Archive for the ‘Ernest Lee Stoffel’ Tag

The New Heaven and the New Earth   Leave a comment

Above:  The Celestial City and the River of Bliss, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART XV

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Revelation 21:1-22:5

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God’s creative destruction finally complete, the fully-realized Kingdom of God may arrive.  The language of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament is simultaneously present tense and future tense.  The partially-realized Kingdom of God is here and has been here for a long time.  Yet much remains to come.

In Revelation 21:1-22:5, finite language speaks of infinite grace and a new world order.  Death, grief, pain, chaos, and other causes of suffering are no more.  The New Jerusalem is a new, renewed creation.  It is paradise restored, after Genesis 3.  Mythological language, best suited to describe the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), proposed:

The re-creating power of Christ’s suffering love is time-less.  The reign of Christ’s suffering love is time-less.  The re-creating power of suffering love can happen “in time” and “beyond time.”

–103

He was, I suppose, channeling C. H. Dodd’s Realized Eschatology–the Kingdom of God does not come; it is.  God is time-less.  Our perspectives are time-bound, however.  Therefore, certain events make the reality of the Kingdom of God more evident than before.

I recognize much of merit in the case Dodd made.  Maybe the temporal perspective of this student of the past is too strong for Realized Eschatology to satisfy me fully.  Nevertheless, I admit that my point of view is limited.

Stoffel’s case makes much sense.  In Genesis 1:1, God began to create.  God continues to create.  God continues to re-create.

That satisfies me fully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP SCHAFF AND JOHN WILLIAMSON NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED HISTORIANS, THEOLOGIANS, AND LITURGISTS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH FUNCKE, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES W. C. PENNINGTON, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND ABOLITIONIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF OHIO, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

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The Woman, the Red Dragon, and the Two Beasts   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of the Dragon, by Evelyn de Morgan

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART XII

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Revelation 12:1-15:8

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THE SHADOW OF KING ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES

Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.) was notorious.  He persecuted Jews and became the chief boogeyman of First, Second, and Fourth Maccabees.  The Daniel apocalypse (chapters 7-12), composed in the first century B.C.E., referred to him.  Revelation added more references to le roi terrible.  For example, the three and a half years (forty-two months) before the fall of “Babylon” (Rome) called back to the time King Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and persecuted Jews.

Revelation 12 and 13 unfold during those symbolic forty-two months.  The vivid accounts, replete with symbolism drawn from regional mythology, the Hebrew Bible, 2 Esdras/4 Ezra, 1 and 2 Enoch, and 2 Baruch, among other sources.  For example, the following sources are germane to Revelation 12-15:

  1. 1 Enoch 40:7; 54:6
  2. 2 Enoch 7; 18; 29:5
  3. The Ascension of Isaiah 7:9; 10:29
  4. 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 6:49-42; 12:22-25
  5. The Sybilline Oracles 4:119-127, 137-139; and
  6. 2 Baruch 29:4.

THE EVOLVING THEOLOGY OF SATAN IN JUDAISM

Revelation 12:7-9 reflects a relatively late development in the theology of Satan.  Careful study of the evolution of Jewish and Christian theology reveals that, until the Persian period, “the Satan”–“the Adversary”–worked for God, usually as a loyalty tester.  Satan as a free agent is an idea imported from Zoroastrianism, in which Ahriman is the chief evil force, and the opposite number of Ahura-Mazda.  One may conclude that Jewish and Christian theology finally arrived at the correct theology of Satan.  Regardless of what one decides regarding this theological matter, the historical record remains objectively accurate and not subject to dispute.

HIGH TREASON

If the Roman censors had understood Revelation, they would have correctly identified chapters 12-15 as treasonous.  The woman (12:1-6), resembling the goddess Isis, is the Church.  The great, red dragon, with dominion in the known world, is Satan.  The dragon pursues the woman, but she survives.  The Archangel Michael defeats the dragon in Heaven and casts him down to the Earth.  That is bad news for the Earth.  Horns represented power.  Ten horns represented complete power.  So, in Revelation 13, the beast rising out of the sea had complete power.  The horns were Emperors of Rome.

