Archive for the ‘Cheap Grace’ Tag

Grace: Free, Not Cheap   1 comment

Above:   The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, by John Linnell

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Numbers 22:22-35; 23:7-12

Psalm 56:10-13

Acts 8:9-13, 18–25

Mark 4:21-23

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In God the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can mortals do to me?

I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;

I will present to you thank-offerings;

For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

–Psalm 56:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Grace is free yet certainly not cheap.  Also, most, if not all people might have their price, but God has none.  We find this theme in Numbers 22 and 23, in which Balaam, despite having his price, obeys God.  We also find this theme in Acts 8, in which Simon Magus offers to purchase the Holy Spirit, succeeding in giving us the word “simony.”

The attitude in Psalm 56:10-13 is preferable:  Be loyal to God.  And, as we read in Mark 4, what we put in determines what we get out.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it requires much of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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The Sin of Religious Violence   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

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 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-palm-sunday-year-d/

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The Sin of Not Loving   1 comment

st-augustine

Above:  Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

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:

Isaiah 54:1-17 or 37:14-38

Psalm 39

John 8:12-30

James 4:(1-3) 4-6 (7-8a) 8b-17 or Galatians 4:1-3 (4-7) 8-3, 5:1

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Love, and do what you will:  whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare; let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

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The more familiar version of that excerpt from a sermon is:

Love God and do as you please:  for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

One might identify a plethora of scriptural verses consistent with this nugget of wisdom from St. Augustine.  The reading from James comes to mind immediately.  In the background of St. Augustine’s counsel is the fidelity of God (evident in the readings from Isaiah).  Yes, we will not escape all the consequences of our sins, but, for the Hebrews in the Old Testament, divine mercy follows God’s judgment.  We are free in Christ to follow him.  Nevertheless, many choose the yoke of slavery to sin.  Maybe they prefer that which is familiar or seemingly easier.  After all, grace, although free, is never cheap; it costs us something.  Yet following Christ is the way of ultimate life, in this realm of existence as well as in the next one.

I like the advice from St. Augustine, for it cuts through legalism (as Jesus did, to the ire of certain religious people) and offers a concise path, one more different from legalism.  Legalism leans toward a checklist morality, which is shallow and typical, for example, of the alleged friends of Job.  Loving God (and, by extension, our fellow human beings) is about relationships.  The Holy Trinity itself is about, among other things, relationships.  We human beings are, by nature, relational.  We are, according to divine law, responsible to and for each other in a web of interdependence.

Taking up one’s cross and following Christ requires one to surrender much, including one’s selfish desires and illusions of independence.  It requires one to grow into a mindset that will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.  In so doing it liberates one to do as one pleases–as one ought to wish to do.

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-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Deciding or Refusing to Repent   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Jeremiah 10:1-16 (17-25)

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36

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You have seen, O LORD, do not be silent!

O Lord, do not be far from me!

–Psalm 35:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

–Psalm 94:12-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Some of the readings for this occasion seem to indicate that God has, at various times, designated entire populations and refused to permit them to repent of their sins.  This reading is at odds with the theology of unlimited atonement (by Jesus, via his death and resurrection), which ends a process begun by the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  My understanding is that (A) all of us are sinners, (B) God desires all sinners to repent, and (C) many sinners simply refuse to repent.  In Judaism one can find an interpretation of the lection from Isaiah that insists that God predicted that many people would not understand and did not desire them to fail to understand.  In this reading First Isaiah’s mission was to help people to repent, not to prevent it.  This makes sense to me.

Why might one not repent?  One might identify a set of reasons, but perhaps the most basic reason is that one must recognize something as an error before one seeks to correct it.  Spiritual blindness is a major problem from which all people suffer.  We can, by grace, see what occupies our blind spots.  Assuming that we do this, do we want to change?  Maybe we think that necessary change is pointless or too difficult.  Or perhaps we are simply afraid to take action by trusting in God and venturing into unknown (to us) spiritual territory.  Either way, one does not repent.

Whoever loves himself or herself more than God is lost, we read in John 12.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, who went to a cross then a tomb, which he occupied only briefly.

To think this much about Good Friday and Easter Sunday on Christmas Day might seem odd, but it is theologically correct.  The recognition of this reality is hardly new.  Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale tune into his Christmas Oratorio.

Grace is free to all, fortunately.  Yet many will not accept it and the demands accompanying it.  Each of us has a responsibility to say “yes” to God, whose grace is always free and never cheap.  Each of us has a responsibility to love his or her neighbors as he or she loves himself or herself.  Doing so will, for different people, lead to different ends in this life, and translate into action in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances.  The principle is constant, however.  Jesus, who came to us first as a baby, demands nothing less than taking up one’s cross and following him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VON HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/devotion-for-christmas-day-year-d/

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Three Kings and Two Deaths   1 comment

The Death of Ahab--Gustave Dore

Above:   The Death of Ahab, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 18:12-22

Psalm 46

Hebrews 9:23-28

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God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

–Psalm 46:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The account from 2 Chronicles 18, quite similar to one in 1 Kings 22, agrees with that sentiment and emphasizes the impropriety of a military alliance with an evil ally–in this case, King Ahab of Israel (reigned 873-852 B.C.E.).  King Jehoshaphat of Judah (reigned 870-846 B.C.E.) enters into a military alliance with Ahab against Aram, a shared enemy.  Only Micaiah, one prophet in a particular group of prophets, says that the planned attack at Ramoth-gilead is a bad idea.  He resists pressure to claim otherwise.  Micaiah is, of course, correct.  Ahab dies.  Jehoshaphat survives, to hear from one Jehu son of Hanani of God’s displeasure over the alliance:

For this, wrath is upon you from the LORD.  However, there is good in you, for you have purged the land of the sacred posts  and have dedicated yourself to worship God.

