Archive for the ‘Cheap Grace’ Tag

Wickedness   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

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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Genesis 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

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The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-d-humes/

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Vocation and Spiritual Maturity, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Assumption of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sunday After the Ascension, Year 2

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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, the King of glory, who through the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ,

hast opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers;

leave us not comfortless, we beseech thee, in our weary mortal state,

but send unto us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,

to guide us into the way of truth and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 178

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2 Kings 2:1-15

Psalm 42

Colossians 3:1-11

Matthew 28:16-20

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There is only Christ:  he is everything and he is in everything.

–Colossians 3:11b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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For most of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ’s mission was t Jews only.  Certain Gentiles expressed interest, though.  These were some of the God-fearers, who rejected the paganism of their cultures and recognized YHWH as the one true God.  At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus issued the Great Commission:  to go out into all the world, to baptize, and to make disciples in all parts of the world.

Grace is free yet not cheap.  Accepting it imposes obligations upon one.  These include maturing spiritually, as in Colossians 3:5-11.  The list there is representative, not comprehensive.  It points to how we think about and behave toward one another.

Such spiritual maturity also thrives at the high points of life and endures in the depths of despair.  Psalm 42 comes from exile.  Exile can assume many forms.  The longer the COVID-19 pandemic continues, for example, the more it feels like exile to many people, including me.  Souls feel cast down.  They feel thirsty for God.  Spiritual maturity helps one endure the wilderness of despair.

God loves all people and beckons them.  God even predestines some percentage of them to Heaven yet none to Hell.  The extravagant love of God functions as a model for we mere mortals.  Do we love people unconditionally?  Do we love those who are very different from us?  I confess that, at my best, my love falls far short of divine love.  Yet I trust in God, whose grace suffices.  And I strive to do better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Human Agents of God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Jesus Before Pilate, First Interview, by James Tissot

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:

Hosea 14:1-9 (Protestant and Anglican)/Hosea 14:2-10 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 34

Colossians 3:12-4:6

John 18:28-40

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He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

while sinners stumble on them.

–Hosea 14:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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I would feel better about Colossians 3:12-4:6 if it did not accept slavery.

Repent and return to God, Hosea 14, urges.  Accept divine forgiveness and act accordingly.  Forgive each other.  After all, everybody needs forgiveness.  And, although grace is free, it is not cheap.  Become a vehicle of grace.  Remain a vehicle of grace.  And do not be an in instrument of injustice, as Pontius Pilate was.  That is my composite summary of the four readings.

And, of course, never accept cultural practices that run afoul of the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/08/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d-humes/

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Mutuality in God V   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Amos

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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Amos 3:1-8 or Proverbs 1:1-19

Psalm 115:1-11

1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-17

John 1:35-42

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The Humes lectionary provides two options for the First Reading.  I will write about both of them.

Amos 3:1-8 includes a variation on the old saying that great responsibility accompanies great privilege.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One can never purchase it, but accepting it entails taking on duties.  To tie Proverbs 1:1-19 into that principle, one has a duty to show love for God by doing love to one’s fellow human beings.  Elsewhere in Amos, we read of greedy, exploitative people, as we do in Proverbs 1:8-19.

These men lie in wait for their own blood,

they set a trap for their own lives.

This is the fate of everyone greedy of loot:

unlawful gain takes away the life of him who acquires it.

–Proverbs 1:18-19, The New American Bible (1991)

Whatever we do to others, we do also to ourselves.

The audience in Amos 3 is collective; it is the people of Israel.  To be precise, it is the people of Israel during the reigns of King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (785-733 B.C.E.) and King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 B.C.E.).  The  Deuteronomic theology of the Book of Amos teaches that actions have consequences.  Obey the Law of Moses, please God, and reap the benefits.  Alternatively, disobey the Law of Moses, displease God, and reap the negative consequences.  Many of those commandments pertain to social justice, especially economic justice.

Our Western culture, with its pervasive individualism, easily overlooks collective responsibility.  Politically, the Right Wing emphasizes individual responsibility.  Meanwhile, the Left Wing stresses collective responsibility.  Both sides err in so far as they give short shrift to or ignore either type of responsibility.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do individual and collective responsibility.  Mutuality holds them in balance.

Psalm 115 condemns idolatry.  The real idols are ideas, not objects.  A statue of a god, for example, can be a work of art to display in a museum.  Idolatry is about misplaced, disordered love, to go Augustinian on you, O reader.  In the case of the greedy people in Proverbs 1, their idol was attachment to wealth.

The reading from 1 Timothy 1 reminds us that God embraces repentance.  Remorse is an emotion that enables repentance, a series of actions.

