Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Tag

Precious to God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Tabernacle

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147:13-21 (LBW) or Psalm 147:12-20 (LW)

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

John 1:1-18

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Almighty God, you have filled us with the

new light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. 

Let the light of our faith shine in all that we do;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, our Maker and Redeemer,

who wonderfully created and in the incarnation of your Son

yet more wondrously restored our human nature,

grant that we may ever be alive in him who made himself to be like us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 19

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The people of God are precious to God.  All people are precious to God, of course.  I focus on the people of God in this post because that is the axis of the through line in the assigned readings.

The readings from Isaiah and the Psalms, in the context of the Babylonian Exile, speak of the vindication of the Jewish exiles.  Reading the first portion of Psalm 147 augments this theme.

Ephesians 1:5 refers to God having predestined certain people through Jesus Christ “for adoption toward him.”  Adopted children of God receive an inheritance.  The audience in the Epistle to the Ephesians was Gentile Christians.

John 1:14, in the Greek text (not necessarily in most English translations) speaks of the Word (Logos) of God–Jesus–pitching a tent in humankind.  This tent is the Tent of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).  John 1:14 contains echoes of Joel 3:7; Zechariah 2:10; Ezekiel 43:7; Sirach 24:8; and other passages.

When the Prologue proclaims that the Word made his dwelling among men, we are being told that the flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of the ancient Tabernacle.  The Gospel will present Jesus as the replacement of the Temple (ii.19-22), which is a variation of the same theme.

Raymond E. BrownThe Gospel According to John I-XII (1966), 33

The verb meaning “to pitch a tent” or “to dwell” occurs also in Revelation 7:15 (to refer to God’s presence in Heaven) and in Revelation 21:3:

He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.

God is present among us.  Do we notice?  God may seem thoroughly camouflaged, given the way the world is.  Yet God, who has long been present, will not depart.  People are precious to God.  Do we notice?  Do we consider others precious to God?  Do we think of ourselves as precious to God?

How we think of ourselves and others dictates how we treat others.  This underpins the Golden Rule.  This also underpins mutuality, a Biblical virtue.

So, how do we think of ourselves and others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

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 EDWARD BUNNETT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUANA MARIA CONDESA LLUCH, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HANDMAIDS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, PROTECTRESS OF WORKERS

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY RICHARD MATTHEWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ORGANIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post

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The Faithfulness of God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Return from Egypt, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 111

Galatians 4:4-7

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

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Almighty God, you wonderfully created

and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature. 

In your mercy, let us share the divine life of Jesus Christ

who came to share our humanity,

and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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Direct us, O Lord, in all our actions by your gracious favor,

and further us with your continual help that in all our works,

begun, continued, and ended in your name,

we may glorify your holy name and

finally by your mercy receive eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 18

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Isaiah 63:7-64:11 is a psalm of lament.  For this week, we read the first three verses.  For more context, O reader, keep reading.  The theme of human (collective) faithlessness, in contrast to divine faithfulness, is prominent.  That theme runs through the other readings, too.

Yet some people are faithful.  They may be Jews or Zoroastrians (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23).  Either way, they do what God commands.  They may be Jews or Gentiles (Galatians 4:4-7).  They are heirs–literally, sons of God.  (Sons inherited in St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural context.  Daughters did not.)

Grace is free, not cheap.  Just ask God–Jesus, in particular, O reader.  Grace also requires much of its recipients.  Grace transforms its recipients and the world, by extension.  Grace requires faithful response to God, whom nobody should mistake for a divine vending machine.  Yet certain results are predictable.  As logicians remind us:

If x, then y.

In personal matters, I speak and write only for myself, and aspire to do only that.  In my experience, God and grace have seemed closest during dark times.  I have grown the most, spiritually, when the proverbial bottom has fallen out of my life.  God and grace may have been as close during better times, but I have perceived them as being closer during worse times.  Maybe the light merely seemed brighter in contrast to the darkness.

I acknowledge my dependence on grace.  Daily I establish the goal to be the best possible version of myself.  I, being a mere mortal, fail, of course.  But striving for that goal is worthwhile.  It is something.  God can work with something.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, CO-FOUNDER 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; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

THE FEAST OF SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Adapted from this post

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Divine Audacity   1 comment

Above:  Annunciation to the Shepherds, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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First Service (Christmas Eve)

Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

Second Service (Christmas Dawn)

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 97 (LBW) or Psalm 2 (LW)

Hebrews 1:1-9

John 1:1-14

Third Service (Christmas Day)

Isaiah 62:10-12

Psalm 98

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:1-20

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Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light.

Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence

and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory;

through your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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Almighty God, you have made yourself known in your Son, Jesus, redeemer of the world.

We pray that his birth as a human child will set us free from the old slavery of our sin;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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O God, as you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ,

grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,

may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our judge;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

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The Christian observance of Christmas began in the West, in the 300s.  At Rome, by 336, December 25 had become the beginning of the church year.  Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” (d. 604) wrote of three Christmas Masses–at St. Mary Major, at midnight; at St. Anastasia’s Church, at dawn; and at St. Peter’s, during the day.

Luke 2:1-20 is not historical.  I, as a student of history, cannot refute the evidence for this conclusion.  However, I embrace the prose poetry of Luke 2:1-20, for it speaks of a great truth:  Jesus, not the Emperor Augustus, was the Son of God and the savior of the world, regardless of what the Roman government and coinage claimed.

I have the sources and background to parce all the assigned readings.  Yet I choose not to do so in this post.  Instead, O reader, I invite you to frolic in divine audacity, evident in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as a baby (however that worked).  I invite you, O reader, to frolic in divine audacity, which continues to influence lives and societies for the better.  I also invite you, O reader, to frolic in the mystery of divine love, to feel comfortable leaving the mystery mysterious, and to respond favorably to God daily, in gratitude.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY:  THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN JOZEF IGNAZ VON DÖLLINGER, DISSDENT AND EXCOMMUNICATED GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF THOMAS CURTIS CLARK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST EVANGELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Humility Before God and People, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ruins of the Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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For the Second 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 God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Genesis 11:1-9

Psalm 85

Colossians 2:6-17

Matthew 3:1-12

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Pride goeth before the fall.

The great myth of the Tower of Babel (which contradicts every bit of evidence regarding the history of languages) in Genesis 11:1-9 is a cautionary tale against hubris.  Lest we think we are hot stuff, God has to kneel town, pull out the really big magnifying glass, and squint, figuratively, to see out greatest achievements.  They are that insignificant.  Humility before God is a virtue.

Humility before God leads naturally to remorse for sins and to repentance.  Humility before God acknowledges both divine judgment and mercy.  Humility before God in Christ helps to keep one rooted in Jesus and established in the faith.  And humility before Good helps one, like St. John the Baptist, say, in so many words,

I have a vocation from God.  That calling is important.  Yet I will not imagine myself to be more important than I am.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us is important.  May we think of ourselves and each other accordingly.  May we encourage one another in faith and practice, for the good of each other.  And may we think of ourselves as neither more nor less important than we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBURG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF SOPHIE KOULOMZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR

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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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Proper for the Incarnation   2 comments

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Lord Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine,

thank you for the glorious mystery of your Incarnation,

essential to the Atonement, and therefore, our salvation.

May we, affirming your full humanity and full divinity without necessarily understanding them,

grow, by grace, into our full stature as human beings and achieve our full potential in God.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Genesis 1:26-31

Psalm 110

Hebrews 1:1-14

John 1:1-18

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Adapted from this post:

https://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/proper-for-the-incarnation/

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/proper-for-the-incarnation/

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Posted April 25, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 1, Hebrews 1, John 1, Psalm 110

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Living in Community, Part IV   4 comments

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, 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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Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Joshua 1:1-9

Psalm 91

Philippians 2:1-11

Luke 2:21-32

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George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), one of my great-grandfathers, was a Southern Methodist minister of the old school, including Pietistic condemnations of “worldly amusements” and of ritualism.  He was my opposite.  My great-grandfather also preached that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  This shocked me when I read his sermon notes, in his handwriting.  Jesus growing up in a Christian home would have surprised St. Luke, certainly.  Our Lord and Savior was Jewish, of course.  He grew up in an observant Jewish home that would have made Joshua, son of Nun, glad.

The essence of much of Judeo-Christian moral teaching is that one, by internalizing and living according to divine law, becomes one’s best possible self in this life.  This does not guarantee a life free of suffering, persecution, and economic hardship, of course.  In fact, one may have to endure much because of one’s piety.  The darkness has not conquered the light, and it has not ceased to try.

The focus in Philippians 2:1-11 is a moral and ethical living in a communal context, with Jesus as a model.  (We all know what happened to him, do we not?)  The following advice applies at all times and places, without any necessity for adjustment from cultural contexts not explicit in texts:

Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.

In other words, obey the Golden Rule and the Law of Love, the fulfillment of much of the Law of Moses.  Acting accordingly does not guarantee success in that moral and ethical endeavor, but it is a good start, at least.  Whenever I determine to build up others, I risk tearing them down if I choose the wrong strategy.  Looking to each other’s interests does not necessarily entail doing to them as they want, but it does necessarily involve doing to them as they need.  But what if I do not know what they need?  Good intentions alone are insufficient.

