Archive for the ‘Homophobia’ Tag

Remaining Positive and Focused on the Morally Justifiable   3 comments

Above:  The View from the Camera Built Into a Computer on my Desk, June 14, 2020

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We live in times of rapid social and political change.  Change–even that which is morally proper–causes disorientation and disturbance.  Sometimes we ought to be disturbed.  Injustice ought to disturb us. The root word of “conservative” is “conserve.”  Whether one’s conservatism is morally defensible depends on what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes one should conserve x.  In certain times, reform is proper.  On other occasions, however, only a revolution is morally defensible.  Yet, even in those cases, nobility must extend beyond the cause and encompass the methods, also.

Call me politically correct, if you wish, O reader.  Or call me a radical or a fool.  If you call me a radical and a revolutionary for justice, I will accept the compliment.  I support what Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a moral revolution of values.

I favor the building of a society in which people matter more than money and property.  I favor social and political standards that brook no discrimination and bigotry while granting violators of those standards the opportunity to repent.  I favor altering society and institutions, inculcating in them the awareness that keeping some people “in their place,” that is, subordinate, underpaid, poorly educated, et cetera, harms society as a whole.  I support building up the whole, and individuals in that context.  I oppose celebrating slavery, discrimination, racism, and hatred, whether past or present.  I stand (socially distanced and wearing a mask, of course) with all those, especially of the younger generations, who are rising up peacefully for justice.  The young will, overall, have an easier time adapting to morally necessary change than many members of the older generations will, no matter how devout and well-intentioned many older people may be.  To quote a cliché,

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless advice for confronting evil:

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

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

May all who seek a more just society pursue that goal with shrewdness, courage, and goodness.  To create a better society without incorporating goodness into methodology is impossible, after all.  May all who reshape society remain positive and focused on the morally justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Taking Offense   Leave a comment

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Jeremiah 7:1-7

Colossians 3:12-17

Mark 2:1-17

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Jeremiah 7:1-7 and Mark 2:1-17 contain offensive speech and actions.  They qualify as offensive not because of any profane nature but because, in real time, some people found them offensive.  The antidote to taking offense wrongly in such cases is following the advice in Colossians 3:12-17.

How quickly and easily do we take offense at that which is good and kind?  Yes, difficult truths offend us, but, in many circumstances, the warning of judgment is an opportunity for repentance.  We ought to welcome such opportunities, which are mercies.

Life is more pleasant when we take offense only when appropriate to do so.  Exploitation, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, nativism, pollution, unnecessary violence, and disregard for human life should, for example, always offend us.  They ought to offend us so much that we act collectively to alter our societies in the direction of what Theodore Parker (1810-1860), the maverick Unitarian minister, a prominent abolitionist, and an advocate of civil disobedience in the context of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, referred to as the moral arc of the universe that bends toward justice.

Some on the Right pretend that the Left has a monopoly on snowflakism.  I know from experience that conservative snowflakes also exist, for I have offended some of them by, for example, politely disagreeing with them.  In the classroom I have experience offending others by presenting objective, confirmed facts about ancient comparative religion.  I also offend many to my left by maintaining the singular-plural binary, thereby refusing to use “them,” “they,” “themselves,” and “their” as singular pronouns.  If any of this offends, so be it; I have done nothing wrong.

Neither did Jesus or Jeremiah, who were focusing on weightier issues.

If Jesus offends us, that is our fault, not his.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Inclusion and Exclusion, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 45 or Isaiah 56:1-8

Psalm 31:9-18

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 18:15-35

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Dealing with people can be difficult for various reasons, not the least of which is that some people are difficult.  Many are toxic, emotionally and spiritually.

Consider the family of Jacob, O reader.  The happy turn of events does not negate the perfidy of previous chapters.  Do you not, O reader, know that eventually Jacob confronted those sons of his who had told him years prior that Joseph was dead?  That is not a conversation recorded in Genesis.

Yet forgiveness carried the day.  And why not?  How often have we prayed to God for forgiveness and not been forgiving, of others or ourselves?  The hyperbolic debt of 10,000 talents (150,000 years’ worth of wages for a laborer) was impossible to repay.  Those who have received forgiveness have always incurred the obligation to forgive.  Forgiving others and self has always been the best policy for another reason also; grudges have always hurt those who have nurtured them.