Regardless of who wrote or dictated the First Letter to Timothy (probably not St. Paul the Apostle), St. Paul seemed unlikely to have become what he became in God.  Saul of Tarsus certainly did not expect it.  And, to turn to John 1:35-42, calling St. Simon “Peter,” or “Rock,” may have seemed ironic at first.  But Jesus recognized potential in him.  St. Simon Peter eventually grew into that potential.  St. Paul the Apostle grew into his potential, as well.

If we are to grew into our potential individually, we need the help of God and other people.  St. Paul had Ananias.  St. Simon Peter had Jesus.  Who do you have, O reader?

Likewise, if we are to grow into our potential collectively, we need the help of God and other groups of people.  We live in a web of mutuality.  We know this, do we not?  Globalization, at least, should have taught us that the communities and nation-states can affect the fates of our communities and nation-states.  

Will we work for the common good?  Or will we persist in delusions of amoral rugged individualism and isolationism?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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The Kingdom of This Earth, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2

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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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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-5

Psalm 98

Hebrews 2:1-8

Matthew 2:11-21

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Understanding Isaiah 11:1-5 requires one to back up into Chapter 10.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire, described poetically as majestic cedars of Lebanon, will fall, we read.  God will cut that empire down to size, we read.  Yet real strength will emerge from the Davidic Dynasty.  The ideal Davidic monarch will govern justly, we read.

The Bible tells us much about divine justice.  Both Testaments are replete with this content.  Obviously, we–you, O reader, and I–do not live in the ideal Davidic kingdom or even the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  Yet our governments can become more just, by a combination of grace and active faith.

Tyrants still hold sway in many places.  God is still their judge.  God is still your judge, O reader.  God is still my judge.  And repentance remains crucial.  All of that is true.

So is what follows.  God, the Incarnation, can and does identify with we mere mortals.  Jesus is able to help us, for he know temptations, too.  And the Holy Spirit is our defense attorney (John 14:16, 26; 1 John 2:1).  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  We may safely dismiss one of the great heresies, hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  We may not safely dismiss, however, the warning that God does have standards.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  This Christmas season, may the kingdom of this Earth come to resemble more closely the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God and for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MAURA CLARKE AND HER COMPANIONS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; HIS BROTHER, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HORMISDAS, BISHOP OF ROME; AND HIS SON, SAINT SILVERIUS, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 537

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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“Love Casts Out Fear….” IV   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, Year 2

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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, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 9:2-7 (Anglican and Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 89:1-27 (Protestant and Anglican)/Psalm 89:2-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

1 John 4:7-21

Matthew 1:18-25

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On one level, at least, the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) refers to the birth of the future King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/735-698/687 B.C.E.).  The Bible is generally favorably disposed toward King Hezekiah, of whom one can read further in the following passages:

  1. 2 Kings 16:20;
  2. 2 Kings 18-20;
  3. 2 Chronicles 28:27;
  4. 2 Chronicles 29-32;
  5. Isaiah 36-39;
  6. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22; and
  7. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4.

We read in Ezekiel 34 that Kings of Israel and Judah were, metaphorically, shepherds–mostly abysmal ones.  Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4 lists Hezekiah as one of the three good kings, alongside David and Josiah.

The steadfast love of God is the theme that unites these four readings.  This faithfulness may be evident in the Davidic Dynasty, a particular monarch, Jesus of Nazareth, or an ordinary human being or community of such people.  Such divine fidelity requires a human faithful response.  Grace is free, not cheap.

The epistle reading holds my attention most of all.  I write you, O reader, to read it again.  The text is fairly self-explanatory.  There is no fear in love.  Anyone who professes to love God yet hates a human being lies about loving God.

These are hard words to hear or read.  I can write only for myself; I know the emotion of hatred.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  All of us are imperfect; God knows that.  We can, by grace overcome that hatred.  We all sin.  We all stumble.  But we can lead lives defined by love, by grace.

I can think of people who define their lives according to hatred and resentment.  These are individuals who leave chaos and destruction in their wake.  They are pitiable.  They need to repent.  And, according to our reading from 1 John, they do not love God.  May perfect love drive out their fear, for their sake and for ours.