–2 Chronicles 19:2b-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One can read of the reign of Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:1-51 and 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37.

Hebrews 9:23-28 concerns itself with the atoning qualities of the crucifixion of Jesus.  I, as a student of Christian history, in particular of the development of doctrine and theology, know of three early theories of the Atonement.  Two of these include the death of Christ.  Penal Substitutionary Atonement does not satisfy me (forgive the double entendre), for it depicts a deity in which to stand in dread, not awe.

I will not be satisfied until people torture and kill my son,

that deity proclaims.  The Classic Theory, or Christus Victor, however, places correct emphasis on the resurrection.  Without the resurrection we have dead Jesus, who cannot save anyone.

Both Ahab and Jesus died.  Ahab, who died foolishly (despite warning) and was idolatrous and evil (consult 1 Kings 16:29-22:40 and 2 Chronicles 18:1-34) had it coming.  Jesus, however, was innocent of any offense before God.  The death of Ahab brought to the throne of Israel his son, Ahaziah, who followed in his father’s ignominious footsteps (consult 1 Kings 22:52-54; 2 Kings 1:1-18).  The death of Jesus, in contrast, played a role in the salvation of the human race from sin.

May we who follow Jesus respond to him, treating him as our savior, not merely another martyr to admire.  Grace is free yet not cheap; ask Jesus.  It demands much of us, such as that we not be as Kings Ahab and Ahaziah were.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-29-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace and Judgment   1 comment

Sky with clouds sunny day

Above:   Sky with Clouds

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 22:17-31

Psalm 113

Romans 8:31-39

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Ezekiel 22 is full of divine judgment on the unrighteous, notably false prophets who have stolen from people, destroyed lives, and taken lives, among other offenses.

I will repay them for their conduct–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 22:31b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for their unrepentant oppressors.

St. Paul the Apostle made a wonderful point about the love of God in Christ:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That passage reminds me of Psalm 139, in which the author praises God for being omnipresent:

Where could I go to escape your spirit?

Where could I flee from your presence?

If I climb the heavens, you are there,

there too, if I lie in Sheol.

If I flew to the point of sunrise,

or westward across the sea,

your hand would still be guiding me,

your right hand holding me.

If I asked darkness to cover me,

and light to become night around me,

that darkness would not be dark to you,

night would be as light as day.

–Psalm 139:7-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

On the other hand, the author of Psalm 139 prays that God will kill the wicked and announces his hatred of those who hate God in verses 19-22.  Does not the love of God extend to them?  Does not God desire that they confess their sins and repent?  Does not God prefer that oppressors cease their oppression and become godly?  In Psalm 23 God prepares a banquet for the author in the presence of the author’s enemies, who are powerless to prevent the banquet.  Furthermore, only divine goodness and kindness pursue the author; his enemies fall away, unable to keep up with divine love and might.

God does not separate us from divine love, grace, kindness, and mercy.  No, we choose to acknowledge it and to act accordingly or to do the opposite.  Love comes with the possibility of rejection and the duty of acceptance.  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap, for it changes its recipients; it comes with obligations.  God liberates us to love, glorify, and enjoy Him forever.  Will we accept that grace and its accompanying duties, especially those regarding how we treat our fellow human beings?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-friday-before-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Barriers   1 comment

Stone Retaining Wall

Above:  Stone Retaining Wall, October 1979

Photographer = Carl Fleischhauer

Image Source = Library of Congress

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The Collect:

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.

In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us,

and defend us from everything that is evil,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 56:9-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 57:1-13 (Friday)

Isaiah 59:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:19-28 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-19 (Thursday)

Galatians 3:15-22 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-35 (Saturday)

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Yahweh, do not hold aloof!

My strength, come quickly to my help,

rescue my soul from the sword,

the one life I have from the grasp of the dog!

Save me from the lion’s mouth,

my poor life from the wild bulls’ horns!

–Psalm 22:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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No, the LORD’s arm is not too short to save,

Or His ear too dull to hear;

But your iniquities have been a barrier

Between you and your God,

Your sins have made Him to turn His face away

And refuse to hear you.

–Isaiah 59:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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That passage from Isaiah goes on to say that God will

…repay fury to His foes;

He shall make requital to His enemies,

Requital to the distant lands.

–Isaiah 59:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Then justice and righteousness will prevail, and the words of God will be in the mouths of the people

from now on, for all time.

–Isaiah 59:21d, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

God establishes no barriers between himself and us.  No, we erect and maintain such walls.  We even become attached to them and defend some of them as righteous.  Our moral blind spots prevent us from recognizing every example of this in which we have participated and take part.  Therefore sometimes we mistake the work of God for evil, or at least as negative.  There is frequently an element of the self-defensive in such reactions, for recognizing acts of God as what they are would require us to admit that we are not as holy as we imagine ourselves to be.  It would also require us to question certain “received wisdom,” to which we have become attached and by which we define ourselves.

We would do much better to embrace divine offers of love and reconciliation, and to accept the freedom Christ brings, as well as the accompanying demands of grace upon our lives.  Grace is free, but not cheap.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUPHRASIA OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-7-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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