Archive for the ‘Golden Rule’ Tag

Loyalty to God   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

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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Jeremiah 28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (LBW) or Psalm 119:153-160 (LW)

Romans 6:1b-11

Matthew 10:34-42

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O God, you have prepared for those who love you

joys beyond understanding. 

Pour into our hearts such love for you that,

loving you above all things,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O God, because you have prepared for those who love you

such good things as surpass our understanding,

pour into our hearts such love towards you that we,

loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 67

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Jeremiah 28:1-17 is the story of Hananiah, a false prophet who offered false hope in the waning years of the Kingdom of Judah.  Hananiah had predicted that God would terminate the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian threat.  Jeremiah confronted him and accused him of encouraging disloyalty to God.

Psalms 89 and 119, like Jeremiah, extol and encourage loyalty to God in the midst of disloyalty to God.

St. Paul the Apostle encourages us down the corridors of time to be

dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

–Romans 6:11b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

When we return to Matthew 10:37-38, we read of the priority of loving Jesus most of all and of taking up one’s cross and following him.  Heeding this advice entails reordering one’s priorities if they are askew.

Those who are loyal to God will stand out compared to those who are disloyal to God.  Given the human tendency to promote conformity, some negative consequences will befall those who are loyal to God.  Those dispensing the negative consequences may include co-religionists.  That is especially unfortunate.

I offer one caution, O reader.  Do not mistake serial contrariness against “the world” for loyalty to God.  “The world” does not get everything wrong.  Instead, follow the coherent moral standards summarized in the Golden Rule.  How would a world in which the Golden Rule was the accepted standard function, in contrast to the one in which we live?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA CITTADINI, FOUNDER OF THE URSULINE SISTERS OF SOMASCO

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND IGNATIUS RICE, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BROTHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS OF IRELAND AND THE CONGREGATION OF PRESENTATION BROTHERS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH VON HÜGEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC INDEPDENDENT SCHOLAR AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HONORATUS OF ARLES AND HILARY OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINTS VENANTIUS OF MODON AND CAPRASIUS OF LERINS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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Adapted from this post

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Human Agents of God, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

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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Jeremiah 20:7-13

Psalm 69:1-20 (LBW) or Psalm 91 (LW)

Romans 5:12-15

Matthew 10:24-33

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O God our defender,

storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. 

Rescue your people from despair,

deliver your sons and daughters from fear,

and preserve us all from unbelief;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O Lord, whose gracious presence never fails to guide

and govern those whom you have nurtured

in your steadfast love and worship,

make us ever revere and adore your holy name;

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), 66

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Following God is frequently a guarantee that one will experience rejection, often from devout people.  The Golden Rule exists in most of the world’s religions.  Yet, O reader, practice the Golden Rule and notice how much criticism you receive from some adherents to some of these religions, including your own.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Faith has the power to transform people.  Religion often reinforces positive and negative tendencies people have.  God or a deity frequently functions as a justification for what one wants to do anyway.  People often create God in their image.

Jeremiah did not create God in his image.  The Weeping Prophet struggled with God, complaining while obeying.  The authors of the assigned texts from the Hebrew Bible wrote of divine protection.  Divine protection kept Jeremiah alive yet did not prevent his involuntary exile in Egypt.  And Jesus died horribly via crucifixion.

Martyrs populate Christian calendars of saints.  This is consistent with various sayings of Jesus from the canonical Gospels.  Commandments to deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus dovetail with Matthew 10:24:

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Yet, in sovereignty, God makes unjust suffering work for a positive end.  Persecutions and martyrdoms water the church.  Redemption comes via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Often, social injustice prompts a backlash in favor of social justice.  The New Testament depicts the violent, oppressive Roman Empire as an involuntary tool of God.  God works with what is available.

As much as I enjoy forces of evil functioning involuntarily as agents of God, I assert that being a voluntary agent of God is superior.  I try to be one of these voluntary agents of God.  To the extent I succeed, I do so by grace.  May you, O reader, succeed by grace, in that effort, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA, SPANISH ROMANI MARTYR, 1936

THE FEAST OF ANGUS DUN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WASHINGTON, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL MARTYSZ, POLISH ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEAN-MARTIN MOYË, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND THE CHRISTIAN VIRGINS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1535

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Adapted from this post

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The Healing of a Crippled Beggar, with Its Aftermath   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVI

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Acts 3:1-4:31

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A cliché tells us that no good deed goes unpunished.  If the world were not so!

Jesus had clashed with religious authorities.  The time for some of his Apostles–Sts. Simon Peter and John, in this case–to do so had arrived.  St. Simon Peter, who had often spoken before thinking, had eaten his spiritual Wheaties.

