Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Tag

Being Good Soil IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Protector of all that trust in thee,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;

that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal,

that we finally lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 188

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Isaiah 12

Psalm 25

Acts 9:1-18

Mark 4:1-20

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Isaiah 12 flows directly from Chapter 11.  The first words of Isaiah 12 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) are,

In that day….

To understand what day that is, one must back up into Isaiah 11.  “That day” is the ideal, peaceful future that will follow “the Day of the Lord.”  In Christian terms, one would describe “that day” as the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, “that day” also refers to the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  This text describes a time in our future.  Isaiah 12 praises God, who was faithful, is faithful, will continue to be faithful, and dwells among us.

Psalm 25 and Acts 9:1-18 add repentance to our stable of topics.  Divine forgiveness of sins, another related topic, exists also in Isaiah 12.

We read the familiar “Parable of the Sower” in Mark 4.  I prefer another title, “Parable of the Four Soils,” which I read in a commentary.  The parable seems more concerned with the soils than with the sower and the seeds.  The parable invites each one of us to ask,

What kind of soil am I?

What kind of soil are you, O reader?  Do you have shallow faith that cannot endure trouble or persecution?  Do the cares of the world strangle you faith, as it may be?  Does faith never take root in you?  Or do you have deep faith?  Depending on your answer, O reader, you may have another reason to repent and to seek forgiveness.

We mere mortals need not wait until the time of the fully realized Kingdom of God for God to dwell among us.  God is always present and accessible.  The Quakers are correct; each of us has an Inner Light.  Many of us seem not to know that, though.  Others know about their Inner Light and ignore it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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

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

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

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Donatism of a Sort, Part III   Leave a comment

Above: St. Augustine Arguing with Donatists, by Charles-André van Loo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

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

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

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 32

Ephesians 2:13-22

Mark 15:1-39

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The imagery in Lamentations 3 (usually about going into the Babylonian Exile) and Psalm 32 (really about confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and returning to God) fits with the suffering of Jesus in Mark 15:1-39.  One result of that suffering, we read in Ephesians 2:13-22, is the breaking down of hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus is the peace, we read.  He is the means of reconciliation, we read.

I got the memo; I read Ephesians 2:13-22.  I also marked, learned, and inwardly digested the text.  However, many people, including a plethora of my fellow Christians, have not read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested Ephesians 2:13-22.  Anti-Semitism has been a sin within the Church since the founding of the Church.

Likewise, among Gentiles, erecting and maintaining walls of hostility has been a long-standing practice.  Donatism (in the broad sense of that word) has been around for a very long time.

As Edmond Browning, a previous Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, insisted, there are 

no outsiders

in Christ.  Many professing Christians have yet to receive that menu.  According to doctrinal purity tests from my right, I am impure–a heretic, probably one damned to Hell.  My alleged offenses, according to some who have spoken to me in person and/or sent emails, include thinking too much and asking too many questions.

Salvation is not a matter of winning Theological Twenty Questions.  Salvation is not a matter of knowledge, as in Gnosticism.  Orthodoxy in theology is not a saving work.  Salvation is a matter of grace.  This grace is at work in Single Predestination and in free will.  We have free will because of grace, after all.

And Donatism is not a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Human Agents of God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Jesus Before Pilate, First Interview, by James Tissot

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:

Hosea 14:1-9 (Protestant and Anglican)/Hosea 14:2-10 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 34

Colossians 3:12-4:6

John 18:28-40

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He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

while sinners stumble on them.

–Hosea 14:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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I would feel better about Colossians 3:12-4:6 if it did not accept slavery.

Repent and return to God, Hosea 14, urges.  Accept divine forgiveness and act accordingly.  Forgive each other.  After all, everybody needs forgiveness.  And, although grace is free, it is not cheap.  Become a vehicle of grace.  Remain a vehicle of grace.  And do not be an in instrument of injustice, as Pontius Pilate was.  That is my composite summary of the four readings.

And, of course, never accept cultural practices that run afoul of the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/08/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d-humes/

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From the Depths   Leave a comment

Above:  De Profundis, by Horatio Walker

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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We beseech thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation,

to arm us with the same mind that was in him toward all evil and sin;

and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline,

that our minds may be always ready to resist temptation,

and obey the direction of thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 146

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Genesis 22:1-14

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 4:1-11

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Before I settle into the main business of this blog post, I choose to get some preliminary matters out of the day.

