Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Tag

Eschatological Ethics IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Thessaloniki (Formerly Thessalonica), Greece

Image Source = Google Earth

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For the Sunday Next Before Advent, 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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with

thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 236

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Isaiah 35:3-10

Psalm 148

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Luke 12:35-43

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The two primary themes of the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in Isaiah 35:3-10.  The exile is the Babylonian Exile.  The exodus is the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Placing this reading at the end of the church year makes sense, for the language transitions neatly into texts for Advent.

Psalm 148 is a beautiful hymn.  It reads like reality after God has finally vanquished evil.

Speaking of eschatology, the background of St. Paul the Apostle’s First Letter to the Thessalonians includes the realization that Jesus may not be returning as soon as many people expected.  The question in Chapter 5, then, is how to live while waiting.  The answer is to continue to live according to the Golden Rule, both collectively and individually.  Build each other up.  Repay evil with good.  Support one another.  Do not become discouraged in behaving properly.  The reading from Luke 12:35-43 agrees.

Even when dashed eschatological expectations are not a factor, many people may become discouraged.  For example, compassion fatigue is a real and labeled phenomenon in the context of serial appeals for assistance in the wake of disasters.  Having compassion and behaving compassionately can be emotionally exhausting.

The readings tell us not to give up, however.  However eschatology shakes out, may God find us living righteously, both collectively and individually, at any given moment.  We–as communities and individuals–have vocations from God.  We have work to do.  May we complete it well and faithfully, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Faithful Community, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 100

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

John 17:1-26

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How can people live in faith community?  Certain details vary according to when and where a given faith community lives, as well as who comprises it.  However, Hebrews 13 provides essential guidance for how to live the John 17, 

that they will all be one,

just as Jesus and YHWH are one.  I choose not to copy or paraphrase all of Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21.  I encourage you, O reader, to study that text instead.

I do have some comments, though.  The instructions are representative, not comprehensive.  They boil down to this summary:  Honor the image of God in one another.  This is the essence of compassion, which begins by getting outside of oneself.

The Church has a bad name in many quarters.  A certain bumper sticker reads,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

Many non-Christians think of Christians as being non-judgmental.  To be honest, many Christians associate Christianity with right-wing politics, Nativism, xenophobia, fascism, nationalism, and discredited conspiracy theories.  To be honest, many self-identifying Christians embrace at least one of the following:  right-wing politics, Nativism, xenophobia, fascism, nationalism, and discredited conspiracy theories.  One may even think of Falangism, which is Christian fascism, as in Francisco Franco’s Spain.  The contemporary fascist movement in the United States of America does come wrapped in the American flag and the Christian cross.  Many of the Church’s wounds are self-inflicted injuries.  The proper Christian response to these criticisms is to avoid defensiveness and to live the faith as Jesus taught it.

We of the Church can learn much from our critics.  Some of them may know the ethics and morals of Jesus better than many of us do.  The Holy Spirit may be speaking to the Church through some of the Church’s critics.

Christ is the King of the Universe.  Many of his subjects on Earth are not in the Church.  Likewise, many of the members of the Church are not Christ’s subjects.  The Gospel of Mark teaches that many who think they are insiders are really outsiders, and vice versa.  That lesson functions simultaneously as warning and comfort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/devotion-for-christ-the-king-sunday-year-d-humes/

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Economic Justice and Fundamental Neighborliness   Leave a comment

Above:  Lazarus ad the Rich Man, by Frans Francken the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Trinity, 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 Strength of all them that put their trust in thee;

mercifully accept our prayers;

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do good thing without thee,

grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments,

we may please thee, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 184

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Isaiah 41:1-18

Psalm 103

Acts 2:42-47

Luke 16:19-31

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Several themes paly out in the four assigned readings.  These include:

  1. The sovereignty of God,
  2. The persistence of idolatry,
  3. The imperative of repentance, and
  4. Mutuality in faith community.

However, the nearly unifying theme is the divine mandate of economic justice.  God does not forsake the poor and the needy who seek water and find none (Isaiah 41:17).  We read in Acts 2:42-47 that the earliest members of the church in Jerusalem took care of each other economically.  And we read that the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31 did not care about the poor man at his gates.

Various Hebrew prophets condemned the exploitation of the poor.  We read more about the Lukan theme of reversal of fortune in Luke 6:20b-21, 24-26:

Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be filled.

Blessed are you who are weeping now, for you shall laugh….

But alas for you who are rich, for you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have plenty to eat now, for you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who are laughing now, for you shall mourn and weep.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

The problem with wealth in the parable was the rich man’s attachment to it, paired with his lack of compassion.  He exhibited signs of conspicuous consumption in a society with a gaping class divide and a majority population that was impoverished.   This rich man could have afforded to act on behalf of the poor at his gate, at least.  Even in death, he still thought of the poor man as a servant, at best.

