Archive for the ‘Economic Justice’ Tag

Eschatological Ethics XV   3 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1788-1862)

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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Amos 5:18-24

Psalm 63:1-8 (LBW) or Psalm 84:1-7 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (15-18)

Matthew 25:1-13 (LBWLW) or Matthew 23:37-39 (LW)

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Lord, when the day of wrath comes

we have no hope except in your grace.

Make us so to watch for the last days

that the consumation of our hope may be

the joy of the marriage feast of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O Lord, we pray that the visitation of your grace

may so cleanse our thoughts and minds

that your Son Jesus, when he shall come,

may find us a fit dwelling place;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 89

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We have, in the church calendar, turned toward Advent.  The tone in readings has shifted toward the Day of the Lord (Old Testament) and the Second Coming of Jesus (New Testament).  In Matthew, both options, set in the days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, have taken a dark turn.

The Psalms are the most upbeat readings.

Amos 5:18-24 issues a collective warning.  Putting on airs of piety while perpetuating and/or excusing social injustice–especially economic injustice, given the rest of the Book of Amos–does not impress God.  It angers God, in fact.  Sacred rituals–part of the Law of Moses–are not properly talismans.

Matthew 23:37-39 includes a denunciation of supposedly pious people executing messengers God has sent.  We readers know that Jesus was about to meet the same fate.  We also read Jesus likening himself to a mother hen–being willing to sacrifice himself for the metaphorical chicks.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) teaches individual spiritual responsibility.  This is consistent with the collective spiritual authority in Amos 5 and Mattthew 23.  Despite the reality of collective spiritual authority, there are some tasks to which one must attend.

My position on how much of the Church–Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, especially–approaches the Second Coming of Jesus and teaches regarding that matter is on record at this weblog.  Evangelicalism and fundamentalism get eschatology wrong.  The rapture is a nineteenth-century invention and a heresy.  Dispensationalism is bunk.  The books of Daniel and Revelation no more predict the future than a bald man needs a comb.

I affirm that the Second Coming will occur eventually.  In the meantime, we need to be busy living the Golden Rule collectively and individually.  In the meantime, we need to increase social justice and decrease social injustice–especially of the economic variety–collectively and individually.  In the meantime, we need to work–collectively and individually–at leaving the world better than we found it.  We can do that much, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGREVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISZEK DACHTERA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS WIFE, CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS AUGUSTINE JUDGE, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST BLESSED TRINITY, AND THE MISSIONARY CENACLE APOSTOLATE

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Adapted from this post

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Holiness, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Woodland Stream, by Alexander Demetrius Goltz

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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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 1

1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10

Matthew 22:34-40 (41-46)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity;

and, that we may obtain what your promise,

make us love what you command;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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Almighty God, we pray,

show your humble servants your mercy,

that we, who put no trust in our own merits,

may be dealt with not according to the severity of your judgment

but according to your mercy;

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), 87

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Holiness, in the Bible, pertains to separation from the profane/common (Leviticus 10:10; 1 Samuel 21:5-6; Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23; etc.).  Holiness is about complete devotion to God.  Holiness, however, is not about legalism, self-righteousness, and serial contrariness.  No, holiness is more about what it favors than what it opposes.

Holiness–in its proper sense–manifests itself in life:

  1. The Holiness code, as in Leviticus 19:1-37, includes honoring parents; keeping the sabbath; refraining from idolatry; offering a sacrifice of well-being properly; feeding the poor; dealing honestly with people; defrauding no one and stealing from nobody; not insulting the deaf; not placing a stumbling block before the blind; rendering impartial justice; loving one’s kinsman as oneself; not mixing different types of cattle, seeds, and cloth; refraining from sexual relations with a slave woman meant for another man; reserving the fruit of the food tree for God for the first three years; eating nothing with blood; avoiding divination and soothsaying; avoiding extreme expressions of grief and mourning; not forcing one’s daughter into harlotry; and eschewing necromancy.  Most of the items on this list are absent from the assigned portion of Leviticus 19.  Cultural contexts define them.
  2. “The man” (literal from the Hebrew text) is a student of the Torah.  He finds his stability in God, in contrast to the unstable scoffers.  When the scoffers find stability, they do not find it in God.
  3. Holiness is contagious in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10.
  4. Jesus knew the influence of Rabbi Hillel (Matthew 22:34-40).  Holiness manifests in how we treat each other.