Two major themes stand out in my mind as I ponder Acts 3:1-4:31:

  1. Acts 3:17 includes the Lucan motif that those who had rejected and crucified Jesus had done so in ignorance.  See Luke 23:34, also, O reader.
  2. Acts 4:18f, in which the commandments of God override human orders to the contrary, belies strict law-and-order arguments that quote the Bible.  Acts 4:18f is not the only such passage in the Bible, but it is the one in the section of scripture for this post.  We will return to this matter in Acts 5.

My politics regarding the strict law-and-order, my-country-right-or-wrong argument are plain.  Neither anarchy nor totalitarianism allow freedom.  Disobeying some governments is a moral obligation.  Yet, on many other occasions, obeying governments is moral.  Everything depends on the circumstances.  The timeless principle at work is the Golden Rule.

We all know less than we imagine we do.  For example, we may think we know what we are doing when do not.  Or we may know partially.  Luke 23:34 has the crucified Jesus intercede for those who had put him on the cross and for those who had consented to this action:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I have recorded my mixed thoughts regarding the extent of this ignorance in Luke 23:34.  I have not arrived at a consistent position yet.

Sometimes we do not know what we are doing.  However, sometimes we do.  And sometimes we know somewhat.  I cannot always tell which situation is which.

Nevertheless, I know something, however, slight, regarding sins of ignorance:  We all commit them, individually and collectively.  And we all–individually and collectively–stand before God in need of forgiveness.  May we–collectively and individually–forgive each other, as we–individually and collectively–need forgiveness.  And may God forgive us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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Two Stones in the Pocket   1 comment

Above:  Dan Stamp from Israel

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 49:13-18

Psalm 62

1 Corinthians 4:1-13

Matthew 6:24-34

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Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of heaven and earth: 

Hear our prayer and give us your peace now and forever;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

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O Lord, mercifully hear our prayers,

and having set us free from the bonds of our sins,

defend us from all evil;

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), 30

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One thing God has spoken,

only two have I heard:

“Strength belongs to God, 

and to you, O Lord, firmness;

You repay each man for his deeds.”

–Psalm 62:12-13, Mitchell J. DahoodPsalms II:  51-100 (1968)

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The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments.

–1 Corinthians 4:5a, J. B. PhillipsThe New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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These four readings, taken together, present us with a seeming paradox.  Isaiah 49:13-18, in the context of the approaching end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts the Jewish exiles as beloved of God.  They are like children God can never forget.  Psalm 62, in the context of encouraging reliance on God and not on human means, especially corruption, notes the gulf between God and people:

Men of lowly birth are mere vapor,

those of high degree a delusion.

On scale, they are lighter than leaves,

together lighter than vapor.

–Psalm 62:10, Mitchell J. Dahood

People are “lighter than vapor” yet like beloved children to God.  Also, God repays each person for his or her deeds.  What we say and do matters.  Yet we ought not to think too lightly of ourselves and our powers of judgment.  Divine powers of judgment are infinitely greater.

Rabbi Bunam taught:

A man should carry two stones in his pocket.  On one should be inscribed, “I am but dust and ashes.”  On the other, “For my sake was the world created.”  And he should use each stone as he needs it.

Maintaining a balanced self-image relative to God is crucial.  Each person bears the image of God yet is mere dust and vapor.  God commands us to love ourselves then to love others as we love ourselves.  We matter because God says we do.  Or, to use the Southern vernacular,

God didn’t make no junk.

Do you, O reader, think you are junk?  Do you think anyone is garbage?

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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Adapted from this post

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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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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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Precious to God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Tabernacle

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 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147:13-21 (LBW) or Psalm 147:12-20 (LW)

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

John 1:1-18

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Almighty God, you have filled us with the

new light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. 

Let the light of our faith shine in all that we do;

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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O God, our Maker and Redeemer,

who wonderfully created and in the incarnation of your Son

yet more wondrously restored our human nature,

grant that we may ever be alive in him who made himself to be like us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 19

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The people of God are precious to God.  All people are precious to God, of course.  I focus on the people of God in this post because that is the axis of the through line in the assigned readings.

The readings from Isaiah and the Psalms, in the context of the Babylonian Exile, speak of the vindication of the Jewish exiles.  Reading the first portion of Psalm 147 augments this theme.

Ephesians 1:5 refers to God having predestined certain people through Jesus Christ “for adoption toward him.”  Adopted children of God receive an inheritance.  The audience in the Epistle to the Ephesians was Gentile Christians.

John 1:14, in the Greek text (not necessarily in most English translations) speaks of the Word (Logos) of God–Jesus–pitching a tent in humankind.  This tent is the Tent of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).  John 1:14 contains echoes of Joel 3:7; Zechariah 2:10; Ezekiel 43:7; Sirach 24:8; and other passages.

