Archive for the ‘Blasphemy’ Tag

The Sin of Favoritism   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

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:

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Resisting the Darkness with Light   1 comment

Candle Flame and Reflection

Above:  Candle Flame and Reflection

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:19-30

Psalm 63:1-8

Revelation 2:8-11

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O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

–Psalm 63:1-8, The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)

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Psalm 63:1-8 is the happy pericope for this day.  The author praises God for divine, steadfast love and provisions.  The other readings encourage readers and listeners to trust in God during extremely trying times.  That is a positive and timeless message, but each of the other pericopes presents its own difficulties.

The story from Daniel 3 is ahistorical.  That fact presents no problem for me, for I am neither a fundamentalist nor an evangelical.  No, my difficulty with the account is that the monarch threatens anyone who blasphemes YHWH with death by dismemberment.  I oppose blasphemy, but temporal punishment for it is something I refuse to support.  Besides, one person’s religious expression is another person’s idea of blasphemy.  I know of cases of (Christian) religious expression in foreign (majority Muslim) countries leading to charges of blasphemy and sometimes even executions (martyrdoms).  Religious toleration is a virtue–one much of the Bible frowns upon severely.

The pericope from Revelation 2 comes from an intra-Jewish dispute.  Non-Christian Jews were making life very difficult for Christian Jews at Smyrna.  The Christian invective of “synagogue of Satan” (verse 9) is still difficult to digest, even with knowledge of the historical contexts.  Passages such as these have become fodder for nearly two millennia of Christian Anti-Semitism, one of the great sins of the Church.

As we who call ourselves follow Jesus, may we cling to him during all times–the good, the bad, and the in-between.  And may we eschew hatred, resentment, and violence toward those who oppose us.  Christ taught us to bless our persecutors, to fight hatred with love and darkness with light.  This is difficult, of course, but it is possible by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Knowing One’s Need for God   1 comment

Calling of St. Matthew Caravaggio

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 32

Psalm 25:1-10

Matthew 9:2-13

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For your Name’s sake, O LORD,

forgive my sin, for it is great.

–Psalm 25:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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How happy are those who know their need for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Jesus in Matthew 5:3, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), J. B. Phillips

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The emphasis this time, in contrast to the previous post, is the individual.

I lift up my soul….

Forgive my sin….

Then I acknowledged my sin….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is one of those well-worn King James phrases which requires explanation.  It refers to those who know their need for God and act accordingly.  Each one of us needs God, of course, but some are oblivious to that fact.  St. Matthew, originally a literal tax thief for the Roman Empire, knew his need for God and acted accordingly.  The paralyzed man with friends carrying him might have known of his need for God; the text says nothing about that point.  His friends, however, were acting based on confidence that Jesus would heal him.  On the other hand, Pharisees who accused our Lord and Savior or committing blasphemy (an offense punishable by death according to the Law of Moses) due to his act of healing and words of forgiveness (more the latter than the former) also criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  These Pharisees did not realize their need for God.  They would have, in fact, benefited from  open minds and many meals with Jesus.

A few days ago, on the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, I encountered some members of an Evangelical college ministry.  I surmise that they were not from the school, for one young man representing the organization did not know that he was on a campus of a state college.  He asked me to complete a brief questionnaire.  I agreed.  One item entailed me rating my goodness on a scale of one (evil) to ten (perfect).  I guessed five, for I am far from both ends of the spectrum.  He and a comrade suggested that I was perhaps an eight or a nine, but I replied that no, I know myself.  (At least they were nice people.)

I know my need for God and the sacraments.  My record of acting on that knowledge is mixed.  Yet I improve, by grace.

None of us is worthy based on our own merit, but our effort is valuable nonetheless.  That little bit of desire and initiative is something with which God can work.  So may you, O reader, be aware of your need for God and respond favorably to God, regardless of how feeble and inadequate your response might seem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Unrighteous Violence   1 comment

St. Stephen

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of 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 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 148

Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60

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Let kings and all commoners,

princes and rulers over all the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)

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The Psalm for today stands in dissonance with the other two readings.  Jeremiah preached the word of God–a word just in case people might repent–and they did not repent.  In fact, some tried to have him executed.  Centuries later, others succeeded in putting St. Stephen, who had also said much which certain people did not want to hear, to death.

