (sometimes) to forgive those who have sinned against me, but letting go is oddly more difficult than hanging on to those grievances.  Yet letting go leads to a lighter spiritual load.

Fortunately, grace is present and abundant.  I feel like St. Paul the Apostle:

I discover this principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible

At least one who has that struggle is not committing the unpardonable sin.  Having a spiritual struggle is not necessarily negative; it might even be mostly positive, for it can lead to a stronger state.

I recall confessing a particular sin–inability to forgive despite my knowledge of the imperative of doing so—to my priest, Beth Long, once.  People—some perfidious—have wronged me.  Beth counseled me to forgive myself.  The trauma would wash out of my spiritual system in time and I would, by grace, find the ability to forgive.  Those men’s deeds were perfidious; forgiving them did not change what they did.  But it did change me.

We human beings are weak, but at least we do not need to rely on our strength to do what God has called us to do and to become what God has called us to become.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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It Is Getting Dark In Here   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Judges 4:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him,

The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.”

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be silent before the Lord GOD!

For the day of the LORD is at hand;

the LORD has prepared a sacrifice,

he has consecrated his guests.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the people

who rest complacently on their dregs,

those who say in their hearts,

“The LORD wil not do good,

nor will he do harm.”

Their wealth shall be plundered,

and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,

they shall not drink wine from them.

The great day of the LORD is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter,

the warrior cries aloud there.

That day will be a day of wrath,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,

a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

I shall bring such distress upon people

that they shall walk like the blind,

because they have sinned against the LORD,

that blood shall be poured out like the dust,

and their flesh like dung.

Neither shall their silver nor their gold

will be able to save them

on the day of the LORD’s wrath;

in the fire of his passion

the whole earth shall be consumed;

for a full, a terrible end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say,

There is peace and security,

then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:14-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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 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.

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Some Related Links:

Matthew 25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

1 Thessalonians 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-tuesday-year-1/

Addressing a Specific Form of Foolishness:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-friday-year-1/

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Today I choose to leave the Gospel reading to a related post while I pursue another track.

Proper 28 is the penultimate Sunday in the Church year; Advent is nearly upon us.  So the lectionary readings have turned toward the apocalyptic, as they are prone to do in November.  Nevertheless, I write these words in late May 2011, just a few days after the predicted rapture that never occurred.  This was no surprise for me.  To state the case simply, Harold Camping does not know more than Jesus:

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  (Matthew 24:36, New Revised Standard Version)

It is customary that, in The Episcopal Church, to read an assigned text then say,

The word of the Lord,

to which the congregation responds reflexively,

Thanks be to God.

If the reading comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, the priest or deacon concludes the lesson then says

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the people say,

Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

Yet I recall one 6:00 P.M. Sunday service at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, when our Rector, Beth Long, read the designated Gospel text, which was rather grim.  An awkward silence followed before we said with hesitation,

Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

What else were we supposed to say?

That is the sense I take away from Zephaniah.  My fellow liturgy enthusiasts might know that the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass used to include the “Dies Irae” (“Day of wrath and doom impending”) section.  More than one composer set it to music gloriously, with Verdi’s version being the one that plays inside my cranium most often.  The lesson from Zephaniah was the basis of that Latin text.  Anyhow, am I supposed to say “Thanks be to God” after the reading from Zephaniah?

It is vital to remember that we are looking at just a portion of the sacred story; the tone is quite different on Easter Sunday, for example.  There is a time and a season for everything, if not every verse, within a well-constructed lectionary.  There is a time to rejoice.  And there is a time, as we read in 1 Thessalonians, to be serious.  Yet there is never a bad time to put on the breastplate of faith and love.

May we wear it always.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

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We Cannot Thwart God’s Ultimate Will   3 comments

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

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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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Judges 13:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Israelites again did what was offensive to the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the stock of Dan, whose name was Manoah.  His wife was barren and had borne no children.  An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,

You are barren and have borne no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son.  Now be careful not to drink wine or other intoxicant, or eat anything unclean.  For you are going to conceive and bear a son; let no razor touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb on.  He shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

The woman went and told her husband,

A man of God came to me; he looked like an angel of God, very frightening; I did not ask him where he was from, nor did he tell me his name.  He said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and bear a son.  Drink no wine or other intoxicant, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death!’

Psalm 139:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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It is customary in The Episcopal Church that, at when the priest or deacon finishes reading the Gospel lection, he or she says,

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the congregation answers,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I recall a situation one Sunday evening at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  Beth Long, the Rector, read the assigned lesson from the Gospels for that day.  It was a disturbing and unpleasant text.  Then she said,

The Gospel of the Lord.

All of us in the congregation mumbled hesitantly,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I have the same response when pondering Matthew 22:1-14.

Tradition calls this text the Parable of the Great Banquet.  Yet William Barclay insists correctly that it is really two parables.  The first ends with the king rounding up wedding guests on street corners.  The subtext is clear; those who have rejected Jesus as Messiah are unworthy to attend the wedding banquet.  And the destruction in the story echoes the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  The Gospel of Matthew dates to the middle 80s C.E., in a Jewish Christian community on the margins of Jewish life.  Certain emotions tend to accompany marginal status, especially when one is marginalized involuntarily.  They are on full display in this text.

