Archive for the ‘Cheap Grace’ Tag

Intelligence and Understanding   Leave a comment

Above:  Head of Job, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by thy Holy Spirit,

that being made ever mindful of the end of all things,

and the day of just judgment,

we may be stirred up to holiness of living here,

and dwell with thee forever hereafter;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 233

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Job 28

Psalm 119:161-176

Ephesians 2:1-10

Matthew 12:38-50

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Which literary (not historical) character speaks in Job 28?  Scholarly sources disagree.  The two candidates are Job and that idiot, Elihu.  Job 28 does not flow stylistically from Job 27, in which Job is the speaker.  The Elihu cycle is Job 32-37, of course, but Job 28 may consist of material that belongs there.  If Elihu is the speaker (as the notes in The Jewish Study Bible insist), this text proves the adage that a broken clock is right twice a day.

And [God] said to man,

“Wisdom?  It is fear of the Lord.

Understanding?–avoidance of evil.”

–Job 28:28, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

To put it another way,

Then [God] said to human beings,

“Wisdom?–that is fear of the Lord;

Intelligence?–avoidance of evil.”

–Job 28:28, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“Fear of the Lord” is a terrible and common translation.  “Fear” should be “awe.”

More interesting, though, is “intelligence” for “understanding” in The New Jerusalem Bible.  “Understanding” is the standard translation in English.  On the other hand, Nouvelle Version Segond Revisée (1976) renders Job 28:28 as:

Puis il dit à l’homme:

Voici la crainte du Seigneur, c’est la sagesse;

S’ecarter du mal, c’est l’intelligence.

We read in Psalm 119:174-176:

I long for your salvation, Yahweh,

And your law is my delight.

Long live my soul to praise you,

and let your ordinances help me.

If I should stray like a lost sheep,

seek your servant,

For I have not forgotten your commandments.

Mitchell J. Dahood, S.J.

If we love God, we keep divine commandments.  If we love God, we do not ask for signs, faithlessly.  If we love God, we love one another, bearers of the image of God.  If we love God, we return to God after having sinned.  If we love God, we try to avoid evil.  If we love God, we embrace divine mercy for ourselves and all other recipients of it.  If we love God, we accept the present of salvation and the demands that gift makes on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.  If we love God, we stand in awe of God and act intelligently, with understanding, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XIX   Leave a comment

Above:  The Poor, the Lame, and the Blind Called Into the Supper

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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

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

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Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand

the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil;

and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only true God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 216

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Ezekiel 37:15-28

Psalm 101

Hebrews 4:9-13 and Ephesians 4:1-6

Luke 14:15-33

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Divine justice may seem unrecognizable to many of us much of the time.  Divine justice/righteousness comes bound up with judgment and mercy.  We can hide nothing from God, and divine judgment is frequently permitting our proverbial chickens to roost.  We may, like the author of Psalm 101, favor

destroying the wicked in the land

or something like that, but such a decision belongs with God, not any mere mortal.  God may choose to forgive and restore, for all we know.  Our proper human response is to care for each other to be humble before God and each other.

The Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-33) requires attention.  The host represents God.  The host properly takes offense at disrespectful excuses from people who had accepted invitations.  The host, true to the Lukan theme of reversal of fortune, invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame–powerless, marginalized people.  Then the host, still having room, invites Gentiles.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), quoted T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus (1957), 130:

The two essential points in His teaching are that no man can enter the Kingdom without the invitation of God, and that no man can remain outside it but by his own deliberate choice.

We make our decisions, after all.  Grace is extravagant and free yet not cheap.  Awe, respect, and gratitude for grace should compel one to accept it and to permit it to transform one’s life.  One ought to accept the invitation to the great banquet of God and never offer excuses.  Yet one is free to reject the invitation and to offer excuses.  God sends no person to Hell.  All who are present in Hell condemned themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAROSLAV VAJDA, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF CEBULA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILIUS OF SULMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ALMSGIVER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA, 1841

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, EPISCOPAL ATTORNEY, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Collective Sins   3 comments

Above:  Gleaners Beating Out Their Sheaves, Palestine, 1938

Photographer = John David Whiting

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-03080

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For the First Sunday Before Lent, Year 1

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

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

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O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth;

send thy Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues,

without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee.

Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 141

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

Psalm 23

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Luke 1:18-31

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God loves us, we read.  God cares about us, we hear.  Only goodness and kindness will either attend or pursue us in Psalm 23, depending on the translation.  Our enemies must watch, powerless, as we feast in a divine banquet.

Grace descends.  It is free yet not cheap.  Grace demands that we extend love and respect to God and each other.  The Law of Moses contains much practical, usually culturally-specific guidance about how to do that.  How might we find new practical examples in our contexts?