The rich man’s attachment to wealth and his willful obliviousness to the plight of the poor man at his gate were forms of idolatry.  George Buttrick diagnosed the rich man’s root sin as a lack of “fundamental neighborliness” in 1928.

Economic justice is a manifestation of “fundamental neighborliness.”  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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A New Beginning   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, 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 Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 47

Romans 12:1-5

John 1:35-51

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We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

The Reverend Will Campbell (1924-2013)

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If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.

–Pope Francis, The New York Times, November 29, 2020

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Know, O reader, that I have been a serious student of the Bible for most of my life.  (And I feel much younger than my chronological age.)  Muck knowledge of the contents of the Bible has been academic and theoretical, not that there is anything wrong with that.  I have long been an academic and an intellectual, after all.  Living has added the visceral aspect of knowledge to that which has been purely academic and theoretical.  Abstract sympathy for those who grieve has given way to empathy with them, especially during holidays, when families traditionally gather.  Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made the theme of a fresh start in Isaiah 61:1-3 and Romans 12:1-5 more potent in my mind than the many previous times I read those passages.

Scripture is what it is.  How we mere mortals relate to it depends greatly on our experiences.

Some seemingly dry academic material is appropriate, however.

The speaker in Isaiah 61:1-3 was Third Isaiah.  Exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland.  They had learned that the reality on the ground fell far short of their high hopes.  Much despair set in.  Third Isaiah used language derived from Leviticus 25:10.  There would be a fresh start, a new beginning.

“To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor….”

–Isaiah 61:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Year of Jubilee was supposed to occur every 50 years.  People who had become indentured servants were supposed to go free.  Land lost since the previous Year of Jubilee was supposed to return to its proper owners.  The only actual Year of Jubilee documented in the Bible occurred in Nehemiah 5, after the return from exile.

Romans 12 brings us to the theology of bodies in the thought of St. Paul the Apostle.  We who carry assumptions born of Greek philosophy quickly assume that a body is a vessel for a soul.  To apply this assumption to Pauline theology is to err.

St. Paul, like many other Jews, believed that a person is a body, not that a person has a body.  This was a holistic understanding of the self.  This holistic view applied to the body (individually) and to the body (as a group of people in faith community, as in Romans 12:5).

I have read commentaries as I have sought to understand what amazed St. Nathanael/Bartholomew in John 1:48f.  I have read a series of educated guesses from brains better than mine.  The author of the Gospel of John (“John,” whoever he was) kept the text vague in this passage.  He made his point, though; Jesus astounded St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  Then St. Nathanael/Bartholomew followed him.

Psalm 47 reminds us that God is the king of all the Earth.  Accepting that can be difficult at times.  Nevertheless, not accepting it is not a feasible alternative for me.  I must have hope, after all.

I must have a basis of hope that a fresh start is possible.  Otherwise, I will collapse into despair.  Otherwise, I will cease to have any spiritual grounding.  In an age when “none” is the fastest growing religious affiliation, the lack of spiritual grounding is a sort of plague.

Then there is a literal plague, COVID-19.  It has laid bare the best and the worst in human nature.  Mainly, as far as I can tell, this coronavirus has confirmed that we humans are naturally selfish bastards who easily fall into delusions that kill us and each other.

Human nature is constant.  So is divine nature.  As Martin Luther advised, we need to rely on the faithfulness of God.  We need a fresh start, a new beginning.  God can provide one, fortunately.

To return to the beginning of this post, the Pope is correct.  We human beings need to emerge from this pandemic less selfish than when we went into it.  We need to allow the pain of others to touch us.  The first step of compassion is to get beyond oneself.

I know better than to expect a change in human nature.  The study of history and theology combines with experience to make me skeptical of excessive optimism.  But, with regard to God, optimism is justifiable.  God has been faithful.  God is faithful.  God will remain faithful.

May the aftermath of this pandemic be mostly positive, by grace.  May the human species have a new beginning, a fresh start.  May we accept this gracious offer from God.  May we take better care of each other and the planet.  May we awaken from our sinful slumber.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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What Thanksgiving Day Means to Me   2 comments

Above:  The Statue of Liberty

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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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 126

Philippians 1:3-11

Mark 10:28-31

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Torah piety teaches the following, among other truths:

  1. We depend entirely on God.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible to each other.
  4. We are responsible for each other.
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

The selection of readings indicates the immigrant experience in the United States of America, going back to colonial times.  In the United States, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even indigenous people descend from those who, long ago, in prehistory, migrated to the what we now call the Americas.  I descend primarily from people who left the British Isles.  My family tree also includes Germans, French Protestants, and Oklahoma Cherokees.  The Cherokee DNA is outwardly more obvious in other members of my family.  Nevertheless, I hear occasionally from people who say I look Greek, Jewish, or somewhat Native American.