Can you say “treason,” O reader?

One emperor–Nero (d. 68)–received special attention in 13:3.  He had supposedly not died–not really.  He would supposedly return to life and lead an army out of Parthia and ravage the Roman Empire.  Nero was the original figure of the Antichrist.

Revelation 13 labels the Roman Empire a force of evil.  When civil authority becomes an expression of evil, the only proper Christian response, in Revelation, is to disobey it and to obey God.

666

The number “666” is symbolic.  Seven is the number of perfection.  Six, therefore, is less than perfect; it represents evil.  “666” represents ultimate evil.  “666” is, as Donald Richardson said:

godless political power allied with godless religion.

–Quoted in Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 75

Stoffel offered:

There is also a warning here for Christians and for any who would speak in the name of God.  Any church or religion that allows itself to overlook injustice may have the number of the beast.  This speaks to me as an individual Christian.  In order to prosper I might be tempted to condone or overlook injustice, and so be wearing the “number” myself.

–76

We read in Revelation 14 that all who followed God in Christ will find redemption and that all who worshiped the Roman Empire and its value system will find damnation.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Those damnable values include exploitation and militarism.  These have no place in the Kingdom of God.

Revelation 15 includes praise of God.  The chapter concludes by setting up the next few chapters with seven bowls of judgment.

What are our contemporary Roman Empires?  To what extend to we buy into their erroneous value systems?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 24:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CHARLES GOUNOD, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BIRGITTE KATERINE BOYE, DANISH LUTHERAN POET, PLAYWRIGHT, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BOWRING, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MCSORLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, PROFESSOR, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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The Throne, the Sealed Book, and the Lamb   Leave a comment

Above:  The Adoration of the Lamb

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART IX

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Revelation 4:1-5:14

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One of the advantages of apocalyptic literature, politically subversive and treasonous in the context of the days of the Roman Empire, was that Roman imperial censors could not understand it.  How would a censor have interpreted the beginning of Revelation 4, for example?  He may have given up quickly, in frustration.

Without getting lost in the symbolism and numerology, one can grasp that this is a scene of divine judgment.  All created things, as well as all people of faith in the Old and New Testaments, are near yet separated from the throne of God.  Mercy tempers divine judgment.  The audience praises God.

Holy, holy, holy is God the sovereign Lord of all, who was, and is, and is to come!

–Revelation 4:8b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

God was worthy to receive glory, honor, and power in 4:11.  Jesus–the lamb–was worthy to receive the scroll and break its seals in 5:9-10.

Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel offered this analysis:

What is this really saying?  I believe it is saying that the suffering love of God is the key that will help us live with our suffering and with ourselves.  There is something in the universe that has not been defeated by pain and evil and sin.  That something is the crucified love of the Creator….

Revelation is saying that faith does have some place to go.  And God knows we need some place to go–some live option of faith….

And I think it must also be said that even those Christians of the first century did not see the heavens opened.  But they accepted this option of faith and died with it.  They believed that the love of God, not Rome, would have the victory.  The other option is to live without meaning or purpose, it seems to me.  In the meantime, it means that I may not be delivered from it, but I can be delivered through, by the suffering of him who died, but is “alive for evermore” (1:18).  

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 43-45

One may lose oneself in sacred music (such as Worthy is the Lamb) based on parts of these chapters.  One should do so.  Doing so may prove easier than really believing that the love of God, not (insert the name of an oppressive earthly power here) will have the victory.  I consider myself fairly devout, and I harbor doubts sometimes.  How could I not?

Nevertheless, in the words of Soorp Soorp, from the liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church:

Holy, Lord of hosts.

Heaven and Earth are full of Thy glory.

Blessing in the highest.