When the Prologue proclaims that the Word made his dwelling among men, we are being told that the flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of the ancient Tabernacle.  The Gospel will present Jesus as the replacement of the Temple (ii.19-22), which is a variation of the same theme.

Raymond E. BrownThe Gospel According to John I-XII (1966), 33

The verb meaning “to pitch a tent” or “to dwell” occurs also in Revelation 7:15 (to refer to God’s presence in Heaven) and in Revelation 21:3:

He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.

God is present among us.  Do we notice?  God may seem thoroughly camouflaged, given the way the world is.  Yet God, who has long been present, will not depart.  People are precious to God.  Do we notice?  Do we consider others precious to God?  Do we think of ourselves as precious to God?

How we think of ourselves and others dictates how we treat others.  This underpins the Golden Rule.  This also underpins mutuality, a Biblical virtue.

So, how do we think of ourselves and others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

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 EDWARD BUNNETT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUANA MARIA CONDESA LLUCH, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HANDMAIDS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, PROTECTRESS OF WORKERS

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY RICHARD MATTHEWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ORGANIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post

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Eschatological Ethics XIII   1 comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-75016

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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 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-14 (15-19)

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

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Stir up in our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for your only Son. 

By his coming give us strength in our conflicts

and shed light on our path through the darkness of the world; 

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), 13

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Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son

that at his second coming we may worship him in purity;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 11

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For improved comprehension of Isaiah 11:1-10, O reader, back up to 10:32b-34.  There we read that God will destroy the Neo-Assyrian Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation.  Isaiah 10:34 likens that empire to majestic cedars of Lebanon, cut down by God.  Then Isaiah 11 opens with the image of the Messiah, depicted as a twig sprouting from a tree stump.

The Messiah–the ruler of the fully-realized Kingdom of God in Isaiah 11–has much in common with the ideal king in Psalm 72.  Both monarchs govern justly.  They come to the aid of the oppressed and punish the oppressors.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance.

The ethics of the Kingdom of God–whether partially-realized or fully-realized–contradict the conventional wisdom of “the world” and its great powers.  The Roman Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation, continues as a metaphor to apply to oppressive powers–not only governments–in our time.  Spiritual complacency remains a problem.  And how we mere mortals treat each other continues to interest God.

Real life is frequently messy and replete with shades of gray.  Sometimes one must choose the least bad option, for no good options exist.  Whatever one does, somebody may suffer or perhaps die, for example.  We live in an imperfect world.  But we can, by grace, make the best decisions possible then act accordingly.  We can, by grace, love one another selflessly and self-sacrificially.  We can, by grace, act based on mutuality and the Golden Rule.  We can, by grace, welcome those whom God welcomes.  We can, by grace, confront those whom God confronts.  We can, by grace, make the most good from an imperfect situation.

May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Adapted from this post

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Eschatological Ethics XII   1 comment

Above:  Isaiah Wall, United Nations, New York, New York

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 2:1-5

Psalm 122 (LBW) or Psalm 50:1-15 (LW)

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44 or Matthew 21:1-11

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Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Protect us by your strength and

save us from the threatening dangers of our sins,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

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Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, 

and come that by your protection

we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins

and be saved by your mighty deliverance;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 10

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When I compose a post based on lectionary readings, I prefer to write about a theme or themes running through the assigned readings.  The readings for this Sunday fall on the axis of divine judgment and mercy, in balance.  Hellfire-and-damnation preachers err in one direction.  Those who focus so much on divine mercy that they downplay judgment err in the polar opposite direction.

Isaiah 2:2-4, nearly identical to Micah 4:1-4 (or the other way around), predicts what, in Christian terms, is the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The soaring, positive imagery of Isaiah 2:2-4 precedes divine judgment on the impious and impenitent–those who revel in the perils of their sins.  There is no place for such people in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Psalm 50 focuses on divine judgment.  YHWH is just, keeping faith with the “devoted ones” who have kept the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  YHWH is just, prioritizing these moral mandates over ritual practices.  Rituals still matter, of course; they are part of the Law of Moses, too.  Yet these rites are never properly talismans, regardless of what people may imagine vainly.  People will still reap what they have sown.

Psalm 122 is a hymn of a devout pilgrim who had recently returned from Jerusalem.  The text fits neatly with Isaiah 2:1-4.  Psalm 122 acknowledges the faithfulness of God and the reality of “thrones of judgment.”

Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 21:1-11, and Matthew 24:37-44, like Isaiah 2:1-4, exist within the expectation of the establishment or unveiling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  We read of Jesus acting out Second Zechariah’s prediction of the Messiah’s arrival at Jerusalem at the fulfillment of time (Zechariah 9:9-10) in Matthew 21:1-11.  Romans 13:1-14 and Matthew 24:37-44 remind us to straighten up and fly right, so to speak.