God, in Isaiah 56:1-8, is quite inclusive, abolishing many barriers.  All those who believe in God and keep the divine commandments may participate in the future messianic salvation.  Foreigners may participate.  Eunuchs (excluded in Deuteronomy 23:2) may participate.

But we human beings tend to like exclusionary categories God rejects, do we not?  Divine grace seeks people like us and dissimilar from us.  It welcomes those who, regardless of any one of a set of factors, we might exclude, but whom God also loves.  The standard is a faithful response.

I have long been a churchy person.  Yet I have felt more spiritual kinship with refugees from organized religion than with certain other churchy people.  Many of the former group have been more receptive to grace than many of the latter group, the ones who made them feel unwelcome in the church.  These refugees from church have included homosexuals and people who have asked too many questions.  I, as a churchy heterosexual who enjoys questions, have sat among them and shown them that many Christians harbor attitudes that welcome them.

Eucharist in the Corinthian Church in the 50s C.E. was apparently not always welcoming.  It was a potluck meal upon which many of the poorer members depended.  Yet some of the more prosperous members ate ahead of time, did not contribute to the common meal, and took the occasion to become intoxicated.  All of these practices were abuses.

From the beginning of Christianity the Church has been rife with abuses.  Human nature has not changed over time, after all.  Ecclesiastical partisanship has not ceased.  Exploitation has not ceased.  However, God has not ceased to bely our ecclesiastical sins either.

May we pay closer attention to that last point.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 15, 1963

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/devotion-for-proper-22-year-a-humes/

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The Tribe of Alleged Heretics and/or Apostates   Leave a comment

Above:  My Heretic Shirt

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Although some have accused me of apostasy, I am not an apostate.  And, despite allegations of heresy, I do not consider myself a heretic.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) defines apostasy as

a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.

The same reference work, noting that “heresy” derives from Greek and Latin words for choosing, defines heresy as

opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, esp. of a church or religious system.

Doctrinal purity tests generally irk me.  One reason is that I fail them.  I know enough ecclesiastical history to state confidently that, within the Western Christian tradition alone, the Roman Catholic magisterium has redefined aspects of orthodoxy more than once.  One might point to the case of Origen (185-254), one of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.  He was orthodox, especially with regard to Trinitarian theology, during his lifetime.  After the First Council of Nicaea (325), however, he became a heretic of the ex post facto variety.  Furthermore, many of the items on doctrinal purity tests are not key to salvation.  My rejection of the Virgin Birth, therefore, should not marginalize me theologically.

I have always been intrinsically intellectual.  The dominant form of Christianity around me during my formative years was anti-intellectual, reactionary, Pietistic, and revivalistic Protestantism.  It never fit me.  I have also always been an introvert.  Thus the contemplative traditions of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have appealed to me.  Also, the extroversion typical of Evangelicalism has alienated me from Evangelicalism.  No, ritualism, contemplation, and dispassionate intellectualism have defined my spirituality.

Recently I have heard, in close quarters, condemnations of my “apostate” Episcopal Church.  I have rejected the adjective, of course.

If, however, the reasons for the allegation of apostasy are related to ecclesiastical support for social justice, I embrace the label of “apostate” as a badge of pride.  Yes, I support full civil rights for all human beings, including homosexuals.  I reject homophobia, for I recognize the image of God in people, many of whom are quite different from me.  Yes, I favor the ordination of women.  Equality via the Holy Spirit is a wonderful lesson to learn from many strands of Christian tradition.  I understand that these positions are, according to many of my fellow Christians, heretical, if not apostate.  So be it.  I can do no other.

Various mysteries of the universe perplex me.  One of these is why, in the name of Jesus Christ, so many self-defined conservative Christians adopt political positions that would make Atilla the Hun look like a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by comparison.  In this context I feel comfortable claiming the tribe of alleged heretics and/or apostates as my own.  In so doing I identify with Jesus, friend of outsiders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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False Teachers   1 comment

Above:   The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 19:1-8, 15-26, 30-38

Psalm 11

2 Peter 2:4-10a

Matthew 11:20-24

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David Ackerman continues his grand tour of difficult passages of scripture.  The theme this time is judgment and mercy.