Blessed art Thou that didst come and art to come in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CALLIXTUS I, ANTERUS, AND PONTIAN, BISHOPS OF ROME; AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS, ANTIPOPE

THE FEAST OF JEAN-BAPTISTE LAMY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN LYSKO, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1949

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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To the Church in Philadelphia   Leave a comment

Above:  Alasehir, Turkey

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING REVELATION, PART VII

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Revelation 3:7-13

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Philadelphia was an unremarkable city.  A center of the wine trade, the city’s chief God was Dionysius.

The church there was small, poor, and faithful.  It suffered persecution, including some from local Jews.  More persecution was coming down the pike, but Jesus promised to stand with this flock.

Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel wrote of the similarity between the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia.  The church in Smyrna was poor yet rich.  The church in Philadelphia had no power yet had an opportunity of which nobody could deprive it.  Both congregations were rich in faith.  Stoffel, applying the passages about these congregations to the contemporary church, wrote:

We can think of our emphasis on resources and programs, on technique and structure.  We can also think on our declining influence.  There might be a connection.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 35

He may have been right.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, IRISH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, ENGLISH NURSE AND MARTYR, 1915

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FRY, ENGLISH QUAKER SOCIAL REFORMER AND “ANGEL OF THE PRISONS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Posted October 12, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Revelation of John 3

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To the Church in Ephesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins at Ephesus, Between 1850 and 1880

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-108956

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READING REVELATION, PART II

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Revelation 2:1-7

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Cultural accommodation can be a challenging issue.  Being a faithful Christian does not entail serial, default contrariness.  The outside culture gets some matters right.

The culture at the time of the composition of Revelation was pagan and Hellenistic.  Most religions were polytheistic.  Conventional expressions of patriotism included emperor-worship.  The culture was hostile to young Christianity.  The Nicolaitans favored cultural accommodation.  The church at Ephesus loathed the Nicolaitans, at least.  They had that much right.

Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make:  you have less love now than you used to.

–Revelation 2:4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Recall the First Epistle of John, O reader.  The text prized theological orthodoxy–especially Christological orthodoxy.  It also valued love.

Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,

because God is love.

–1 John 4:8, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The church at Ephesus had an opportunity to correct its error–or else.

Perhaps you, O reader, can think of at least one congregation strong in theological orthodoxy yet weak in love.  You may have been part of this congregation, been a neighbor of it, or heard of it second-hand.  Divorcing orthodoxy and orthopraxy from each other is foolish.  The love of God in Christ is part of Christian orthopraxy.  Maybe you, O reader, have struggled with this matter individually.

As I think about the mission of the church, as I hear calls for “more evangelism” and a stronger application of the Gospel to the social issues of the day, I wonder if we can do either unless we can love first–love each other and love the world, for Christ’s sake.

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 27

To that I add more quote:

If I have the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.  If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fulness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all.  If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Love takes work.  Love provides much satisfaction.  Love hurts.  Love laughs.  Love cries.  Love builds up.

This is much of the work of the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELISGT AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CLAUS WESTERMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTFRIED WEBER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

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Glorifying God VII   1 comment

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

A Screen Capture

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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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Genesis 11:1-9 or Acts 28:16-31

Psalm 135:1-14

Revelation 6:1-17

John 9:1-41

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The gospel of Christ will always stand in judgment of the things that are happening in the political, economic, and social spheres of communities and nations.  And if this is so, then martyrdom is not as far away as we think.  The word “martyr” in Greek is the same word from which we get the word “witness.”

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 49-50

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To be a witness to God can be risky.  The risk may or may not involve violence, injury or death.  However, even under the best of circumstances, to ignore or minimize that risk is foolish.  Risk may even come from conventionally religious people–from powerful ones, perhaps.

I detect an element of humor in John 9:1-41.  (Reading the Bible in such a way as to miss humor is far too common.)  By the time a reader arrives at the end of the story, one may imagine steam pouring out of the ears of some of the Pharisees, if this story were in the form of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  This would make for a wonderful scene in verse 27, with the healed man’s question, 

Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

At the end of that story, the healed man found himself expelled from the synagogue.  His plight must have resonated with members of the Johannine Jewish Christian community, on the margins of their Jewish communal life.  Therefore, some Jews referred to other Jews as “the Jews.”