In a dog-eat-dog world, more spiritually toxic since the advent of social media and internet comments sections one does well not to read, loving God fully and loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself (assuming that one loves oneself, of course) does separate one from the profane/common.  Holiness is love, not legalism.  Many particulars of holiness vary according to context, but the timeless principles remain constant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DAVID CHAMBERS, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HRYBORII KHOMYSHYN, SYMEON LUKACH, AND IVAN SLEZYUK, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS, 1947, 1964, AND 1973

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN KEMBLE AND JOHN WALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1679

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS PERCY, RICHARD KIRKMAN, AND WILLIAM LACEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1572 AND 1582

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Adapted from this post

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The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the Temple Incident   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Bernandino Mei

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLVII

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Luke 19:28-46

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As my project of reading Luke-Acts and blogging about it brings me to Holy Week, I find myself in territory I have explored in detail more than once for more than a decade, via lectionaries.  I choose, therefore, to refer you, O reader, to my previous germane posts and to focus on broader themes in the upcoming posts.

The Temple Incident–the Cleansing of the Temple–occurs in all four canonical Gospels.  However, the Gospel of John alone places it near the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  The Synoptic Gospels place the Temple Incident shortly after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, during that fatal Passover week.

Luke 19:46 depicts Jesus as quoting Jeremiah 7:11, a reference to those who habitually and unrepentantly violated the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses then used sacred rituals as talismans.  The Gospel of Luke wants us to understand that this pattern was repeating at the Second Temple during the time of Jesus.

Luke 19:28-46 describes a scenario when, at a politically perilous time, Jesus entered Jerusalem and moved inside it like a proverbial bull in a china shop.  Understand, O reader, that observing Passover–the celebration of the end of Hebrew slavery in Egypt–in Roman-occupied Jerusalem created a delicate situation.  Know that law-and-order Roman imperial officials tolerated no disturbance of their order, especially in Jerusalem during the week of Passover.  And understand that the Second Temple was a seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire.

May we avoid overgeneralizations.  We read in the Gospels, for example, that Jesus had some supporters who were Pharisees.  We may reasonably assert, therefore, that not all Pharisees were hostile to Christ.  We know that the Temple was also a holy site for many devout Jews.

Using sacred rituals to cover up violations of God’s moral mandates (such as economic justice, a major concern for St. Luke, Jesus, Hebrew prophets, and the Law of Moses) remains current.  O reader, ask yourself, “Where would Jesus make a scene today?”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, CO-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Two Parables About Prayer   Leave a comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLV

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Luke 18:1-14

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Luke 18 is a well-composed and arranged study in contrasts.  The first contrasts play out in the two parables that open the chapter.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Corrupt/Unjust Judge (vs. 1-8) exists within a cultural context in which widows were vulnerable.  The widow in the parable has to defend her own rights because nobody else will.  She threatens the judge with a black eye, thereby convincing him to grant her justice.  God is the opposite of that judge.  God readily secures the rights of who petition for them.  Therefore, pray persistently and faithfully.

Certain scholars of the New Testament debate whether some texts refer to tax collectors or to toll collectors.  For my purposes in this post, that is a distinction without a difference, though.  So, as I turn to Luke 17:9-14, the collector of taxes or tolls (It matters not which one.) is a social pariah because of his collection duties.

Let us be honest–brutally so, if necessary.  Spiritual pride may be a sin with which you, O reader, are familiar, even if only by knowing someone who has it.  Clarence Jordan, in his Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel of Luke (Jesus’ Doings), changes the Pharisee to a church member and the tax/toll collector to an unsaved man.  That updating of the parable hits home, does it not?  Those who know their need for God are open to God.

Recall Luke 17:7-10, O reader; humility before God is the proper attitude.  One may also remember Matthew 5:3:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“Poor in spirit” is a translation that may be so familiar as to seem trite.  Other options exist, however.

Clarence Jordan has “spiritually humble.”

David Bentley Hart translates this Beatitude as:

How blissful the destitute, abject in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of the heavens….

A note in Hart’s The New Testament:  A Translation (2017) indicates that the connotation is that of a cowering or cringing poor man or beggar.

La Bible en Français Courant (1997) reads:

Heureux ceux qui se savent pauvres en eux-mêmes, ….

In English, it reads:

Blessed are those who know they are poor in themselves….

That is a fine translation, too.

Perhaps the best rendering in English comes from J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972):

How happy are they who know their need for God….