And may perfect love drive out the remaining unreasonable, destructive fear in the lives of the rest of us.  I refer not to proper, cautious fear.  I write during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A certain level of fear is positive and responsible; it leads to behavior that protects everyone.  No, I refer to fear that leads to selfish, destructive decisions.  I refer to fear that defines certain people as expendable, subhuman, deserving of fewer civil rights and civil liberties than the rest of us, et cetera.  I refer to fear that works against the common good and drags everyone down.  I refer to fear to violates the image of God in anyone.  I refer to fear that violates the principle of mutuality, enshrined in the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  May the love of God in Christ fill your life and transform you daily more nearly into his likeness.  May you love like Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBERT BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ABOLITIONIONST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DOUGLASS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

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King David, the Temple, and the Dynasty   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Kings David and Solomon with the Madonna and Child

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXXIV

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2 Samuel 7:1-29

1 Chronicles 17:1-27

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The LORD has sworn an oath to David,

in truth, he will not break it:

“A son, the fruit of your body,

will I set upon your throne.

If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

–Psalm 132:11-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a familiar story.  When reading a familiar story, one ought to read it closely, for one may not know it as well as one imagines.

I like wordplay, for I am a notorious punster.  Imagine my delight, O reader, in the wordplay regarding bayit, or house.  We read that King David dwelt in a bayit (palace), but God had no bayit (temple).  Extremely attentive readers of the Hebrew Bible may recall the references to the House of the LORD in 1 Samuel 1.  Nevertheless, 2 Samuel 7:6 has God deny ever having had a house.  This is a minor matter, but one worth mentioning, for the sake of thoroughness.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible points out that God had a house as well as a tent (Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 2:22), the tent indicating that

the LORD is not restricted to one fixed place.

The wordplay with bayit continues with God establishing a covenant and making David the founder of a house (dynasty).  The texts allude to King Solomon presiding over the construction and dedication of the first Temple (See 1 Kings 6:1-8:66; 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:9; 2 Chronicles 2:1-7:22).  One ought to know that hindsight is the lens through which people recall the past.

God changes the divine mind sometimes, according to scripture.  One example is 1 Samuel 2:30-31.  Keep the divine tendency to change the divine mind in your mind, O reader, when reading David’s prayer (2 Samuel 7:25-29; 1 Chronicles 17:23-27).

What am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far?

–2 Samuel 7:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Covenants are not contracts.  Covenants do not entail quid pro quos.  Covenants do entail grace, which, in turn, imposes obligations.  Many people are comfortable with quid pro quos and uncomfortable with grace.  Perhaps grace reminds them of this unworthiness.  Perhaps they prefer to have earned something.  Perhaps the obligations that accompany grace put them ill at ease.  Grace is free, not cheap.

I, having read the rest of the story of David and his dynasty, cannot reread these two versions of this portion of the narrative without feeling sadness over the wasted potential.  I know the rest of the story.  I know of the abuses of David and Solomon.  I know that scripture gives most of their successors negative reviews.  I know about the division of the kingdom and the fall of both successor kingdoms.  I know that David’s lineage continued, but that the dynasty ended.  And I, as a Christian, link this portion of the narrative (in two versions) with Jesus, not Just Solomon and the other Davidic kings.

We are all unworthy.  Grace is our only hope.  This realization may threaten our egos.  On the other hand, this realization may prompt us to live gratefully and to seek to honor God in our own lives, as we relate to God and other human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEANNE JUGAN, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LEARY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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The Birth and Consecration of Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Before Eli

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART II

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1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

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I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

–Psalm 9:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Hannah’s culture, infertility was a curse and a source of humiliation for women.  Several Biblical authors wrote of formerly barren women, including Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mother of Samson, as well as Hannah.  (See Genesis 21:1-8; Genesis 25:19-26;l Genesis 30:1-2, 22-24); and Judges 13:2-3, also.)  In each case, the offspring entered the world with a divine purpose.  Samuel, in particular, provided moral guidance to his people.  Many people ignored him, but he continued to offer the moral advice.

Elkanah, despite being a kind man and a loving husband, seems to have been oblivious to the bad blood between Hannah and Peninnah.  He favored Hannah (“charming” or “attractive”) and had children with Peninnah (“fertile” or “prolific”).  The double portion of the sacrifice Elkanah gave to Hannah contrasted with the portions he gave to Peninnah, his sons, and his daughters with her.

Hannah was pious.  Her manner of prayer at Shiloh was unusual; moving one’s lips yet not speaking was a rare method of praying in that culture at the time.  The priest Eli mistook her desperation and her way of praying for intoxication.

Hannah asked.  God granted.  Hannah kept her word.

Grace is the foundation of this story.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it carries obligations.  Grace also transforms despair into thanksgiving and creates a better future out of a bleak present.

The Song of Hannah (2:1-10) is a later text.  It mentions a king in verse.  That reference to a monarch cannot be contemporary with Hannah, whose lifetime preceded the Israelite monarchy.  The themes fit her circumstances, though.  And, if the text reminds you, O reader, of another song, you may be thinking of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), modeled on the Song of Hannah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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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 (1978) 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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