Archive for the ‘Easter Week’ Tag

God’s Work, Our Task   1 comment

Books and a Globe, from the Library, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, June 9, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

2 Kings 4:18-20, 32-37

Isaiah 52:1-2

Acts 13:26-31

Mark 16:9-20

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In the lessons for this day, we read of different forms of death and resurrection to life.

The Shunammite widow’s son was essential to her well-being in that patriarchal society, in which widows and orphans were particularly vulnerable.  The revivification of the son by God via the prophet Elisha was for the benefit of both mother and son.

The death of the Kingdom of Judah and the ensuing Babylonian Exile was traumatic.  The exile did end, however, albeit without the restoration of the kingdom.  Indeed, the realities of life after the conclusion of the exile did not march the promises recorded in scripture.  The Jews lived under foreign rule in a poor province, after all.  Eventually Judea experienced independence for about a century, but then the Romans came.  The Jews of Palestine lived in exile at home.

The resurrection of Jesus was a game changer.  Without it we Christians would have a dead Jesus and would be the most pitiable people anywhere (1 Corinthians 15:19).  Yet Jesus did not remain on the Earth for long afterward.  No, he gave his followers a mandate.

The work of God is properly our task as human beings.  We have orders to love sacrificially, build each other up, and care for each other’s needs.  We have commands to share the good news of the Incarnation via Jesus and of his saving life, death, and resurrection.  I do not pretend to grasp the full meaning of Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), but I affirm that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus play crucial parts in that truth.

May we, by grace, being glory to God, draw people to Christ, and strengthen others in their faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/devotion-for-easter-sunday-ackerman/

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Christ, Violence, and Love   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

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:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-evening-year-d/

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Divine Power and Perfect Love   1 comment

angel-in-the-tomb

Above:  The Angel in Christ’s Tomb

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:

Deuteronomy 7:1-26

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 5:19-30

2 Corinthians 1:1-17 (18-22) or Philippians 1:1-2 (3-11) 12-20

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Concepts of God interest me.  God, we read, delivers the faithful (sometimes).  On other occasions, faithful people suffer for the sake of righteousness, without deliverance.  God is a judge, we read, but God also acts mercifully and finds the Hebrew people attractive, despite the record of murmuring, of committing idolatry, and of committing other violations of the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 7, placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death, commands Hebrews to destroy the people of Canaan, not to marry them or to come under their influence otherwise.  That is a description of genocide.  That is something I cannot imaging Jesus advocating.  When I read Deuteronomy 7 I do so through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called “Gospel glasses.”  To do otherwise would be for me to be disingenuous as a Christian.

Jesus died violently for a set of reasons.  Among them was the fact that some people considered him to be an enemy of God.  After all, Leviticus 24 orders the execution of blasphemers.  If I am to be consistent while condemning the execution of alleged blasphemers in the Islamic world because of my values of religious toleration and of attempting to emulate Christ, I must also condemn such violence committed in the name of God in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

One meaning of the crucifixion is that human beings executed Jesus unjustly.  One meaning of the resurrection is that God defeated the evil plans of those human beings–not with violence, but with power and perfect love.

May we leave terminal retribution to God, whose judgment is infinitely better than ours, and of whom mercy is also a quality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-morning-year-d/

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Unexpected Agents of Grace   1 comment

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body of 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jesus, the Resurrection, and the Presence of God   1 comment

women-at-the-empty-tomb-fra-angelico

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through 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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-15

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Luke 24:1-12

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The presence of God was a frightful thing in much of the Old Testament.  It was not always so, for Abraham and God got along quite well and casually, according to much of Genesis.  God seems to have been the patriarch’s best friend.  God seems to have been more distant (at least in presentation) by the Book of Exodus.  In 2 Samuel 6 unfortunate Uzzah, who reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant because the oxen pulling the cart had stumbled, died.

The LORD was incensed at Uzzah.  And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God.

–Verse 7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Why acting to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground constituted an indiscretion, much less an act worthy of death by the proverbial hand of God, eludes me.  I do not think that it was indiscretion, but a faithful and respectful action.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the faith community which repeated this story as part of its oral tradition until someone thought to write it down understood the matter differently.