We are all poor in ourselves.  We all need God.  How many of us know it, though?

May we humbly and persistently walk before God and with God, trusting in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDER OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE OF LOURDES

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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Mutuality in God XI   1 comment

Above:  Homeless (1890), by Thomas Kennington

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 58:5-9a

Psalm 112 (LBW) or Psalm 119:17-24 (LW)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-20

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Almighty God, you sent your only Son

as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to listen. 

Help us to believe with joy what the Scriptures proclaim,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O God, our loving Father, through the grace of your Holy Spirit,

you plant your gifts of your love

into the hearts of your faithful people. 

Grant to your servants soundness of mind and body,

so that they may love you with their whole strength

and with their whole heart do these things

that are pleasing in your sight;

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), 26

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In various contexts, from different times, the Bible proclaims a consistent message:  God cares deeply how people treat each other.  God commands care for the vulnerable and weak.  This message is not merely for individuals.  Rather, it is usually collective.

The context of Isaiah 58:5-9a is instructive.  That context was Jerusalem, circa 538 B.C.E.  The first wave of Jewish exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland and found it a troubled, drought-ridden place, not the verdant utopia some prophets had promised.  Second Isaiah reminded people who were feeling vulnerable to care for those who were more vulnerable.  Second Isaiah reminded people of mutuality and complete dependence on God, principles from the Law of Moses.

Jesus upheld the Law of Moses.  He criticized people who taught it badly and wrongly.

When we–collectively and individually–feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize or ignore the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  When we–collectively and individually–do not feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  Either way, we–collectively and individually–may safeguard “me and mine” and endanger or ignore people God does notice.  There is another way, though.  We–collectively and individually–can notice those God notices.  And we–collectively and individually–can practice mutuality and the recognition of universal human dependence on God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN LAY, AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMAN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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Adapted from this post

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The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus   Leave a comment

Above:  The Rich Man and Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLI

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Luke 16:19-31

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Jesus and St. Luke the Evangelist were what certain modern, retrograde cynics dismiss as “Social Justice Warriors”–“woke” do-gooders.  So were the Hebrew Prophets!  Social Justice pervades the Law of Moses, too.  Social justice is a major concern in Luke-Acts, in particular.  Actual (as opposed to imagined) theological orthodoxy includes social justice.

Consider the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, O reader.

The extremely wealthy man wore purple-dyed clothes.  He, in his setting, practiced conspicuous consumption.  This man did not care about poor Lazarus, at the gate of the estate.  Dogs–in that culture, were filthy, undesirable animals.  They licked Lazarus’s sores.  Socially, Lazarus was lower than low.  Even in death, the rich man lacked compassion for Lazarus, whom he regarded as someone to do his bidding.  The wealthy man had condemned himself.  His sin of omission created the unbridgeable chasm separating him from Lazarus.

The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune is prominent in this parable.

In narrative context, the parable condemns wealthy, haughty Pharisees.  Yet I am not content to leave the matter there.  No, being content to lambaste long-dead people is taking the easy way out.

So we all know Lazarus.  He is our neighbour.  Some of us may be rich, well dressed, well fed, and walk past him without even noticing; others of us may not be so rich, or so finely clothed and fed, but compared with Lazarus we’re well off.  He would be glad to change places with us, and we would be horrified to share his life, even for a day.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2018), 45

Human societies define certain people as disposable and undesirable.  Acculturation may blind one to one’s acceptance of such unjust standards.  One may be conventionally pious yet miss the mark.  Societies need to repent, too.  This is another Biblical principle.

Who are the Lazaruses around you, O reader?  How may you best and most effectively exercise compassion toward them?  How does your society, via institutions, policies, and customs, not exercise compassion toward the Lazaruses within it?  Finally, how can people change these institutions, policies, and customs?

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

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Mutuality in God X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Beatitudes

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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Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

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O God, you know that we cannot withstand

the dangers which surround us. 

Strengthen us in body and spirit so that, with your help,

we may be able to overcome the weakness

that our sin has brought upon us;

through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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Almighty God,

you know that we are set among so many and great dangers

that by reason of the weakness of our fallen nature

we cannot always stand upright;

grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers

and carry us through all temptations;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 25

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Sacred ritual is part of the Law of Moses.  So are moral mandates regarding how people ought to treat each other.  A sacred ritual is not a talisman.  To treat it as such is to make a mockery of it.