The second parable concerns the man who did not come to the wedding feast attired properly.  He did not care about the matter, a major breach of protocol in that society.  His disrespect led to his removal from the banquet.  My North American society is increasingly informal in matters of attire, and this is not entirely bad.  But sometimes it goes too far.  One student in a class for which I was a Teaching Assistant came to the classroom on the day of the Final Exam in his pajamas, slippers, and bathrobe.  How one presents oneself in public indicates how one regards others.  There is social etiquette and decorum to maintain; it makes public interactions go more smoothly.  So how much more true must showing respect toward God be?

Understand me correctly.  During my last year of high school I tutored a Middle Grades student after school.  Joe and his family attended a Southern Baptist church in Berrien County, Georgia.  He mentioned once that some elderly members of the congregation had criticized him for wearing tennis shoes to church.  Joe asked me what I thought.  I replied that God has concerns greater than whether Joe wore tennis shoes to church.  In fact, I wear tennis shoes to church sometimes.  But they are clean and presentable.

There is, however, great value in dressing up for certain occasions.  I feel one way when I wear a suit and a tie (often with a fedora) and another when I wear jeans and a tee-shirt.  I feel quite comfortable in both states, but I would never think of wearing jeans and a tee-shirt (no matter how clean and presentable they might be) to certain occasions.  This is simply a matter of decorum.

So the second parable teaches that we must approach God with our best.  This being from the Gospels, the meaning goes far deeper than wardrobe, although that is a matter for some people.  How does one live?  The king invited the good and the bad alike to the banquet, but all were expected to uphold certain standards after they arrived.  We can all come to God by route or another, but this is not cheap grace that demands nothing of us.  No, we must respond to God honestly and faithfully.  This will require something of us.

So the king filled the banquet hall one way or another.  Nothing could thwart his will–only require him to change tactics.

Then there is the story of Samson, the beginning of which is today’s reading from Judges.  I encourage everyone to read the whole thing again or for the first time; it is a very good story.  Samson was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, the brightest crayon in the box.  Neither was he self-disciplined, especially with regard to women, namely Delilah.  But, despite all these facts, God worked through Samson to deliver the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.  Samson died in the process, for the building fell down on top of him, along with many Philistines, but this end was not necessary.  Samson could have avoided it with some more intelligence and a dose of self-discipline.  He was weak, though, and he paid the price for that.

Yet God’s ultimate will came to fruition via Samson, despite Samson’s character.

Is it not better cooperate with God rather than abuse our free will and force God to change strategies?  Is not cooperating with God a sign of healthy respect?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED GUIDO DI PIETRO, A.K.A. FRA ANGELICO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARTIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLMAN OF LINDISFARNE, SAINT AGILBERT, AND SAINT WILFRID, BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER, PROTESTANT REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOTONIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

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What is Good Religion?   1 comment

Above:  A Hand-Copied Bible in Latin

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

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Genesis 1:20-2:4a (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God said,

Let the water swarm with a swarm of living beings, and let birds fly over the earth on the face of the space of the skies.

And God created the big sea serpents and all the living beings that creep, with which the water swarmed, by their kinds, and every winged bird by its kind.  And God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas, and let birds multiply in the earth.

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

And God said,

Let the earth bring out living beings by their kind, domestic animal and creeping thing and wild animals by their kind.

And it was so.  And God made the wild animals of the earth by their kind and the domestic animals by their kind and every creeping thing on the ground by their kind.  And God saw that it was good.

And God said,

Let us make a human, in our image, according to our likeness, and let them dominate the the fish of the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and the domestic animals and all the earth and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.

And God created the human in His image.  He created it in the image of God.  He created them male and female.  And God blessed them, and God said to them,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and every animal that creeps on the earth.

And God said,

Here, I have placed all the vegetation that produces seed that is on the face of the earth for you and every tree, which has in it the fruit of a tree producing seed.  It will be food for you and for all the wild animals of the earth and for all the birds of the skies and for all the creeping things on the earth, everything in which there is a living being; every plant of vegetation, for food.

And it was so.

And God saw everything that He had made, and, here, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

And the skies and the earth and all their array were finished.  And in the seventh day God finished His work that He had done ceased in the seventh day from all His work that He had done.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because He ceased in it from doing all His work, which God had created.

Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted in your Name is all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children

your majesty is praised above the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against our adversaries,

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that should be mindful of him?

the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but a little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You gave him mastery over the works of your hands;

you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen,

even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Mark 7:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem.  They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands–meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing.  (The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule.  And they will not eat anything brought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”.  And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs, and basins.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus,

Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with “common” hands?

Jesus replied,

You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote–

This people honoureth me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me.

But in vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

You are so busy holding on to the precepts of men that you let go the commandment of God!”