I have hopes and dreams for my country.  I want polarization to end.  I want the politics of bigotry to become unacceptable, as measured via votes in elections and legislatures.  I want us, individually and collectively, to be compassionate.  I want high principles to define both ideals and policies.  I want the rhetoric of religion to justify the best of human conduct and government policy, not the worst of both.

That is what Thanksgiving Day means to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/devotion-for-thanksgiving-day-u-s-a-year-b-humes/

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The Cross and Glorification, Part IV   4 comments

Above:   Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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For Holy/Maundy Thursday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Christ, who washed the feet of the disciples on the night of thy betrayal:

wash from us the stains of our sin, that we may not fail thee in the hour of danger,

but follow thee through every trial and confess thee to the world; for thine own sake.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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O God:  your love lived in Jesus Christ, who washed disciples’ feet on the night of his betrayal.

Wash from us the stain of sin, so that, in hours of danger,

we may not fail, but follow your Son through every trial,

and praise him to the world as Lord and Christ, to whom be glory now and forever.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 146

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Hebrews 8:1-6

John 13:1-17

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Often the Bible repeats themes.  Here is one of those:  the way to true greatness is the path of humble service, not the quest for self-glorification.  Jesus is a role model.

The difficulty in writing this post is in not being too repetitive.  My writing schedule on Saturday, October 27, 2018 (the day I drafted this post), being what it is, this is the seventh consecutive post I have drafted.  By now the theme of service and the caution against seeking greatness via ego is familiar content from the previous six posts alone.

So, without becoming excessively redundant, here is a challenge appropriate for any day, but especially Maundy Thursday:  value being compassionate more highly than being right, according to your self-image, O reader.  I need to pursue that challenge, too.

Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.

–Hebrews 10:24, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

That will glorify God, will it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 8, John 13

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Hardship and Compassion   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Friends, by Ilya Repin

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 3

Psalm 119:113-120

2 Corinthians 11:16-31

John 8:39-47

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The theme of hardship unites the assigned readings for this day.  The Psalmist prays for deliverance and affirms his fidelity to God.  Job, suffering with divine permission for no sin, curses the fact of his existence yet refuses to curse God and die.  St. Paul the Apostle cites his hardships as his apostolic credentials.  And, in the Gospel of John, the life of Jesus is in peril from people claiming to be faithful to God.

Reading the Book of Job and the Gospel of John is an interesting experience.  In the Johannine Gospel the glorification of Jesus involves his crucifixion–his execution by an ignominious method, and not for any sin he had committed. This contradicts the theology of Job’s alleged friends, who defended their God concepts.  As we read in Job, these alleged friends angered God (42:7-8).

Whenever we encounter people experiencing hardship, the proper response is compassionate in nature.  Particulars will, of course, vary from circumstance to circumstance, but the element of compassion will always be present.  We, if we are to respond properly, must be sure that, although we might need to act compassionately, we actually do so.  This is possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/devotion-for-proper-22-ackerman/

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Compassion, Not Checklists   1 comment

Above:   A Checklist

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-christmas-ackerman/

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Posted April 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 3, 1 John 4, Isaiah 57, Luke 1, Psalm 106

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Legalism and Fidelity   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

FEBRUARY 18 and 19, 2016

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Active Compassion and the Law of God   1 comment

thomas_merton_sign

Above:  Thomas Merton Sign

Image Source = W.marsh

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:1-4

Psalm 112:1-9 [10]

1 John 5:1-5

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 4:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/nineteenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/proper-17-year-b-3/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 John 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-11-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

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They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast forever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

he desires of the wicked will perish.

–Psalm 112:9-10, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The two main readings for today pertain to the Law of God–a law which is not a burden (unless one treats it as such)–a law written on proverbial human hearts.  This is the law which our Lord and Savior summarized in two commandments.  Thus loving God and loving our fellow human beings as we love ourselves are part of the same process.  We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love our fellow human beings, whom we can see.

The late Thomas Merton recalled a profound spiritual experience:  one day, in a city, he realized that he loved everybody.  This ethic informed his ethical choices.  How could it not do so?  For as we think, thus we are.

So we have a tangible standard:  the example of Jesus, who set a very high bar.  The call of Christian discipleship is the invitation to follow him–frequently a risky proposition.  Our Lord and Savior’s active compassion caused much difficulty for him with certain people.  Indeed, the Bible and the past are replete with stories of others who got into deep trouble due to their active compassion.  Many of these people faced persecution and/or death because of it.

Yet active compassion is our call.  And, even when we face persecution and/or death for following Christ in it, we may trust in God’s faithfulness, even if some of the promises (such as wealth) of Psalm 112 do not come true.  Sometimes the result of faithfulness in this world is ruin and reproach; the good news awaits us on the other side.

So, O reader, what do those around you need?  This not necessarily the same as what they want.  And whose needs is God calling you to meet, at least partially?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-fifth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 18, 2013 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 5, Deuteronomy 4

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