  1. I have written about the near-sacrifice of Isaac many times.  (Check the category for Genesis 22, O reader.)  It is a terrible, traditionally misinterpreted tale.  In modern times, the state Department of Family and Children’s Services would be all over Abraham like lint on a cheap suit, and properly so.  Police officers would arrest Abraham for attempted murder, and properly so.  A prosecutor would try to convict Abraham in court, and properly so.  God tested Abraham.  Abraham failed that test.  He should have asked questions, to be sure he understood correctly.
  2. The Temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4) offers more familiar, much written-about ground.  (Check the category for Matthew 4, O reader.)  

I take my key note from Psalm 130, a prayer for forgiveness, both individual and collective.  The text affirms the merciful love of God, as well as the human obligation to confess sins, feel remorse for them, and repent of them.  That is the academic side of Psalm 130 for me.

There is no error is offering an objectively accurate analysis and summary of a text, of course.  In the case of Psalm 130, however, I add the dimension of grief.  During the years I loved Bonny Thomas, who struggled with mental illness, I returned frequently to Psalm 130.  I cried to God from the depths.  After Bonny lost her battle with mental illness and died violently, I cried again to God from the depths.  I have continued to do so.

We can cry to God from the depths in proper confidence that God will hear us and take pity on us.  We can also be present for others in their depths.  Having been or being in the depths can enable us to help others in the depths better than we could aid them otherwise.

This point ties into 2 Corinthians 6:6.  One of the ways we prove we are servants of God is by being kind.  Speaking of kindness, Jesus can help us, too.  He knows temptations, too.  So, in the darkness of the depths, we can find a cause for rejoicing and recognize that we have everything we need.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

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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1 Samuel 26:2-23 or Lamentations 1:1-12

Psalm 112

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 18:1-8

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Never pay back evil for evil….Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17a, 21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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All of the lesson from Romans 12 explains itself and constitutes timeless advice about how to live in community.  I encourage frequent reading of it, followed by corresponding actions.  Details will differ according to circumstances, such as who, where, and when one is, of course.  The principles remain constant, however.

“Anger” comes from the Old Norse word for “grief.”  Anger flows from grief, literally.  Others may commit evil or some lesser variety of sin, causing us to suffer.  We may be properly sad and angry about that.  Human beings bear the image of God, not the image of doormats, after all.  Resisting evil is a moral imperative.  So is resisting evil in proper ways.  One cannot conquer evil if one joins the ranks of evildoers.

I have struggled with this spiritual issue in contexts much less severe than the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the time of the Babylonian Exile.  I have known the frustration that results from powerlessness as my life, as I have known it, has ended.  I have learned to read the angry portions of the Book of Psalms and identity with them.  I have also learned of the toxicity of such feelings.  I have learned the wisdom of obeying God and letting go of grudges, even when forgiveness has been more than I could muster.

After all, all people will reap what they sow.  Why not leave vengeance to God?  Why not strive to become the best version of oneself one can be in God?  Why not seek the support of one’s faith community to do so?  Why not support others in one’s faith community in their spiritual growth?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/devotion-for-proper-26-year-c-humes/

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Good Society, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,

and art wont to give more than wither we desire or deserve:

pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy;

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125-126

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Hosea 11:1-11

Romans 3:21-31

Matthew 5:21-26

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in this day’s assigned readings.  God is parental in Hosea 11.  Discipline is part of good parenting.  In the context of God, human boasting is pointless, as we read in Romans 3.  Matthew 5:21-26 warns us that proper attitudes toward our fellow human beings matter.  As one can read in Matthew 6:14-15, the standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; our forgiveness depends on us being forgiving.

Are we loving people or fearful and hateful people?  Our attitudes lead to our actions.  In other words, our fruits will reveal what kind of trees we are.

May we, by grace, transform our cultures so that hatred will become socially unacceptable.  May peer pressure encourage us to be loving people.  May social norms and mores insist that those in authority be loving individuals, not fearful, hateful people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part IV   3 comments

Above:  Icon of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124-125

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1 Samuel 3:1-10

Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 16:13-23

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Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Discerning when God is speaking to us can be difficult.  Many people confuse internal monologues with dialogues, which is why God always seems to agree with certain individuals, at least according to them.  Maybe we are distracted or fixated, so, when God speaks to us, we do not recognize that God is doing so.  Furthermore, when we do correctly identify God as speaking to us, we may not comprehend fully.

