Archive for the ‘Grace’ Tag

Terrifying Grace   1 comment

elijah-in-the-wilderness-washington-allston

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:1-4 (5-7), 8-15a and Psalms 42 and 43

or 

Isaiah 65:1-9 and Psalm 22:18-27

then 

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 8:26-39

The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 7, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

Proper 7, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/proper-7-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

1 Kings 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-friday-year-2/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-third-day-of-lent/

Galatians 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/week-of-proper-22-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

Luke 8:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-nineteenth-twentieth-and-twenty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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As I took notes on the readings then pondered connections the first unifying thread I noticed was fear.  To begin with the Old Testament options, Elijah was a fugitive  from the wrath of Queen Jezebel after the contest with the priests of Baal.  Yet God, who was present in the silence, not the storm, encouraged the prophet and gave him more tasks to complete.  Third Isaiah reminded his audience that a remnant of the faithful would survive the destruction of the wicked.  So the faithful needed not to fear, although the wicked did.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus healed a demoniac (whatever his modern psychiatric label would be) and killed a herd of swine.  Then fearful locals asked our Lord to depart the premises.  What scared them?  The loss of the swine, economic assets, disturbed some obvious reasons.  And the demonstration of such power certainly disturbed others.  But the healing was the scariest part of the sequence of events.  Who were the locals relative to the man if he, once ill, was now well?

Change disturbs many people profoundly.  We become accustomed to the status quo, even if we know that it is imperfect.  But at least it is familiar.  Some things, of course, should remain constant, so discomfort with some change is healthy and proper.  But resistance to change in general constitutes a spiritual dysfunction.  Besides, life is replete with change.  One who likes things just so and constant will not cope well with life.  And an organism that is not changing is dead.

Speaking of change, Christ Jesus overrides a variety of distinctions, such as slave and free person, male and female, and Jew and Gentile. Opposites such as these cease to matter in the context of our Lord.   That causes me great joy.  Yet many others find that breaking down barriers frightening.  If we define ourselves by who and what we are not rather than by who and what we are, it is terrifying news.

Grace scandalizes many of us.  It calls us as we are and leads us to become a new creation.  Grace ignores categories we use to make sense of the world and destroys our illusion that we know more than we do.  Grace tell sus that we need not hide from our enemies if God is with us.  We still might die–the Romans did crucify Jesus–but divine power remains unrivaled.  And God will preserve a remnant of the faithful as the wicked perish.  The members of that remnant will have a responsibility to minister grace to others, for grace is free, not cheap.

Dare we embrace this potentially upsetting and terrifying grace?  Or do we prefer the comfortable fictions and realities which comfort us while afflicting others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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Feeding God’s Sheep   1 comment

shepherd-with-sheep

Above:  A Shepherd with Sheep

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Acts 9:1-20 (Revised English Bible):

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest and applied for letters to the synagogues at Damascus authorizing him to arrest any followers of the new way whom he found, men or women, and bring them to Jerusalem.  While he was still on the road and nearing Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed all around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Tell me, Lord,

he said,

who you are.

The voice answered,

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.

Meanwhile the men who were traveling with him stood speechless; they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could not see; they led by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  He was blind for three days, and took no food or drink.

There was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias.  He had a vision in which he heard the Lord say,

Ananias!

He answered,

Here I am, Lord.

The Lord said to him,

Go to Straight Street, to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul.  You will find him at prayer; he has had a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to restore his sight.

Ananias answered,

Lord, I have often heard about this man and all the harm he has done your people in Jerusalem.  Now he is here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who invoke your name.

But the Lord replied,

You must go, for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before the nations and their kings, and before the people of Israel.  I myself will show him all that he must go through for my name’s sake.

So Ananias went and, on entering the house, laid his hands on him and said,

Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Immediately it was if scales had fallen from his eyes, and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten his strength returned.