The instructions in Leviticus 19:1-18 contain guidance about how to treat God and each other.  The two are inseparable.  How can we love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love people, whom we can see?  The commandments call for reverence for God and justice for people, especially parents, the poor, the hungry, the deaf, the blind, and anyone who is vulnerable, powerless, or less powerful.  Exploitation is not an option in Leviticus 19:1-18.

Challenges to living according to this high standard are different to overcome.  Sin is not just a personal matter.  No, it is also a societal and an institutional problem.  Sinful institutions and societies restrict the non-sinful options of their members, even the most pious ones.  Who makes our clothes and towels, and under what circumstances, for example?  And what about our beloved devices, some of them essential to our lives and the world?  Checking out of a society built on cheap labor is not easy and rarely feasible.  As we go about our days, trying to do good work and pay bills, we find that our time to care about who made our towels in a foreign sweatshop is scarce.  Our societies make us complicit in collective sins.

Only God can save the world by replacing the corrupt world order built on violence and exploitation.  We can, however, do something, even if only a little.  We can make ethical shopping choices when possible.  We, as members of society, can improve it by changing our minds and acting accordingly.

It is something, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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To Glorify and Enjoy God II   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

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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2 Chronicles 36:11-23 or Joshua 24:1-7, 13-25

Psalm 83:1-5, 13-18

Ephesians 6:11-24

Luke 7:1-17

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One should serve God, of course.  Not trying to do so is mainly unacceptable.  Yet trying to do so does not guarantee succeeding in doing so; one can be sincerely wrong.  The history of religion is replete with those who have committed evils while laboring under the impression they were serving God.  So is the present state of religion.

We are morally responsible for and to each other.  Saying and writing that sentence is easy.  Understanding how it properly translates into attitudes and actions in various contexts can prove very challenging, though.

Praying is a good start, of course.  Yet we must distinguish between a dialogue and an internal monologue if we are to know the difference between God and what we want to hear.

God’s choice of human instruments may surprise us, as may the number of “others” who are among the faithful.  We humans tend to prefer neat, orderly categories, such as “insiders” and “outsiders.”  But what if we, who think ourselves as insiders, are really outsiders?  I tell people sometimes that the lists of people who are in Heaven and who are not there would astound and scandalize us if we could see them.

Grace is astounding, is it not?  It is free yet not cheap.  Likewise, judgment and mercy exist in context of each other; they are in balance God knows what that balance is.  So be it.

May we, by grace, succeed is serving God, in glorifying and enjoying God in the moment and forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/devotion-for-proper-7-year-c-humes/

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The Scandal of Grace VII   1 comment

Above:  The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, by James Tissot

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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2 Chronicles 12:1-14 or Joshua 3:7-17

Psalm 76

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 4:13-30

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Divine judgment and mercy come packaged together.  When the oppressed go free, what price do the oppressors pay?  We humans frequently judge ourselves and select our punishments.  Furthermore, as in 2 Chronicles 12, deliverance is partial sometimes.  To quote a cliché, God sometimes makes us lie down in the bed we have made.  Another example of the mixture of divine judgment and mercy comes from Joshua 3.  We read of the crossing of the Israelites into the Promised Land.  If we know the narrative well, we are aware that the generation that left slavery in Egypt did not enter the Promised Land.

May we be meek before God.  May we embrace the love of God for all people–including those quite different from us.  May we, unlike former neighbors of Jesus in Nazareth, never seek a claim to divine blessings just for ourselves and those similar to us.  May we celebrate the scandal of grace and the responsibilities grace imposes upon its recipients.  After all, grace is free, but not cheap.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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Grace, Part I   3 comments

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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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Job 42:1-17 or Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Psalm 48

James 5:12-20

Mark 4:1-20

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At the end of the Season After the Epiphany or the beginning of the Season After Pentecost (depending on the year), we finish hopping and skipping through three books–Job, Deuteronomy, and James.  If we pay attention, we notice that Job granted his daughters the right to inherit from his estate–a revolutionary move at that time and place.

Overall, when we add Psalm 48 and Mark 4:1-20 to the mix, we detect a thread of the goodness of God present in all the readings.  Related to divine goodness is the mandate to respond positively to grace in various ways, as circumstances dictate.  The principle is universal, but the applications are circumstantial.

Consider, O reader the parable in our reading from Mark 4.  The customary name is the Parable of the Sower, but the Parable of the Four Soils is a better title.  The question is not about the effectiveness of the sower but about the four soils.  Are we distracted soil?  Are we soil that does not retain faith in the face of tribulation or persecution?  Are we soil into which no roots sink?  Or are we good soil?  Do we respond positively to grace, which is free yet not cheap, or do we not?