Getting too close to the presence of God was, according to many for a long time, fraught with peril.  But what about those stories of God and Abraham taking strolls together, once with the patriarch haggling with God over the lives of people he did not know?  Perceptions of God have changed much over time.

This is a devotion for Wednesday in Easter Week, hence the reading from the beginning of Luke 24.  There the tomb is empty and Jesus is elsewhere.  The narrative catches up with him in the pericope which begins with verse 13.  The link between the two main assigned readings is the physical presence of God.  It is a cause of peril for one who touches the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 yet not in the Gospels.  There Jesus walks, talks, and dines with people, much as God did with Abraham.

To focus on the resurrection theme in Luke 24 I turn to two other readings.  I imagine certain followers of Jesus, once they had recovered from the shock of the resurrection, reciting part of Psalm 118:

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Verses 22-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

I think also of 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I admit to doubts regarding certain doctrines and dogmas of the Church, but affirming the resurrection of Jesus is mandatory if one is to be a Christian.  Without the resurrection we are left with Dead Jesus, who cannot redeem anybody from anything.  The resurrection is therefore an indispensable of the process of atonement.  Actually, the resurrection is the final stage in that process, one I understand as having commenced with the Incarnation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-wednesday-after-easter-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Violence, Victory, Hatred, and Perfect Love   1 comment

Yael Killing Sisera

Above:  Yael Killing Sisera, by Palma the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through 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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:17-23; 5:24-31a

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Revelation 12:1-12

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The reading from Revelation, told in the language of symbols, is about the persecution of Christians.  Martyrs in Heaven have conquered evil forces by dying, but their counterparts in the Church Militant remain vulnerable.  Their day to sing, in the words of Psalm 118:16 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979),

The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

resides in the future.

Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, knew how to triumph.  She used a mallet to drive a tent pin through the temple of Sisera, the Canaanite army commander, until the pin went into the ground.

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Easter Week.  Liturgically the death and resurrection of Jesus are therefore recent events.  According to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor for short, the proper emphasis falls on the reality that Jesus was dead only briefly.  His resurrection thwarted evil plots, making clear the superior power of God, of perfect love.  Jesus was a sacrifice, not a person committing or condoning deadly violence.

As I have written online many times, I am not naive.  I understand that some evildoers will refuse to amend their ways.  I grasp that human sinfulness necessitates a rescue operation sometimes, and that such missions have body counts much of the time.  Yet I cannot imagine Jesus advocating for needless violence and militant religion.  He was, after all not a zealot, a member of that group which sought to expel the Romans from Palestine forcefully.

The call to love my neighbors as I love myself reminds me that even those who would destroy me are my neighbors.  Jesus interceded on behalf of such as these; should any of us who claim to follow him do any less?

The battle is God’s.  We have the right to defend ourselves against threats, but may we never give in to hatred, a greater foe.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-tuesday-after-easter-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

 

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Yeast, Good and Bad   1 comment

Premium Yeast Powder

Above:  Premium Yeast Powder, 1870

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ61-1537

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through 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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 10:16-27

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

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The LORD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.

–Psalm 118:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That grace demands a faithful response.

Much of the content of 1 Corinthians is a catalog of ways members of the Corinthian congregation was not responding faithfully, not glorifying God.  The advice in 5:6b-8 applied to all of them.  That church needed a heavy dose of sincerity and truth.

Yeast is frequently a negative metaphor in the Bible.  Often it is, in fact, a reference to wickedness and evil.  Evil spreads quickly, as does righteousness.  That is the understanding in the reading from 1 Corinthians.

The contagiousness of wickedness was a justification for slaughter in the name of God, as in the lection from Joshua.  But was wiping out enemies and impaling kings on stakes righteous?  Did not many of the people who approved of Christ’s crucifixion think that they were in the right?  And whom would Jesus execute?  Does not acting in unrighteous ways, perhaps in the name of righteousness, facilitate the spread of the yeast of wickedness and evil?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-monday-after-easter-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 18, 2015 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 5, Joshua, Psalm 118

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