He stayed some time with the disciples in Damascus.  Without delay he proclaimed Jesus publicly in the synagogues, declaring him to be the Son of God.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Revelation 5:11-14 (Revised English Bible):

As I looked I heard, all round the throne of the living creatures and the elders, the voices of many angels, thousands on thousands, myriads on myriads.  They proclaimed with loud voices:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth, wisdom and might, honour and glory and praise!

Then I heard all created things, in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea, crying:

Praise and honour, glory and might, to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb for ever!

The four living creatures said,

Amen,

and the elders prostrated themselves in worship.

John 21:1-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them,

I am going fishing.

They said to him,

We will go with you.

They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them,

Children, you have no fish, have you?

They answered him,

No.

He said to them,

Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.

So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter,

It is the Lord!

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them,

Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.

So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them,

Come and have breakfast.

Now none of the disciples dared to ask him,

Who are you?

because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,

Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?

He said to him,

Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.

Jesus said to him,

Feed my lambs.

A second time he said to him,

Simon son of John, do you love me?

He said to him,

Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.

Jesus said to him,

Tend my sheep.

He said to him the third time,

Simon son of John, do you love me?

Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time,

Do you love me?

And he said to him,

Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.

Jesus said to him,

Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.

(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him,

Follow me.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fifteenth Day of Easter:  Third Sunday of Easter, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Fifteenth Day of Easter:  Third Sunday of Easter, Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

Acts 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twentieth-day-of-easter/

“Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?” (Acts 9-6):

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/lord-what-wilt-thou-have-me-to-do-acts-9-6/

Revelation 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/week-of-proper-28-thursday-year-2/

John 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-eighth-day-of-easter/

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (January 25):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-conversion-of-st-paul-the-apostle-january-25/

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Simon Peter had denied Jesus three times in John 18:15-18 and 25-27.  This fact caused him much grief; he was ashamed of himself.  The Resurrected Jesus gave him an opportunity to affirm him three times.  That was a gesture of grace.  And the standard of active love of Jesus was (and remains) to

Feed my lambs

and to

Tend my sheep.

It was Jesus, the worthy lamb of Revelation 5, who called Saul of Tarsus, a chief persecutor of the nascent Christian movement, to join that movement.  Saul, by persecuting Christians, had been doing the same to Jesus.  And Saul’s conversion proved to be one of the seminal events in Christian history, for his mission to the Gentiles revolutionized the shape of the faith.  Where would we be without the Pauline Epistles?  Where would I, a Gentile, be spiritually?  So, as one of my Lord’s sheep, I owe much to St. Paul the Apostle.

The sheep will eat only if someone feeds them.  Shepherds have fed me.  And I try to do my part.  Preparing then typing these lectionary-based devotional posts is one way I hope to feed other sheep.  To know that something I have done in solitude can help others feeds rewarding, not that I seek praise for this activity.  Yet it does encourage me to continue.  May you, O reader, feed sheep in the ways God directs you.  And may you have the necessary encouragement to persist, for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  The sheep need to eat.  May their diet be healthy and plentiful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

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Exodus and Luke, Part IV: Grace and Responsibility   1 comment

sea-of-galilee-circa-1913

Above:  Fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Circa 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672915/)

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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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-18

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 5:1-16

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

Luke 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/week-of-proper-17-thursday-year-1/

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In Exodus 24 the Israelites vowed to obey God’s laws.  We–you, O reader, and I–know what happened next, do we not?  Their actions belied these words–not just at Mount Sinai/Horeb, but afterward.  And this pattern marked the narrative of the Israelite people throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

It is really our story, is it not?  It is not just my individual story or yours, O reader; it is the human story.  It is the story of societies, cultures, and subcultures.  Even when we try to get it right, we run the risk of getting it wrong.  So we practice or condone a variety of sins, ranging from economic exploitation to racial discrimination to homophobia to xenophobia.  We quote the Bible to justify sexism or race-based chattel slavery or Jim Crow or Apartheid.  We mistreat resident aliens even though, a long time ago, our father was a wandering Aramean, poetically speaking.  We are really messed up.