The context of Jeremiah’s troubles (as 2 Kings 23:31-37) explains it, was the reign of King Jehoiakim, son of the great King Josiah.  Josiah had died in 609 B.C.E., losing his life to Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt, in battle.  Neco had appointed the next monarch, Jehoahaz, elder son of Josiah.  Jehoahaz had reigned for a mere three months before Neco imprisoned him.  Then the Egyptian ruler chose Eliakim as his Judean vassal and renamed him “Jehoiakim.”  The new vassal did his lord’s bidding, collecting the required tribute of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.  (A talent was seventy-five pounds.)  Jeremiah’s message from God had a political tint for people living in a vassal state without the separation of religion and government.  King Jehoiakim tried to have the prophet killed, but one Ahikam son of Shaphan (Jeremiah 26:24) protected the holy man.

St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, had no such protector.  He was one of the original seven deacons, whose job descriptions entailed providing social services primarily.  Yet St. Stephen’s preaching, not his delivering of meals to widows, led to his death.  The crucifixion of Jesus was a recent event, so anyone who spoke as boldly as St. Stephen regarding Christ did took great risks.  For speaking the truth he suffered the Law of Moses-dictated death of a blasphemer.  His execution had a veneer of righteousness.  Some of his accusers believed him to have committed blasphemy, but sincerity did not excuse error.

Often we humans resort to violence to rid ourselves of inconvenient people who have merely spoken the truth.  We wish to defend our concepts of our own righteousness, but animosity and violence reveal the truth of our lack of righteousness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF TE WHITI O RONGOMAI, MAORI PROPHET

THE FEAST OF THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/devotion-for-december-26-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #1200 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Responding to God   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 33:7-20

Psalm 7

John 5:19-40

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God is my shield and defense;

he is the savior of the true in heart.

God is a righteous judge;

God sits in judgment everyday.

If they will not repent, God will whet his sword;

he will bend his bow and make it ready.

–Psalm 7:11-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Striving to be a merely decent human being is a worthy goal, one which falls into the Lutheran category of civic righteousness–that is, good yet incapable of saving one from the consequences of sin.  Yet the standard of mere human decency evaded our Lord and Savior’s critics in John 5.  He was healing people on the Sabbath.  His critics complained about the timing, as if there were ever a bad day to commit a good deed.  His identification of God as his Father seemed blasphemous to them also.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for committing blasphemy is death.

The call to repent–to change one’s mind, to turn around–exists in both main pericopes today.  There is good news for the penitent and bad news for the impenitent, for judgment and mercy coexist.  God keeps offering opportunities to change course for the better and to receive forgiveness, but some people reject the offer.  This point fits well with the rest of Ezekiel, which proceeds from the assumption that sin led to the Babylonian Exile.

That call to repent repeats.  Striving to be a merely decent human being is a good beginning of a positive response to God.  That little bit is possible only via grace, which bestows the free will with which we respond to God positively or negatively.  Shall we reply positively?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-29-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Allegedly Righteous Violence   1 comment

paolo_uccello_-_stoning_of_st_stephen_-_wga23196

Above:  Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-3 (26th Day)

Exodus 3:1-12 (27th Day)

Jeremiah 26:20-24 (28th Day)

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (26th Day)

Acts 7:1-16 (27th Day)

John 8:48-59 (28th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-2-and-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-eighth-and-ninth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

Exodus 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-4-and-5-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/third-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

Jeremiah 26:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

Acts 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixteenth-day-of-easter/

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-26-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

–Psalm 31:3-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Blasphemy is a capital crime in the Law of Moses, which frowns upon perjury.  In fact, the penalty for perjury is whatever fate the falsely accused suffered or would have suffered.  So, according to the Law of Moses, the authorities stoned the wrong man in Acts 7.

The stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is just one of several accounts of violence, attempted and otherwise, of which we read in these lections.  That kind of violence–done in the name of God by heirs of Abraham (physically or spiritually or both), members of a nation God has freed more than once–is always unbecoming.  To disagree with a person is one thing, but to seek to kill him or her because of that difference is quite another.  It constitutes an attempt to prove one’s righteousness by sinful means.  Thus such an act defines as a lie that which the perpetrator seeks to affirm.

I, as a Christian, follow one who died for several reasons, among them the motivation I just mentioned.  Thus I am especially aware of the perfidy of such violence, which, unfortunately, continues.  Christians in certain Islamic countries are subject to charges of blasphemy then to execution.  Honor killings continue to occur around the world.  They seem to attract the most attention in the Western press when immigrants commit them in Western countries, but they happen daily, often without the press noticing them.  I am also aware of the long, shameful history of “Christian” violence against Jews.  Ritual washing of hands, for example, contributed to greater cleanliness among European Jews relative to other populations on the continent and therefore helped to reduce their vulnerability to the Black Death in the 1300s.  Many fearful, Anti-Semitic Gentiles blamed Jews for the plague and attacked them.  God, please save us from your alleged followers!

May mutual love and respect prevail.  And, when we disagree with someone whose presence threatens our notions of our own righteousness, may we refrain from violence.  Even if the other person is wrong, partially or entirely, that does not justify killing or attempting to kill an innocent person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/devotion-for-the-twenty-sixth-twenty-seventh-and-twenty-eighth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Leviticus and Luke, Part VII: Blasphemy and Repentance   1 comment

st-stephens-gate-jerusalem-1920-1920

Above:  St. Stephen’s Gate, Jerusalem, Ottoman Empire, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005003384/PP/)

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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:

Leviticus 24:1-23

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 12:54-13:17

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Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/devotion-for-the-ninth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionay/

Luke 12-13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/third-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/week-of-proper-24-friday-year-1/

Feast of Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World (March 2):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/feast-of-shabbaz-bhatti-and-other-christian-martyrs-of-the-islamic-world-march-2/

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Slightly edited versions of definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996) follow.  For full entries, consult the dictionary.

blaspheme.  1.  To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner.  2.  To revile; execrate.

blasphemous.  Impiously irreverent.

blasphemy.  1.a.  A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity.  b.  The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.  2.  An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.

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Today, when one one from my perspective (the Western world, complete with secular government, not theocracy) hears or reads about someone (often a Christian in mainly Islamic parts of the world) being sentenced to death and/or imprisonment for committing blasphemy, the response is negative.  It should be.  Blasphemy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; one person’s pious opinion is another’s blasphemy too much of the time.  I am glad that I live in the United States, not Pakistan or a similar nation, for much of what I say and write from my Christian perspective would trigger a blasphemy charge in Pakistan or a similar place.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had cursed God.  His offense was not to have pronounced the divine name; no, it was to have reviled God.  The blasphemer’s penalty according the narrative was one which God had commanded:  death by stoning.

Such rampant violence in the Torah and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures disturbs me.  I know; my proverbial tapes are running.  People tried to stone Jesus on the charge of blasphemy in the Gospel of John.  St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died by stoning per the charge of blasphemy.  As I wrote, blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had a bad attitude toward God.  Our Lord’s critics in Luke 13:10-17 had a bad attitude toward him.  He had just committed a good deed, and people criticized him for doing it on the Sabbath.  (There is no wrong day to commit a good deed.) They needed to change their minds.  I wonder what would have happened if the blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had changed his mind.