Then he went on,

It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother” and ‘He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death.’  But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban–meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God impotent for the sake of the tradition which you hold.  And this is typical of much of what you do.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Last night, after the 6:00 PM Holy Eucharist at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, I told my priest, Beth Long, that I never cease to be amazed by how many points of departure one can take from one day’s lectionary texts.  Invariably, my posts on a Sunday’s readings cover different ground than her sermons.  Both are valid, for the material is rich and varied.  I think of this point now because I detect many wonderful points to make, based on the assigned readings for Tuesday in the Week of 5 Epiphany, Year 1.  Yet I chosen just one path.  Perhaps the others will come up in future posts, for the Bible contains many recurring themes.

What is good religion?  Or, to state the question differently, what makes one religious in a good way?  To cite the Markan account, there is nothing wrong with washing one’s hands before eating.  Indeed, this is healthy.  Jesus was not referring to public health regulations, however; he had bigger fish to fry.  And germ theory was not known at the time.  The ceremonial washing of hands was part of an elaborate theology of ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness, for which Jesus had no use. Our Lord and Savior looked more deeply than that.

The late William Barclay wrote the following paragraph is his commentary on the Gospel of Mark:

There is no greater religious peril than that of identifying religion with outward observance.  There is no commoner religious mistake than to identify goodness with certain so-called religious acts.  Church-going, bible-reading, careful financial giving, even time-honored table-prayer do not make a man a good man.  The fundamental question is, how is a man’s heart toward God and towards his fellow-men?  And if in his heart there are enmity, bitterness, grudges, pride, not all the outward religious observances in the world will make him anything other than a hypocrite.

Who can stand before God as anything other than a hypocrite or an unrepentant sinner?  There might be a few of us on the planet who can do this, but I am not among them.  As for you, O reader, you must answer for yourself:  Are you among this rare, perhaps hypothetical population?  But thanks be to God, who has mercy on us and knows that we are all broken and “but dust.”  Yet it is also true, as the psalm and Genesis tell us, that we bear the image of God and rank above the other creature on the planet.  There is hope for us, and the source for this hope is God.  So may we refrain from placing too much emphasis on either the “dust” description or the “little lower than the angels” description.

But what makes religion good, and what makes one a practitioner of good religion?  The answer is love, which, as the Greek language makes clear, exists in various forms.  There is agape, God’s unconditional love for us.  And there is phileo, or brotherly love.  One might also experience storge, which exists between a parent and a child.  And, of course, there is eros, which is sexual love.  Each love has its proper place, and is good in that place.

I take my point from St. Paul the Apostle, who wrote the justly famous 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote verbatim from the New American Bible:

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

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

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

The consistent Greek word for love in this passage is agape; “…the greatest of these is agape.”  Agape, which makes religion good, is available to us only via grace.  So let none of us boast, but trust God instead.  The outward signs will follow; they will flow from love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 13, Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Mark 7, Psalm 8

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God Caring and Existing: A Reflection   Leave a comment

Above:  YHWH in Hebrew

Psalm 10:4 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God does not seek it out”; all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Psalm 10:4 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

The wicked, arrogant as he is, in all his scheming [thinks], “He does not call to account; God does not care.”

Psalm 14:1 (New Revised Standard Version):

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.

Psalm 14:1 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

The benighted man thinks, “God does not care.”  Man’s deeds are corrupt and loathsome; no one does good.

When translating from Language A into Language B any text loses something.  We who have translated even short passages (in my case, from French into English) know this well.  Thus, I read the Bible in translations, for each version has its own strengths and weaknesses with regard to shades of meaning, as well as literary style and reading levels.  (I prefer translations with lyrical literary styles and advanced reading levels, yet with modern English alone.  Containing the whole canon–all 73 books–of Scripture is also a wonderful feature.)

Often a comparison of translations reveals uses of different synonyms or the breaking up of Paul’s run-on sentences into short sentences.  (The latter is especially agreeable to me.)  Yet sometimes a comparison of versions reveals an interesting point of theology and nuance of translation.

Consider the translations of Psalm 10:4 and 14:1 in the New Revised Standard Version (National Council of Churches, 1989) and TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures (Jewish Publication Society, 1985).  I ask, “Is divine care implicit in the existence of God?”  I think that the answer is affirmative.

Consider the following note from The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004) on Psalm 10:4:

The translation of Heb[rew] “There is no God” as God does not care is based on the assumption that atheism did not exist in antiquity (see also 14:1).  People could, however, believe in a deity who created the world, but then absented himself from running it.

So, Deism was just a restatement of an old idea.  Qoheleth was correct in Ecclesiastes:  “Nothing is new under the sun.” (1:9b, New American Bible)

In today’s sermon Beth Long, my priest, stated that meaningful theology flows from life in the community of faith.  Any theology which does not do this consists only of words.  This is an accurate assessment.  In my experience (which I group with reason in my understanding of the Anglican Three-Legged Stool, which is actually a tricycle–one big wheel with two smaller ones) I have perceived a caring God via my fellow human beings, which I understood (and continue to understand) as agents of grace.  This sense is not unique to me.  My theology tells me that caring is part of the divine nature.  God cares because that is who God is:  God is love.  Love entails caring.  As a Christian I see this in many ways, notably the Incarnation, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Resurrection.

All this I affirm.  Here I stand; I can and will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 10, 2010

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Posted August 10, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 10, Psalm 14

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