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus called Simon Peter (whose mother-in-law he had healed in 4:38-39) and his (our Lord’s) first cousins, James and John, sons of Zebedee.  Simon Peter tried to exclude himself from our Lord’s presence, but Jesus did not permit that.  The recognition of his own sinfulness was honest, but grace refused to let go.  And so he and the cousins followed Jesus.

Grace which refuses to let us go calls us to follow God.  Simon Peter, who often spoke when he should have been silent and even denied Jesus three times, met his fate–crucifixion upside-down.  Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah, aware of his sinfulness, experienced the same grace before volunteering to speak for God.  The prophet knew that his society had gone terribly awry.  And God sent him to confront it.  (Read Isaiah 6.)  What will such grace require of you, O reader?  And what will it require of me?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-eleventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Favor of God and What That Requires of Us   2 comments

Above:  NGC 3603

Image Source = Hubble Space Telescope

(http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/pr2010022a/)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 4:13-18 (Revised English Bible):

It was not through the law that Abraham and his descendants were given the promise that the world would be their inheritance, but through righteousness that came from faith.  If the heirs of are those who hold by the law, then faith becomes pointless and the promise goes for nothing; law can bring only retribution, and where there is no law there can be no breach of law.  The promise was made on the ground of faith in order that it might be valid for all Abraham’s descendants, not only for those who hold by the law, but also for those who have Abraham’s faith.  For he is the father of all, as scripture says:

I have appointed you to be father of many nations.

In the presence of God, the God who makes the dead live and calls into being things that are not, Abraham had faith.  When hope seemed hopeless, his faith was such that he became “father of many nations,” in fulfillment of the promise,

So shall your descendants be.

Psalm 105:5-10, 42-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  Remember the marvels the LORD has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6  O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

7  He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8  He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations:

9  The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10  Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel….

42  For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43  So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44  He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil,

45  That they might keep his statutes,

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

Luke 12:8-12 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

I tell you this:  whoever acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but for him who slanders the Holy Spirit there will be no forgiveness.

When you are brought before synagogues and state authorities, do not worry about how you will conduct defence or what you will say.  When that time comes the Holy Spirit will instruct you what to say.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

Mark 3 (Similar to Luke 12):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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I have long been prone to sacramentalism.  It should come as no surprise, then, that I chose to become and remain an Episcopalian.  The catechism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines sacraments as follows:

The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

Grace, in turn, is:

…God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.

Sacraments are primarily about what God has done, is doing, and will do.  Consider baptism, for example.  We baptize infants, thereby marking their entry into Christian community.  There is confirmation, another sacrament, by which, in time, the chronologically more mature claim faith for themselves in public and enter into formal church membership.  But none of this would mean anything if God had not acted first.

Divine grace scandalizes or at least shocks us sometimes.  Why did God passover more likely candidates and choose a shepherd boy to be a king or a man with a speech impediment to be his messenger before the Pharaoh of Egypt?   How did a former Roman collaborator become one of our Lord’s Apostles and an erstwhile persecutor of nascent Christianity one of its most influential evangelists?  We might wonder:  How dare God offer healing from leprosy to an enemy general by means of a great Hebrew prophet?  And how did an impetuous fisherman become the leader of the Apostles at Pentecost?

This grace requires of us a faithful and affirmative response to God via free will, which God has implanted in us.  Peter, the fisherman, died when people crucified him upside down.  Matthew, the former collaborator, also died as a martyr.  Moses bore the burden of leadership of his people for a generation, and David had to govern a kingdom.  Naaman, the general, who had his life back, praised the God of a people foreign to himself.