Job 42:11 tells that all Job’s “friends of former times” visited him and “showed him every sympathy.”  (Job is a literary character, of course, so I do not mistake him for a historical figure.)  I imagine Zophar, Bildad, Eliphaz, and even Elihu, who went away as quickly as he arrived, having realized their errors, dining with Job in shalom.  That is indeed a scene of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Living the Incarnation, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, whose glory angels sang when Christ was born:

grant that we, having heard the good news of his coming,

may live to honor thee and to praise his holy name;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-9

Colossians 1:9-20

John 1:1-18

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Without resorting to the errors of Pietism, I ponder the Incarnation and ask a basic question:  So what?  That is an essential question in many fields, especially history, my chosen discipline.  “So what?” is also germane to theology.

Answering that question with regard to the Incarnation is easy:  The Incarnation is something we have an obligation to live.  Grace is free yet not cheap.  Living the Incarnation can prove costly; just consult accounts of persecutions and martyrdoms from antiquity to the present time.  The Word, having become flesh and having dwelt among us, requires us to respect the dignity of our fellow human beings.  Doing that and insisting that society do the same will offend many people all across the political spectrum.

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

Archbishop Helder Camara (1909-1999)

To have enough imagination and trust in God to ask how much better–more charitable, equitable, peaceable, et cetera–the world can be is one way to live the Incarnation.  Society is merely people; when enough people change their minds, society changes, too.  We, in our collective lives, can come closer to living the Incarnation, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHOROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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A Faithful Response, Part XVIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast promised for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Genesis 21:1-13

Philippians 1:12-18

Luke 4:1-13

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We all benefit from grace in more ways than we know, even if we count our blessings conscientiously, daily.  Many blessings are so commonplace as to fade into the background of life.  Examples for many of us include reliable transportation, electrical service, and indoor plumbing.  For many, though, these are not ubiquitous.  Other blessings are so out of the ordinary as to attract attention readily.

Such generosity demands both gratitude and faithful response; grace is free, but not cheap.  Faithful response may cost one little much of the time, especially if one is obviously fortunate.  Yet, O reader, consider Jesus in Luke 4:1-13 and St. Paul the Apostle in Philippians 1:12-18.  At the time of testing, will one remain faithful?

Martyrs have swelled the ranks of Christian saints.  So have those who, without dying for the faith and God, have remained faithful in the context of daunting circumstances.  Jesus, of course, went to the cross, and St. Paul the Apostle died via beheading.

If they could do that, surely I can follow Christ day-by-day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 21, Luke 4, Philippians 1

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Human Obliviousness and the Faithfulness of God, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who prayed for thy disciples that they might be one even as thou art one with the Father:

draw us to thyself that, in common love and obedience to thee,

we may be united to one another in the fellowship of the one Spirit,

that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

or

Eternal God, who hast called us to be members of one body:

bind us to those who in all times and places have called upon thy name,

that, with one mind and heart, we may display the unity of thy church

and bring glory to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Isaiah 49:8-13

Hebrews 10:11-25

John 6:25-35

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The request for a sign in John 6:30 simultaneously amuses and galls me, given its temporal setting, that is, one day after the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  Alas, people continue to be oblivious; human nature is a constant.

The faithfulness of God is another constant.  The corresponding demands of grace–free yet not cheap–are constants as well.  Through no means of our own abilities grace is available to us.  Will we recognize and accept it, then function as agents of grace to our fellow human beings?  Or will we be oblivious?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Repentance and Restoration, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Onesimus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,

and art wont to give more than wither we desire or deserve:

pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy;

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125-126

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Hosea 14:1-9

Philemon 4-20

Luke 18:9-14

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Repentance–national in Hosea 14, individual in Luke 18 and Philemon–is the essence of these readings.

The Letter to Philemon has long been a misunderstood text.  Since antiquity many have cited it to justify reuniting runaway slaves with their masters–obviously a misinterpretation, given verse 16.  Onesimus may even not have been a slave, for the correct translation of verse 16 is

…as if a slave,

not the usual

…as a slave.

And Onesimus may not have been a thief either, according to a close reading of the text.

According to tradition, by the way, Philemon heeded the letter’s advice; he freed Onesimus.  Both men became bishops and martyrs, furthermore.

Tax farming was an inherently exploitative system.  Not only did the collected taxes support the Roman occupiers, but tax collectors were not salaried bureaucrats.  No, they lived off what they collected in excess of Roman taxes.  They were literal tax thieves.  The tax collector in the parable knew what he was.  He was honest before God as he pleaded for mercy.  The Pharisee in the parable was proud, though.

As Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the retired Episcopal Bishop of Georgia, said, the Pharisees were the good churchgoing people of their day.

If we churchy people are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have more in common with the Pharisee than the tax collector of the parable.  We make our handiwork–spiritual, more than physical, probably–our idol.  Perhaps we imagine ourselves as being better than we are.

What would a sequel to the parable have been?  Would the tax collector have found a new profession?  Would the Pharisee have continued to be insufferably smug and self-righteous?

Repentance is active. Grace, although free, is far from cheap.  Perhaps it requires one to become a bishop and martyr, or to change one’s career.  Certainly it requires one to be humble before God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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