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle lived under house arrest in Rome.  Ultimately, he did via beheading.

God may have struck down many enemies and oppressors of Israel, but many of the faithful have suffered and/or died for the faith, too.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth.  Anyone consulting it in search for a reliable source of linguistic origins is on a doomed mission.  That is not to say, however, that the story contains no truth.

This is a story about the folly of self-importance–collective self-importance, in this case.  Verse 5 reads:

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That verse conveys the insignificance of human achievements relative to God.

The desire to make a name for ourselves–collectively and individually–is a great value in many societies.  It is not, however, a value the Bible champions.  Psalm 135 reads, in part:

Hallelujah.

Praise the name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD,

who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing hymns to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel, as His treasured possession.

–Verses 1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If we–collectively or individually–have a name that should last for generations, centuries, and millennia, God will give it to us.  That name may not persist in human memory, though.

Some of them left a name behind them, 

so that their praises are still sung.

While others have left no memory

and disappeared as though they had not existed.

They are now as though they had never been,

and so too, their children after them.

–Ecclesiasticus 44:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So be it.

To seek to glorify God and to maintain divine standards of political, economic, and social justice can be dangerous.  At minimum, the risk is social marginalization and scorn.  Much of this contempt may come from conventionally devout people who should know better.  To serve God or to serve Caesar.  To glorify God or to glorify oneself?  To worship God or to worship country?  The decisions are ours to make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-18-year-d-humes/

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The Victory of Suffering Love   1 comment

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

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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Genesis 8:13-22; 9:12-17 or Acts 28:1-10

Psalm 134

Revelation 5:1-14

John 8:48-59

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Revelation 5:1-14 provides the keynote for this blog post.  This scriptural text is one I cannot read without hearing the finale of Handel’s Messiah thundering inside my cranium.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), summarized verses 6-14 with five words:

THE VICTORY OF SUFFERING LOVE.

Stoffel elaborated:

What is this really saying?  I believe it is saying the suffering love of God is the key that will help us live with our suffering and ourselves.  There is something in the universe that has not been defeated by pain and evil and sin.  That something is the crucified love of the Creator.  I have to believe that love is the key to the world’s destiny, and that it will triumph over my pain and sin.  I believe I can give my pain and sin to that love, which is also wisdom….

–43-44

I go off the Humes lectionary briefly to bring in a germane text:

“I have told you all this

so that you may find peace in me.

In the world you will have hardship,

but be courageous:

I have conquered the world.”

–John 16:33, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Divine, suffering love has triumphed and conquered.  This love figuratively hung up its bow of war in the beautiful mythology of Genesis 9:12-17.  This divine love called and accompanied St. Paul the Apostle.  This love has long inspired people to bless the Lord.

What should a person or a faith community do with the “victory of suffering love” in the context of heartbreaking, preventable human suffering?  I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The news is mostly grim.  The temptation to curse God, fate, or whatever, then to curl up in a ball of despair is great.  Yes, vaccines are available, to an extent.  Yes, more vaccines are in the process of gaining official approval.  And yes, people continue to die needlessly, before they can receive a vaccination.  We, as a species, will spend a long time digging our way out of the wreckage of this pandemic.  Furthermore, many people will never recover from the economic carnage.  Many people will always have health-related effects of COVID-19.  And the dead will remain deceased.  None of this had to happen.

Do we trust that the crucified love of the Creator has remained unconquered?  Do we trust that Jesus has conquered the world?  Depending on the time of day, I may or may not so trust.  Yet I know that I must take my fears and doubts to the foot of the cross of Christ and deposit them there.  Having faith is not living free of doubts.  No, having faith entails wrestling with them and even with God.  Having faith entails never giving up the idol of false certainly and resisting the allure of easy answers to difficult questions.