What will grace require of you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP; AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/week-of-proper-23-saturday-year-1/

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Posted May 8, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 105, Romans 4

Tagged with , ,

Lost and Found, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada (1576-1622)

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 (Revised English Bible):

Shepherd your people with your crook,

the flock that is your own,

that lives apart on a moor with meadows all around;

let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in days gone by.

Show us miracles as in the days when you came out of Egypt.

Who is god like you?  You take away guilt,

you forgive the sins of the remnant of your people.

You do not let your anger rage for ever,

for to be merciful is your true delight.

Once more you will show us compassion and wash away our guilt,

casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

You show faithfulness to Jacob, unfailing mercy to Abraham,

as you swore to our forefathers in days gone by.

Psalm 103:1-14 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, O my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

He pardons all my wrongdoing and heals all my ills.

He rescues me from death’s pit and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies me with all good in the prime of life,

and my youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD is righteous in all he does;

he brings justice to all who have been wronged.

He revealed his ways to Moses,

his mighty deeds to the Israelites.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

long-suffering and ever faithful;

he will not always accuse or nurse his anger forever.

He has not treated us as our sins deserve

or repaid us according to our misdeeds.

As the heavens tower high over the earth,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

As far as east is from west,

so far from us has he put away our offences.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are made,

he remembers that we are but dust.

Luke 15:11-32 (Revised English Bible):

Again he [Jesus] said:

There was once a man who had two sons; and the younger said to the father, ‘Father, give me my share of the property.’  So he divided his estate between them.  A few days later the younger son turned the whole of his share into cash and left for a distant country, where he squandered it in dissolute living.  He had spent it all, when a famine fell upon that country and he began to be in need.  So he went and attached himself to one of the local landowners, who sent him on to his farm to mind the pigs.  He would have been glad to fill his belly with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  Then he came to his senses: ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more food than they can eat,’ he said, ‘and here I am, starving to death!  I will go at once to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one your hired servants.”‘ So he set out for his father’s house.  But while he was still a long way off his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran to meet him, flung his round him, and kissed him.  The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Fetch a robe, the best we have, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast.  For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.’ And the festivities began.

Now the elder son had been out on the farm; and on his way back, as he approached the house, he heard music and dancing.  He called one of the servants and asked what it meant.  The servant told him, ‘Your brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ But when he was angry and refused to go in.  His father came out and pleaded with him; but he retorted, ‘You know how I have slaved for you all these years; I have never once disobeyed your orders; yet you never gave me so much as a kid, to celebrate with my friends.  But now that this son of yours turns up, after running through your money with women, you kill the fatted calf for him.’

‘My boy,’ said the father, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ How could we fail to celebrate this happy day?  Your brother here was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and has been found.’

The Collect:

Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Luke 15 contains three parables about being lost and found.  First, a shepherd tending a hundred sheep sought out one lost member of his flock the rejoiced.  Next, a woman sought and found a valuable coin in her home.  Then she rejoiced.  Finally, a patient father looked and waited for the return of wasteful son who had turned his back on his family.  When the son returned, the father rejoiced.

The Encarta World English Dictionary defines “prodigal” (as an adjective) to mean:

  1. EXTRAVAGANTLY WASTEFUL spendthrift or extravagant to a degree bordering on recklessness
  2. PRODUCING GENEROUS AMOUNTS giving or producing something in large amounts
  3. WASTING PARENTAL MONEY BUT STILL LOVED spending parental money wastefully, but returning home to a warm welcome

The third definition derives from this day’s parable.  The first meaning applies to the younger son, and the second definition applies to the father, a stand-in for God.

Tradition calls this day’s parable “the Prodigal Son.”  This is a misnomer.  It is really a parable about a loving father, as wasteful younger son who comes to his senses and repents, and a resentful older son who stays home dutifully.  The father loves his sons, both of whom disappoint him.  Yet the younger son repents.  And what about the older son?  His part of the story contains the climax of the parable.  He does not join in his father’s joy and extravagant grace.