God requires us to be faithful, not successful.  May we heed divine guidance as we make decisions daily.  May we pursue proper goals via correct methods.  And may we succeed in these purposes, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, by grace.  May our lives be beacons of the grace of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Sons of God   3 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, 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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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 63:7-17

Psalm 2

Galatians 4:1-7

John 1:1-18

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God is faithful, we read.  Even when reality falls short of expectations, as when Hebrew exiles moved to their ruined, ancestral homeland, God is faithful.  When divine ire flares up and consumes imprudent rulers and assemblies, God is faithful.  When the darkness of the world proves incapable of overpowering the light of God, which the darkness cannot understand anyway, God is faithful.

The reading from Galatians 4 requires a spotlight, hence the focus of this post.

Pauline literature, whether of St. Paul the Apostle or merely in his name, uses two words many modern English translations render as “children.”  One word is literally “children” or “offspring,” with no gender specified.  The other word is literally “sons.”  Translating the Greek correctly and interpreting the texts in the context of the time and place is crucial to understand the texts accurately.

I am a good, self-respecting liberal.  As such, I accept much inclusive language.  As a pedant, I reject “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” as singular pronouns, for I respect the distinction between the singular and the plural too much to do otherwise.  Besides, one can use those words as plural pronouns–the only correct way to use them.  I also prefer precision in language, so I like to know when “men” refers to males and when it is gender-non-specific, replaced easily with words such as “people,” “mortals,” and “humankind.”

In St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, sons inherited; daughters did not.  St. Paul, using big letters (6:11), wrote that through Jesus, the Son of God, we can became sons of God, that is heirs–not servants, but heirs.  The apostle wrote of God’s inclusive love and grace that reaches out for everybody, although not all people will join the household and claim the inheritance.  St. Paul wrote that divine love and grace wiped out and cut across human societal categories, including gender, ethnicity, and slavery (3:26-38).

If the Pauline language of sons of God in Galatians offends our twenty-first-century sensibilities, we need to read deeply, not superficially, and to understand what he meant.  Then we need to thank God for extravagant love and grace that, via one method or another (Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit) creates opportunities we can never make for ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Empires and the Kingdom of God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For Christmas Day, 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, 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 11:1-9

Psalm 132:6-17

Hebrews 1:1-12

Luke 2:1-20

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At least two themes unite these assigned readings:  justice/righteousness/equity and the conflict between the Kingdom of God and human empires and kingdoms founded on violence and exploitation.

If we back up into Isaiah 10 then read 11:1-9, we notice a contrast of images.  The mighty Assyrian Empire will not survive the wrath of God, who will cut it down and hack it away with iron.  The Assyrian Empire, likened to a majestic cedar of Lebanon, will fall, but a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse.  This shoot will be the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, righteously, in a manner that will create equity.  After all, “justice” and “righteousness” are translations of the same Biblical word.

Another translation of the same word is “vindication.”  Why not?  Certainly, the poor and the oppressed need vindication.

Luke 2:1-20 is theologically rich yet historically inaccurate.  First, as honest students of Roman antiquity attest, one cannot correctly state that all those men named at the beginning held office at the same time.  Second, that census is pure fiction, objectively.  So be it.  Besides, something much more interesting is playing out.  One notices it, if one has eyes to see and ears to hear.

According to the Roman Empire, founded on violence and exploitation, the Emperor Augustus (né Octavian) was the Son of God and the Savior of the World.  He had presided over the transformation of the Roman Republic, consumed by its terminal civil war, into the Roman Empire and over the founding of the Pax Romana.  Yet, as Tacitus wrote, peace in Roman imperial terms was a desert the Romans had created.

In Luke 2:1-20, the angels sang not to praise the counterfeit Son of God and Savior of the World, but to announce the birth of the genuine article.  The angels sang at the debut of a seemingly unlikely savior, a helpless infant.

One function of the apocalyptic theme in scripture is to criticize those people and institutions in power who violate divine principles of justice/righteousness/equity.  By extolling the virtues of an ideal ruler and government one calls necessary and proper attention to the glaring shortcomings of governments and institutions dependent upon violence and exploitation.  God will cut them down, no mater how formidable they may seem from a human perspective.  Empires, kingdoms, states, and administrations rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God, fully realized on the Earth, will endure.  That is an apocalyptic promise for which we wait faithfully.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TRASILLA AND EMILIANA; THEIR SISTER-IN-LAW, SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME; AND HER SON, SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT,” BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. CALDWELL, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 295

THE FEAST OF RUTILIO GRANDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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