God is faithful.  God is faithful when we neglect to be faithful.  God is faithful when we strive unsuccessfully to be faithful.  God is faithful when we are faithful.  May we stand, sit, or assume any posture we can in the presence of God wherever we are.  And may we bless the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, whose love remains unconquered.  May we cooperate with that love.  May it conquer our despair and grief.  May it heal the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2021 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 SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMANN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF LOUISE CECILIA FLEMING, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND PHYSICIAN

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/devotion-for-proper-17-year-d-humes/

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The Idol of Success   1 comment

Above:  Stamps of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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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Genesis 7:11-24 or Acts 24:1, 10-23, 27

Psalm 131

Revelation 3:7-13

John 8:12-30

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We Gentiles need to be very careful to push back against any Anti-Semitic interpretations of our assigned readings from Revelation 3, John 8, and Acts 24.  We may need someone to remind us that the struggle within the Gospel of John was intra-Jewish.   So was the conflict between the Jewish Christian community that produced it and the Jews around them.  We may need a reminder that St. Paul the Apostle was Jewish, too.

The church at Philadelphia was Gentile.  It was also small, poor, and at odds with many local Jews.  Conflict produced invective.

Being small may or may not be beautiful.  What is beautiful is being faithful.  And Christ promises to honor that faithfulness.

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 34

If we stop thinking about importance in human terms, we will do well spiritually.  Large does not equal important, in the eyes of God.  Neither does wealthy.  Neither does successful.  Neither does being free.  Neither does being popular.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said that God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  Many people have worshiped at the altar of success, long a popular idol.  The heresy of Prosperity Theology has appealed to many people for a very long time.  Yet the prophet Jeremiah, by human standards, was a failure.  So was Jesus.

Does anyone reading this post want to argue that Jeremiah and Jesus were failures?  Not I.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

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

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/20/devotion-for-proper-15-year-d-humes/

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The Peace of God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Noah’s Ark

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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Genesis 6:9-22 or Acts 22:21-30

Psalm 127

Revelation 2:18-29

John 6:60-71

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Context matters.

Thyatira was a frontier city and a center of commerce.  Idolatry was also commonplace, as in meat sacrificed to false deities.  St. Paul the Apostle had addressed other churches regarding this matter.  He recognized that, given the non-existence of those gods and goddesses, one could, in good conscience, eat meat sacrificed to them.  St. Paul the Apostle also treated that matter cautiously.  He knew that many people, still strongly influenced by their culture, did not know that there was only one God.

Whether to consume meat offered to idols remained an issue for many Christians.  In my cultural context, however, that is a non-issue.  Nevertheless, the question of what an equivalent issue in my time and place may be germane.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), wrote about improper compromises the Church makes with culture–an evergreen issue.  The Church made unacceptable compromises with culture during the age of Christendom.  The Church of 2021, increasingly on the margins of society in places where it used to be prominent, has continued to face the pressure to make improper compromises.

May we of the Church be careful, both collectively and individually.  May we avoid mistaking being serial contrarians for being faithful disciples of Jesus.  The larger culture is not wrong about everything.

And may we never lose faith that God is in charge.  God still cares about us and remains with us.  We may or may not receive protection from unfortunate events.  Nevertheless, God will be with us.  we still depend entirely on God.  We continue to depend on each other and to be responsible to and for each other.  Together, with God’s help, we will come through storms of life, even if they consume us physically, emotionally, and/or economically.

Consider Jesus and St. Paul the Apostle, O reader.  Both of them suffered terribly.  St. Paul died as a martyr.  Jesus died on a cross.  (He did not remain dead for long, of course.)  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) said, Christians should look good on wood.

I have heard of certain Evangelical megachurches without a cross in sight.  Crosses are depressing, some people have explained.  How do such people think Jesus felt?

The servant is not greater than the master.

The peace of God, it is no peace,

But strife closed in the sod.

Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing:

The marvelous peace of God.

–William Alexander Percy (1885-1942), 1924; quoted in Pilgrim Hymnal (1958), #340

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/devotion-for-proper-13-year-d-humes/

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Wickedness   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

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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Genesis 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

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The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-d-humes/

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