Grace scandalizes us sometimes, especially if we are more like the older son than the younger one.  Grace means that someone does not receive what he or she deserves.  Yet none of us deserves grace, so who are we to criticize?  And can we not be merely decent human beings who rejoice in God’s extravagant, scandalous, even prodigal (according to definition #2) love?

Think of the reading from Micah.  To show mercy is God’s true delight.  And consult the psalm.  God knows that we are dust, is compassionate and gracious, and loves as a father (and mother, too) loves a child.  Previous readings this Lent have informed us that we should love God completely and be compassionate and merciful, as God is compassionate and merciful.  Let us connect the dots.  Let us love ourselves, one another, and God.  And if this causes scandal, so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/sixteenth-day-of-lent/

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Posted February 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Luke 15, Micah 7, Psalm 103

Tagged with ,

Of Skin Conditions, Stigma, Healing, and Humility   1 comment

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Fransz de Grebber

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2 Kings 5:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her,

If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.

So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go then, and I will sent along a letter to the king of Israel.

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read,

When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said,

Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king,

Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,

Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman became angry and went away, saying,

I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?

He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him,

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

A leper came Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him,

If you choose, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I do choose.  Be made clean!

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him,

See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could not longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and the people came to him from every quarter.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

2 Kings 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a broad term.  It refers to a variety of skin conditions in addition to Hansen’s Disease.  Aside from the physical signs, which could be difficult, there was stigma, which could be harder to handle.

Consider the case of Naaman, a successful military commander in the service of the King of Aram, an enemy of the King of Israel.  The author of 2 Kings 5 tells us that Naaman has won victories over the Israelite army with the help of God.  We also know that Naaman’s forces have kidnapped and enslaved at least one Israelite young woman, whom he has taken into his household as a servant.  We may also conclude that Naaman’s case of leprosy (whatever the modern diagnosis would be) was not severe, for he was still functional as a military commander.  Nevertheless, whatever Naaman had bothered him badly enough that he went to see Elisha.

The prophet Elisha did not stand on ceremony, much to Naaman’s disappointment and ire.  And, instead of staging an elaborate healing ritual, the prophet sent word by a messenger that Naaman ought to bathe in the humble Jordan River seven times.  One can imagine Naaman thinking in Aramaic, “That’s it!?!”

Note the role of servants in the story.  An enslaved servant girl tell’s Naaman’s wife about Elisha.  Naaman, despite his exalted view of himself, is just a servant of his king, and his success is due entirely to God.  Elisha himself does not speak to Naaman at first, but sends a messenger.

Being proud and mighty does not count for much in 2 Kings 5, does it?

We have another story of a cured leper in Mark 1.  This time the man is anonymous.  All he did to get cured was to ask Jesus, who agreed graciously.  But why did our Lord order the man to stay quiet? Biblical scholars have detected the theme of the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark.  Throughout that book God knows who Jesus is, as do Jesus as well as Satan and any evil spirit whom our Lord encounters.  That, however, was a small circle of the knowledgeable.  No, Jesus had work to do, and that work culminated, in Mark, with his crucifixion, at which point his Messianic identity became plain.  There is also the matter of being able to go from place to place without having encountering thronging crowds.  The leper did not obey our Lord’s injunction to stay quiet, so Jesus had to remain in the hinterlands for a little while, but the crowds came to him.  So much for Plan A!

Divine grace falls upon the already humble and the recently humbled, upon the Jew and the Gentile, upon esteemed and the anonymous.  It arrives via unexpected and seemingly unlikely avenues, and it makes demands upon us.  What happened to the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?  Maybe he rejoined his family; that is the most likely answer.  But what further impact did the incident have on the man?  The text is silent on that point.  As for Naaman, he renounced his faith in Rimmon, his former deity, and followed Yahweh (verse 18).  As to what that entailed for Naaman, the text is silent.