As for punishments for blasphemy, real or imagined, may we leave that matter to God alone to enforce.  It would be wrong to commit murder.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-third-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Paralysis of Unbelief   1 comment

Above:  Paralytic at Capernaum

The Paralysis of Unbelief

JANUARY 14, 2011

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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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Hebrews 4:1-5, 11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.  For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall never enter my rest,’

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  For he has somewhat spoken of the seventh day in this way.  “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”

And again in this place he said,

They shall never enter my rest.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Psalm 78:3-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach to their children;

6 That the generation to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Mark 2:1-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  And many were gathered together , so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,

Child, your sins are forgiven.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,

Why does this man speak like this?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit what they questioned like this within themselves, said to them,

Why do you question like this in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk’?  But that you too may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins

–he said to the paralytic–

I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.

And he rose, and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,

We never saw anything like this!

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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He who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him; the sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

Leviticus 24:16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

This is the passage the critics of Jesus had on their minds when they accused him of blasphemy for forgiving sins.

Let us pause and catch up with the narrative in the Gospel According to Mark.  Jesus had healed a leper and instructed to follow the germane rituals of the Law of Moses.  Instead the man had told everyone he could what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to remain in the wilderness for a while until the excitement died down.  Then he returned to his home at Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  And people flocked to him there, in his house.  Four men had to cut out a portion of the flat roof of Jesus’ house and lower a paralyzed friend on a pallet, so Jesus could heal him.  We have no account of the paralyzed man’s faith, but that of the four friends is obvious.

Jewish orthodoxy of the time held that physical suffering, such as paralysis, flowed from sin.  One needed forgiveness from God before healing could occur.  Jesus, who had divine authority his critics did not recognize, forgave the man first then healed him.  Whatever the mechanics of how this happened, the story describes that is occurred.  William Barclay, in is volume on this Gospel, suggests a psychological cause of both the paralysis and the healing.  The man, Barclay writes, may have been paralyzed because he knew he was a sinner, and Jesus’ forgiveness was all the man needed to be whole again.  Maybe so, but I think the result more important than the process or the cause.

And, as Barclay writes in his commentary on this passage from Mark, “The experts in the law were hoist on their own petard.”  Jesus had forgiven and healed.  The man’s healed state was evidence of forgiveness of sin, in the standard theology of the time.  So could the elders of the Sanhedrin claim that God had not forgiven him and that Jesus was a blasphemer who deserved death by stoning without being hypocrites?

The men who wrote the canonical Gospels did so decades after the life of Jesus.  They know how the story ended, and so they planted foreshadowing in these documents.  They emphasized details they deemed germane to the development of the narrative.  We have such foreshadowing here.  It is about to get dangerous for Jesus.

These religious experts were rebelling against God, perhaps without knowing it.  The guardians of tradition were the disobedient ones.  God was doing a new thing, and they either did not perceive it or welcome it, or both.  They were frozen in place, stuck in the paralysis of their own tradition.  Sometimes trust in God requires us to abandon tradition and to accept the evidence we see with our own eyes.

I have watched all episodes of a 2002-2004 series called Jeremiah.  The events of the series occur in 2020-2021, 15 and 16 years after “The Big Death,” a virus that killed almost all post-pubescent humans within half a year.  Our heroes, headquartered at Cheyenne Mountain, are competing with other factions to rebuild the United States politically and otherwise.  Jeremiah, for whom the show is named, is angry with God, blaming the deity for letting all the unfortunate events occur.  One of the most interesting characters is Mister Smith, who claims that God speaks to him.  One day, Mister Smith passes along an invitation from God.  Those who to a certain place on a certain date and who wait long enough will receive a miracle of their choosing.  Jeremiah refuses to go along, but a few others agree to go with Mister Smith to the designated place.  Yet only Mister Smith remains long enough to receive his miracle.  He asked for the restoration of the use of one arm, paralyzed in a recent accident.  And only Mister Smith receives his miracle.  He tells the others that they should have stayed.

God might not make sense to us, but that is our problem, not God’s.

Here ends the lesson, for now.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE OF TARSUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF FIORELLO LAGUARDIA, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOHNSON, JOHN DAVY, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

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Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 4, Leviticus 24, Mark 2, Psalm 78

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