St. Paul the Apostle identified the resurrection of Jesus as the dawn of a new historical era.  Naturally, therefore, he taught that salvation had come nearer.  St. Paul also expected Jesus to return soon–nearly 2000 years ago from our perspective, O reader.  St. Paul’s inaccurate expectation has done nothing to minimize the importance of his ethical counsel.

Forbidden fruits frequently prove alluring, perhaps because they are forbidden.  Their appeal may wear off, however.  This is my experience.  That which really matters is consistent with mutuality, the Law of Moses, and the Golden Rule.  That which really matters builds up the common good.  This standard is about as tangible as any standard can be.

Let us be careful, O reader, not to read into Romans 13:14 that which is not there.  I recall Babette’s Feast (1987), a delightful movie set in a dour, Pietistic “Sad Dane” Lutheran settlement.  Most of the characters are unwilling even to enjoy their food, literally a “provision for the flesh.”  One can live honorably as in the day while enjoying the pleasures of life.

Advent is a bifurcated season.  It begins with mostly somber readings.  By the end of Advent, however, the readings are more upbeat.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do the two halves of Advent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Growing Up to Be Jesus   2 comments

Above:  Christ Among the Doctors, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART V

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Luke 2:41-52

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THEY SAY HE’S S’POSED TO BE THE SON OF THE LORD,

BUT HE’S KEEPING JUST AS QUIET AS A MOUSE.

HE’S WAITING FOR A CALL FROM THE MAN UPSTAIRS,

BUT HE LIVES IN A ONE-STORY HOUSE.

–Tom Key and Russell Treyz, Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), 26

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The Lucan narrative skips from the infancy of Jesus to his late boyhood.  Jesus was twelve years old–not yet Bar Mitzvahed.

This story contains two major points that interest me:

  1. Jesus’s awareness of who he was in relation to God, and
  2. the depth of Christ’s knowledge and perception at that young age.

The question of why Jesus stayed behind in the Temple, instead of rejoining the caravan to Nazareth, without asking the permission of Sts. Joseph and Mary misses the point of the story.

Also, St. Mary’s lack of perception regarding Jesus seems odd, given what we have read so far in the Gospel of Luke.  Anyway, intellectual knowledge is not visceral knowledge.

The Church, via ecumenical councils, determined Christological orthodoxy.  The formula of Jesus being fully human and fully divine, with all the implications thereof, has, therefore, become part of the inheritance of Christian theology.

Both elements–human and divine–come to the fore here:

This brief account provides a window into what young Jesus must have been like.  One may reasonably wonder what the consensus regarding Jesus must have been when he was a child.  Yet one must avoid the ridiculous extremes of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, with Jesus’s bathwater healing a sick child, for example.  The Infancy Gospel of Thomas focuses on young Christ learning about responsibilities.  In superhero terms, one can apply Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker to the Jesus of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas:

With great power comes great responsibility.

I suppose that Jesus must not have blended in well while growing up.  I imagine neighbors looking askance at and muttering about what an oddball he was.  Despite the lip service many people give to marching to the beat of a different drummer, many of these same people prefer conformity.

I know; my stubborn refusal to conform–my insistence on being myself, not any one of the persons many other people me to be–has caused me much difficulty.  It contributed to the abortion of my doctoral program at the Department of History at The University of Georgia.

In a different sense than in the case of Jesus, each of us is a child of God.  In Pauline theology, the term for an heir of God is “son of God.”  Pauline writings also include the neuter “children of God” when inheritance is not an issue.

O reader, regardless of what others may say and do, strive to be the best possible version of yourself in God daily.  Be the person God created you to be, not the person anyone would feel comfortable with you being.  You exist for the glory of God and the benefit of others, not the maximizing of others’ comfort levels.

Toward this lofty goal, I offer some advice.  Generalizations are nice, but details are better:

  1. Strive to live by the Golden Rule.
  2. Before speaking or acting, ask yourself how your words or actions will affect others.
  3. Strive to leave the world and your patch of it better than you found it.
  4. Remain open to God’s surprises.  You will get some details right, if only by accident and the law of averages.  God’s judgment and mercy surpasses you, even on your best days.

The Lucan narrative jumps ahead again after 2:52.  One need not speculate wildly about what Jesus did all those years left off the page.  (Many have.)  I suspect the truth of the matter is mundane–nothing to write home about, to quote an old saying.  This may be significant; God is present in mundane details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF KANTY, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARBEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCHWING, U.S. ORGANIST AND MUSIC EDUCATOR; “THE GRAND OLD MAN OF MARYLAND MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BALDWIN, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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