“The man” of Psalm 1:1 is a student of the Torah.  He, in the original cultural setting and in the Hebrew text, is a man.  In my cultural setting, that role is no longer gender-specific, for the better.  Certain details change, according to physical and temporal setting.  Others remain constant, though, for better or worse.  For example, “the man” of Psalm 1:1 is stable.  The language of positions in Psalm 1:1 is interesting.  “The man” contrasts with the impious, who are in motion–walking, following, and standing–before finally sitting down in the seat of scoffers.  True stability exists in God alone.

The readings from the New Testament tell us that divine values differ from dominant human values.  Conventional wisdom may get some details right.  After all, a broken clock is right twice a day.  Yet conventional wisdom tends to be foolishness.  The ethics of the Beatitudes, for example, look like folly to “the world.”

Micah 6 contrasts with what God has done with what people have done, collectively.  The Bible frequently concerns itself with collective actions and inactions.  My Western culture, with its individualistic emphasis, does not know how to comprehend collective guilt, sin, and repentance.  Yet the Bible does.  Mutuality, not individualism, is a Biblical virtue.  Remember, O reader, that in three of the four readings for this Sunday, the emphasis is on “we,” not “me.”  Furthermore, “we” and “me” coexist in Psalm 1.

The emphasis on “we” terrifies me.  I may try to follow God daily, to practice the Golden Rule, et cetera.  Yet I also belong to a community, a culture, a society, a nation-state, and a species.  The sins of others may cause me to suffer because of my group memberships–community, culture, society, nation-state, and species.  Recall, O reader, that the population in Micah 6 addressed included pious people.  Remember, O reader, that not all Christians in Corinth were querulous jerks.

Ponder, O reader, how we–the “we” of wherever you live–can improve relative to Micah 6:8.  How can “we” do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with God?

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

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Adapted from this post

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Sayings on the Law and Divorce   2 comments

Above:  Divorce Symbol

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XL

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Luke 16:16-18

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Some major, germane points are essential in these readings:

  1. The ministry of St. John the Baptist marked the end of an era.  The ministry of Jesus defined the beginning of a new era (v. 16).
  2. The translation of verse 16n is difficult, but it seems to mean that, given the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, positive response to Jesus is urgent.
  3. The Law of Moses remained in effect.  Jesus has not nullified it.  No, Jesus is the ultimate arbiter of the Law of Moses (v. 17).
  4. The teaching regarding divorce requires its own section (v. 18).

I write within my context–North America.  In some ways, my context is similar to that of Christ.  The widening chasm between the rich and the poor, the shrinking of the middle class, and the persistence of institutionalized social injustice (especially that of the economic variety) come to mind immediately.  Yet, in other ways, my context differs significantly from that of Jesus.  Therefore, I have to read books to learn about contexts of Jesus.  The work of Richard Horsley, given his economic focus, proves essential in this endeavor.  He writes of the reality on the ground during Christ’s time and contextualizes Jesus’s teachings within that reality.

It is likely that [the Pharisees’] “liberal” divorce laws (based on Deut. 24:1-4) were useful for well-to-do families in consolidating their landholding through the device of divorce and remarriage.  Such maneuvering was also taking advantage of deeply indebted families, one more factor exacerbating the disintegration of marriage and family units.  By forbidding divorce and remarriage, in appeal to the creation stories of the solidarity of husband and wife, Jesus was reinforcing the marriage bond as the essential core of the fundamental social form of the family.

–Horsley, Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (2003), 110

Valid reasons for divorce exist in the Bible.  Infidelity is one (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:1-12).  A review of colonial era Puritan family law in North America reveals other valid reasons within their society.  These include neglect, abandonment, and domestic violence.  I know of a female minister who divorced her first husband on the grounds of attempted murder.  Ideals frequently fail to match messy reality.  Ideally, marriage is until death do the spouses part.  In reality, though, some marriages need to dissolve, for the good of the family.

When we interpret Christ’s teaching on divorce in its cultural context, we recognize the economic component of that teaching.  We also see the timeless principle undergirding the culturally-specific teaching.  To mistake the culturally-specific teaching for a timeless principle is to err.  One of our tasks, then, is to ponder how best to apply the timeless principle in our cultural context.  May we, by grace, do so properly and correctly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SANTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCTISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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The Parable of the Dishonest/Crafty Steward/Manager   2 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXIX

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Luke 16:1-15

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This parable has prompted the raising of many eyebrows for a very long time.