We can apply a test, however.  Love of friends and enemies is one mark of godly religion.  We must be careful to resist evil in such a way that we do not surrender to it or join its ranks.  Being willing to forgive is part of a successful strategy of resisting evil.  If we cannot forgive yet, we can take that spiritual problem to Jesus.  At least we know we ought to forgive and want to do so.  That is a good start.

Perfectionism is an unrealistic and harmful attitude in religion.  We are, as we read in the Book of Psalms,

but dust.

God knows this about us.  Will we try to do as we know we should, at least?  Will we try to forgive?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF AMALIE WILHEMINE SIEVEKING, FOUNDRESS OF THE WOMAN’S ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE OF THE POOR AND INVALIDS

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WASTRADA; HER SON, SAINT GREGORY OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT; AND HIS NEPHEW, SAINT ALBERIC OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Posted July 21, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 3, Matthew 16, Romans 12

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Destiny III   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 23:23-29

2 Corinthians 11:16-31

Matthew 5:38-48

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Those of God glorify God.  False prophets please those who pay them.  Genuine prophets tell the truth, even when doing so is immediately dangerous.  (Jeremiah was a genuine prophet.)  Genuine religious leaders glorify God.  Cult leaders glorify and enrich themselves.  Between these extremes are deluded people, who probably mistake a monologue for a dialogue.

Genuine prophets and religious leaders teach difficult truths.  Love for enemies is a difficult moral teaching.  It is one with which Jeremiah struggled, understandably.  I know the experience of struggling with it, too.  I also understand that my grudge will harm me, not my enemy.  Knowing that truth and acting on it are different from each other, of course.

I have the power to select my destiny.  Will I walk down the path of love and forgiveness, or will I choose the path of hatred and resentment?  Left to my own devices, I will choose the latter.  By grace, however, I can choose the former.  Grace does not deprive me of free will, however.

Sometimes one needs to approach the correct path–the way of love and forgiveness of enemies–in baby steps.  God knows that we are “but dust,” poetically, as the Book of Psalms tells us.  I do not pretend to be a spiritual giant, especially in this matter.  No, I still struggle .  Yet I detect progress and anticipate more progress.  I trust in God that more progress will ensue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SAINT SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Posted June 17, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Corinthians 11, Jeremiah 23, Matthew 5

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XII   1 comment

Above:  The Negev Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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Restoration, Resurrection, and Reconciliation   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scanned from a Church Bulletin by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Day of Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who sent the promised fire of thy Spirit to make saints of ordinary men:

grant that we, waiting and together now, may be enflamed with such love for thee

that we may speak out boldly in thy name; through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Acts 10:34-48

John 20:19-23

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The three assigned readings focus on restoration and resurrection.  The vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 refers mt to the resurrection of the dead but to the resurrection of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of Jesus, the context of John 20 and a reference in Acts 10, is one of the items in the catalog of literal events, albeit on historians can neither prove nor disprove.  No, the resurrection of Jesus resides in the realm of that which one either accepts by faith or rejects by the absence of faith.

Notice, O reader, that God is the primary actor in the readings.  God restores Israel.  God resurrects Jesus.  God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, arrives.  God is even active in the Greek divine passive voice, as in John 20:22-23, or at least the first part of verse 23:

After saying this he breathed on them, and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins,

they are forgiven;

if you retain anyone’s sins,

they are retained.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“They,” in that passage, refers to sins.

Suppose, O reader, that I have sinned against you, another person, and God.  Suppose, furthermore, that I have realized my sin, confessed it to both people and to God, and asked for forgiveness from everyone involved.  Suppose that one person and God have forgiven me, but that the other person has refused to do so.

Who retains the sin?  The person who refuses forgiveness does.

It is to him [Jesus] that all the prophets testify, declaring that everyone who trusts in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

–Acts 10:43, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Forgiveness can be a difficult spiritual practice, but it is an essential one.  It is crucial to restoration and resurrection of individuals, families, communities, and societies.  Forgiveness facilitates reconciliation.  Forgiveness enables on to lay grudges aside and to progress spiritually as one should.  Forgiveness is part of the mission of the church.

Decades ago, in the United States, a man burgled a church and stole audio equipment.  The police arrested him and the District Attorney prosecuted.  At the trial the pastor of the church testified on the thief’s behalf and asked for leniency.  The court rendered its verdict. The thief, a changed man, joined that church.

Extending forgiveness is crucial if the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as far and wide as possible, to facilitate faithful responses to the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Extending forgiveness is also a matter of faithful response.  Certainly we, who acknowledge that we receive forgiveness daily, have an obligation to forgive.  Grace is free yet not cheap, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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