How will grace come to you this day, the next day, the day after that, et cetera?  And what will it require of you?  Will you do it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 9, 2 Kings 5, Mark 1, Psalm 30

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The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities I   2 comments

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sunset02.jpg)

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Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Isaiah 40:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-advent/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.  (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/reflections-upon-the-eighteenth-anniversary-of-my-confirmation/)  In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SADHU SUNDAR SINGH, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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Human Faith and Divine Mercy   1 comment

Above:  A Roman Centurion

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First Reading for Year A:  Isaiah 4:2-6 (Revised English Bible):

On that day the plant that the LORD has grown will become glorious in its beauty, and the fruit of the land will be pride and the splendour of the survivors of Israel.

Then those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, every one whose survival in Jerusalem was decreed will be called holy.  When the Lord washes away the filth of the women of Zion and cleanses Jerusalem from bloodstains by a spirit of judgment burning like fire, he will create a cloud of smoke by day and a bright flame of fire by night over the whole building on Mount Zion and over all her assemblies; for his glory will be a canopy over all, a cover giving shade by day from the heat, a refuge and shelter from storm and rain.

First Reading for Years B and C:  Isaiah 2:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

This is the message which Isaiah son of Amon received in a vision, about Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

will be set over all other mountains,

raised high above the hills.

All the nations will stream towards it,

and many peoples will go and say,

Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.

For instruction comes from Zion,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations

as arbiter among many peoples.

They will beat their swords into mattocks

and their spears into pruning-knives;

nation will not lift up sword against nation

nor ever again be trained for war.

Come, people of Jacob,

let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Psalm 122 (Revised English Bible):

I rejoiced when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD.

Now we are standing

within your gates, Jerusalem:

Jerusalem, a city built

compactly and solidly.

There the tribes went up, the tribes of the LORD,

the duty laid on Israel.

For there the thrones of justice were set,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May those who love you prosper;

peace be within your ramparts

and prosperity in your palaces.

For the sake of these my brothers and my friends,

I shall say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God

I shall pray for your well-being.

Matthew 8:5-13 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus entered Capernaum a centurion came up to ask his help.

Sir,

he said,

my servant is lying at home paralyzed and racked with pain.

Jesus said,

I will come and cure him.

But he centurion replied,

Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof.  You need only say the word, and my servant will be cured.  I know, for I am myself under orders, with soldiers under me.  I say to one, “Go,”and he goes; to another, “Come here,” and he he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,’ and he does it.”

Jesus heard him with astonishment, and said to the people who were following him,

Truly I tell you: nowhere in Israel have I found such faith.  Many, I tell you, will come from east to west to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of Heaven.  But those who were born to the kingdom will be thrown out into the dark, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Then Jesus said to the centurion,

Go home, as you have believed, so let it be.

At that very moment the boy recovered.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The two Old Testament options speak of what God will establish on earth.  God, we read, will create peace and justice on the planet at an unspecified time.  Then, in the psalm, we find mention of peace in Jerusalem (That would be nice.) and human devotion toward God.  Yet such faith is not restricted to Hebrews, as the lection from Matthew makes clear.  The centurion was an officer of the Roman army, the military force occupying the Jewish homeland.  He was the face of the enemy, and he had more faith in Jesus than did many of Jesus’ countrymen.

During Advent we Christians are supposed to prepare for Christmas.  So may we let Jesus gestate liturgically until late December 24.  News of the approaching birth of the incarnate Word of God is joyous indeed, and it is for all–Jews and Gentiles alike–who have active faith in it.  Ethnicity and race do not matter; neither do social status nor national origin nor politics.  As I have written on this blog and will certainly write again, grace can be scandalous.  It is like the wind and the Holy Spirit; it goes where it will.

As we take these early steps in our Advent pilgrimage may we embrace the scandal of grace and extend it to others, as we have opportunity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/second-day-of-advent/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 2, Isaiah 4, Matthew 8, Psalm 122

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