In cultural context, however, the parable makes more sense than it does at the first, superficial reading, as well as out of context.

The rich man, a property owner, charged interest in violation of the Law of Moses.  The steward’s job was (1) to manage his employer’s wealth, and (b) to collect rent, debts, and interest.  A steward kept some of the interest for himself. The steward in this parable was (1) squandering his employer’s wealth, (2) “cooking the books,” and (3) making friends in the process of “cooking the books.”  He “cooked the books” by bringing the employer into compliance with the Law of Moses.  The steward had placed his soon-to-be-former employer in a difficult position.  The employer could not charge the steward with dishonesty without admitting his illegal activities.

The steward’s audaciousness in achieving his ends calls attention to Jesus’s lesson.  Anyone of us would go to the greatest lengths, no matter how unsavory, to ensure a place in this world; how much more should we devote our attention to the world to come (v. 8)?

–Michael F. Patella, in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegiate Bible Commentary:  New Testament (2009), 277

Then we keep reading:  We are to use “dishonest wealth” to win friends but not to trust “dishonest wealth.”  No, we need to trust God.  We, unlike the steward in the parable, ought not to squander that which is entrusted to us.  No, we should be trustworthy, so as to earn trust.

Then–as now–the origins of vast fortunes were usually unsavory.  For that reason, wealth, in these verses, was dishonest.  In a society in which the vast majority of the population was poor, the relatively few rich people benefited from exploitation.  Many of them had seized the land of the less fortunate, for example.  Or wealthy heirs reaped the rewards of the land grabs.

Wealth is a popular idol.  Money, by itself, is morally neutral.  However, people’s relationship to it cannot be morally neutral.  So, is money an instrument or an idol for you, O reader?  Whom–or what–do you trust?  And are you trustworthy with your responsibilities?

God is the owner; we mere mortals are stewards.  “Steward” derives from “sty ward,” as in one who tends a master’s pigs.  May we tend faithfully to God’s sty and not imagine ourselves to be owners.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND HIS WIFE, EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALESSANDRO VALIGNANO, ITALIAN JESUIT MISSIONARY PRIEST IN THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WINFRED DOUGLAS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, LITURGIST, MUSICOLOGIST, LINGUIST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND ARRANGER

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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A Covenant People, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Christ

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 42:1-7

Psalm 45:7-9

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17

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Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan

you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. 

Make all who are baptized into Christ

faithful in their calling to be your children

and inheritors with him of everlasting life;

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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Father in heaven, as at the baptism in the Jordan River

you once proclaimed Jesus your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit,

grant that all who are baptized in his name may

faithfully keep the covenant into which they have been called,

boldly confess their Savior,

and with him be heirs of life eternal;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 21

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The people of God–Jews and Gentiles–have a divine mandate to be a light to the nations, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people.  The ethics of the Law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus value and mandate equity and justice, both collectively and individually, as a matter of conduct and policy.

The servant in Isaiah 42:1-7 is the personification of the people of Israel, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  Yet much of Christian Tradition interprets that servant as Christ.  Read Isaiah 42:6-7, O reader:

I have created you, and appointed you 

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

I have checked this text in five French translations.  “You” is singular in all of them, for it refers to the personified servant.  Yet 43:6b-7a refers to “a covenant people.”

Possible reasons for Jesus, sinless, taking St. John the Baptist’s baptism for repentance for forgiveness of sins have long filled minds and commentaries.  Maybe Jesus was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and authors of the four canonical Gospels attempted to obscure this potentially embarrassing fact.  Perhaps Jesus was identifying with sinful human beings.  (One may legitimately accept more than one rationale.)

Regardless of how one accounts for the baptism of Jesus, the baptized belong to that covenant people described in Isaiah 42:1-7.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a demanding divine mandate to serve, to live in mutuality, and to keep the Golden Rule.  To belong to the covenant people, as Gentiles, is to carry the divine mandate to love like Jesus, for Christ’s sake and glory.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a glorious and crucial calling.

Yet a certain bumper sticker rings true too often.  It reads:

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

I hear that saying and think:

Yes, I feel like that sometimes.

Perhaps you, O reader, feel like that sometimes, too.  Many of the members of the covenant community have behaved badly and betrayed the mandate in Isaiah 42:6b-7a.  That is sad, as well as counter-productive to the effort to aid people in their walk with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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