Archive for the ‘Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’ Tag

Two Kings   15 comments

Ahaseurus and Haman at Esther's Feast

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:1-18

Psalm 7

2 Timothy 2:8-13

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I will bear witness that the LORD is righteous;

I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High.

–Psalm 7:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a devotion for the day after Christ the King Sunday.  Pope Pius XI created that festival in 1925, when dictators governed much of Europe, interwar tensions were rising, and the Holy Father perceived the need to issue a reminder that God is in control, despite appearances.  The original date was the last Sunday in October, opposite Reformation Sunday in many Protestant churches, but the Roman Catholic Church moved the date to the Sunday before Advent in 1969.  In the middle of the twentieth century many U.S. Protestants observed Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday in August.  I have found evidence of this in the official materials of the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968).  Today observance of Christ the King Sunday (on the Sunday before Advent) has become common in many non-Roman Catholic communions.  I have detected it in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Common Lectionary before that, as well as in official materials of Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Cooperative Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, and other denominations.

In contrast to Christ the King we have the fictional Ahasuerus, a pompous figure whose courtiers manipulate him.  He and others figure in the Book of Esther, which the germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) refer to as a low comedy with burlesque elements, as well as a serious side.  (Comedy has a serious side much of the time.)  The Book of Esther pokes fun at authority figures, one of the oldest pastimes.  Ahasuerus, humiliated when Queen Vashti refuses his summons, decides angrily to replace her.  Before he can reverse that decision, his advisers intervene.  This opens the narrative door for Esther to become the secretly Jewish Queen of Persia just in time for Haman to plot to kill the Jews.  Esther might have been a tool of schemers initially, but she becomes an instrument of God.

St. Paul the Apostle might not have written 2 Timothy, but the letter is of the Pauline tradition.  Certainly the Apostle did suffer hardship due to his obedience to God and agreed, as the text says:

If we have died with [Christ Jesus], we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he will also deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful–

for he cannot deny himself.

–2:11b-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Regardless of the situations of our daily life and how they became our reality, may we obey God and do the right thing.  This might prove to be quite dangerous, leading even to death, but so did the path of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-29-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Greater Dignity and Depth in Worship   9 comments

Hymnal 1941 Title Page

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Hymnal (1941), of the Evangelical and Reformed Church

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I like old hymnals.  In fact, I find them infinitely more interesting than contemporary ones.  Please do not misunderstand me, O reader; I am not a reactionary with regard to hymnody.  I do not assume that there has not been a good hymn or hymnal to come down the pike since an arbitrary year.  I am unlike a certain man who told me years ago that nobody had written good church music after 1900.  Rather, I am like the archaeologist of a joke I heard once; the older his wife became, the more interesting he found her.  In this case, the principle applies to hymnals.

Hymnals are like toys to me; they fascinate me, so I “play” with them.  Yesterday I received my copy of The Hymnal (1941), of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, a forerunner of the United Church of Christ.  The Hymnal (1941), like many other books of its sort from that era, is like a stately vessel, for it hails from a time before theologically shallow and extremely annoying praise choruses.  Nobody had thought of praise bands yet, mercifully.  The opening paragraph of the Preface is wonderful:

Christianity is constantly finding better forms of religious expression.  Symbolism, architecture, and ritual are leading the way to finer sanctuaries and more impressive worship services.  A positive theology is asserting itself anew and is greatly influencing religious thinking, thus paving the way for a revival of spiritual living.  Religious realism claims a place in the program of the Church and in the life of believers as a means of interpreting satisfactorily for modern man the social phenomena of an awakened world conscience.  Out of all this grows a demand for greater unity and strength, and greater dignity and depth in worship, the influence of which becomes apparent in the hymns we sing.  THE HYMNAL takes cognizance of this demand.

–page iii

New Forms of Worship (1971)

Above:  The Cover of New Forms of Worship (1971), by James F. White

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Unfortunately, the period from the middle 1960s through the middle 1970s took a negative toll on hymnody and the language of worship.  The proper transition to addressing God as “you” instead of “Thee” was often an awkward one, with a few years required to sort out the proper tone of new liturgies.  The intersecting roads which led to The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) found the proper balance before they arrived at their destinations, fortunately.  Yet, as volumes from my large collection of hymnals, service books, and books about worship attest, some such books from the middle 1960s to the middle 1970s, both mainline and Evangelical, represent what I call, in mock 1950s B-movies style,

THE ATTACK OF THE 1970S.

Examples include The Worshipbook (Presbyterian, 1970/1972), The Hymnbook of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada (1971), Hymns for the Family of God (non-denominational, Gaither-influenced, 1976), Hymns for the Living Church (non-denominational, 1974), The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), and a number of immediately post-Vatican II Roman Catholic resources.  This was the time of The Living Bible (1971), in which Jesus says,

I am the A and the Z….

–Revelation 22:13a

The infiltration of shallow church music continues, unfortunately.  Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the new hymnal of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church, is more about the heart than the head and leans toward contemporary music.  Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), contains some praise music, but at least the book leans toward a traditional hymnody.  The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) is of a decidedly Low Church mold, unlike its immediate predecessor, The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966), which tried to raise the bar, only to become unpopular in many corners of the denomination.  The 1989 book does, unfortunately, contain “seven-eleven” songs, with about seven words one sings eleven times, as the saying goes.  And, ironically, the official Baptist Hymnal (2008), of the Southern Baptist Convention, contains a less traditional hymnody, including more praise music, than the Celebrating Grace Hymnal (2010), of the Cooperative Baptists.  And I have yet to analyze certain contemporary non-denominational hymnals, which I have seen yet not studied for hours on end.  What I have seen, however, has troubled me, given the emphasis upon the informal, the repetitive, and the contemporary.

I have been reading so much about so many hymnals recently that I have forgotten where I read certain comments.  In one of these online places I read a cogent analysis of many contemporary hymnals:  they are more about the worshipers than the one whom the people worship.  I appreciate worship done well.  It elevates the human spirit.  It ought never to become entertainment.  Worship done well creates an atmosphere all about God and differs stylistically from the rest of one’s life, unless one lives in a cloister or a similar setting.  Churches should look like churches.  Hymn texts should be profound and wordy.  Worship should be dignified.  And Eucharist should be the frequent and central act of Christian worship.

Here I stand; I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/why-i-like-old-hymnals-and-hymns/

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Unity in Christ   9 comments

Above:  An Ecumenical Environmental Stewardship Meeting at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, September 24, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/CreationkeepersWorkshop#5656073415868878738

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Ephesians 2:1-22 (Revised English Bible):

You once were dead because of your sins and wickedness; you followed the ways of this present world order, obeying the commander of the spiritual powers of the air, the spirit now at work among God’s rebel subjects.  We too were once of their number:  we were ruled by our physical desires, and did what instinct and evil imagination suggested.  In our natural condition we lay under the condemnation of God like the rest of mankind.  But God is rich in mercy, and because of his great love for us, he brought us to life with Christ when we were dead because of our sins; it is by grace you are saved.  And he raised us up in union with Christ Jesus and enthroned us with him in the heavenly realms, so that we might display in the ages to come how immense are the resources of his grace, and how great his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you are saved through faith; it is not your own doing.  It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done.  There is nothing for anyone to boast of; we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the life of good deeds which God designed for us.

Remember then your former condition, Gentiles as you are by birth, “the uncircumcised” as you are called by those who call themselves “the circumcised” because of a physical rite.  You were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the community of Israel, strangers to God’s covenants and the promise that goes with them.  Yours was a world without hope and without God.  Once you were far off, but now in union with Christ Jesus you have been brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood.  For he is himself our peace.  Gentiles and Jews, he has made the two one, and in his own body of flesh and blood has broken down the barrier of enmity which separated them; for he annulled the law with its rules and regulations, so as to create out of the two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace.  This was his purpose, to reconcile the two in a single body to God through the cross, by which he killed the enmity.  So he came and proclaimed the good news:  peace to you who were far off, and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access to the Father in the one Spirit.

Thus you are no longer aliens in a foreign land, but fellow-citizens with God’s people, members of God’s household.  You are built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the corner-stone.  In him the whole building is bonded together in the Lord.  In him you also are being built with all the others into a spiritual dwelling for God.

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A Related Post:

A Prayer for All Bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/a-prayer-for-all-bishops-of-the-one-holy-catholic-and-apostolic-church/

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Ephesians 2 speaks of unity in Christ.  In the Pauline historical context, the unity was that of Jews and Gentiles.  Times have moved along and circumstances have changed.  To stay local, with a radius of about seven miles from my front door in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, congregations of various Christian denominations have their meeting places.  A partial list follows:

  1. African Methodist Episcopal–1
  2. United Methodist–3
  3. Episcopal–1
  4. Roman Catholic–1
  5. National Baptist–1
  6. Free Will Baptist–1
  7. Southern Baptist–2
  8. Cooperative Baptist–1
  9. Presbyterian (U.S.A.)–2
  10. Presbyterian in America–1
  11. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)–2
  12. Churches of Christ–1
  13. Christian Church and Churches of Christ–1
  14. Independent–1
  15. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America–1
  16. Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod–1

Of course, separate denominational identities need not lead to hostilities, mutual or otherwise.  I am ritualistic, but some of my best friends are not.  We bear different denominational labels, but we all follow Jesus.  So, as a saying goes,

It’s all good.

Yet many lack this positive attitude.  I recall a late-season episode of Cheers (1982-1993).  Woody and Kelly had discovered on their honeymoon that they belonged to different Lutheran denominations, he to the Missouri Synod and she to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  They spent much of the episode arguing until he agreed to convert, saying,

Yes, dear.

The episode highlighted the relatively minor differences between and among many denominations, and how much many of us emphasize them.

Our unity as Christians is in Christ, first and foremost.  May we focus on that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF TE WHITI O RONGOMAI, MAORI PROPHET

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 6, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-2/

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