One should be careful to examine a passage of scripture closely.  In Genesis 19, for example, we read of (A) an equal-opportunity rape gang and (B) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The gang members do not care if their conquests are male, female, or angelic.  Furthermore, Lot, while being hospitable to his house guests, offers his two daughters to the gang instead.  Fortunately for the daughters, the gang had become fixated on “fresh fish.”  One might reasonably surmise, however, that Lot knew the character of his neighbors.  One might also question the character of the daughters, who went on to get their father drunk, seduce him, and have children with him.  Lot and his family are a disturbing group of people in Genesis.

Elsewhere in the assigned lessons we read of divine judgment on false teachers and those who follow them.  This judgment falls on the unrepentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Yet there is also mercy for the repentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.

These readings contain much material to make one squirm.  I refer to what is there, not what we merely think is present.  Genesis 19 is partially an origin story of the Amorites and the Moabites, whose founders were the products of subterfuge, drunkenness, and incest.  It is also partially a cautionary tale about the lack of hospitality.  What could be more inhospitable than seeking to seeking to rape someone?

Divine judgment and mercy are real, as are human misinterpretation of Bible stories.  May we turn of the autopilot mode that prevents us from studying passages seriously and transform us into false teachers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-4-ackerman/

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Good Society, Part II   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Here I Stand   Leave a comment

January 19, 2016

Above:  One of My Crucifixes, Hanging in the Biblical Studies Section of My Library, January 19, 2016

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For with you is the well of life,

and in your light we see light.

–Psalm 36:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Each of us is, to some extent, a product of his or her upbringing.  I, for example, grew up in a bookish family, a fact for which I give thanks.  One should not be surprised that I have converted my living space into a library or that I prefer to consult books for information when possible.  Such tendencies are natural for me.

I grew up as a fish out of water.  My father was a United Methodist minister in rural southern Georgia, U.S.A., in the Bible Belt.  Yet I have never been an Evangelical Christian nor wanted to become one.  In fact, I came into the world predisposed to become an intellectual, ritualistic Episcopalian, which I have been for more years than I was a Methodist.  Experiences from my youth continue to affect me positively and negatively.  I give thanks for my grounding the scriptures as I bristle at every accusation of committing heresy.  Fortunately, few of those come my way these days, for I have chosen a faith community in which I am unlikely to encounter such allegations.

I have noticed that, after my experimental theological phase in the 1990s and early 2000s, I have settled into a theological position slightly to the right of that yet definitely left of the theological center and in close proximity to that center.  I am, according to the standards of traditionalists of various types, heretical.  At the same time I am, according to postmodernists, conservative.  I remain a product of the Northern Renaissance and the Enlightenment, with the former having a greater influence than the latter.  I am closer theologically to N. T. Wright than to John Dominic Crossan.   I seek to respect the image of God in my fellow human beings, a standard which straddles the left-right divide.  I support marriage equality, shun any phobia aimed at human beings, understand the Biblical mandate for economic justice, and have a cautious attitude toward abortion, which I understand to be a medical necessity in extreme cases, in which it is the least bad decision.  In other circumstances I favor alternatives to abortion.  The most effective and ethical way to make that manifest is not always via legislation.  Furthermore, I see no conflict between sound theology and good science.  In that respect I stand in the best of Roman Catholic tradition.

I stand right of the center liturgically.  I favor, for example, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), the use of modern English in liturgies and Biblical translations, and the singing of verbose, theologically dense hymns.  Praise choruses (“seven-eleven songs,” to use a common term), screens, PowerPoint, guitars, and praise bands disturb me deeply.  Worship is worship, and entertainment is entertainment.  To use language from Marva Dawn, the church should not dumb down to reach out.

There is tradition, and there is tradition.  Some are more important and flexible than others.  The fact that a practice is a tradition or an innovation does not constitute a valid reason to embrace or reject it.  The proper standard is function.  How does a practice work?  Is it the most functional practice for a particular purpose?  Some traditions hold up better over time than others.  And, as one learns by reading the history of liturgy, ancient traditions began as innovations.

Just as tradition is not infallible, neither are scripture and reason.  My careful studies of the Bible have revealed inconsistencies, such as many doublets in the Old Testament and minor details in the four Gospels.  For example, one reads two sets of instructions regarding how many animals to take on Noah’s Ark, two stories of Saul and David falling out with other, two stories of creation, two accounts of the announcement of the birth of Isaac, et cetera.  Consider also the anointing of Jesus in the four Gospels.  Did the woman have a name, and how much do we know about her?  In whose house did this happen?  And which parts of Jesus did she anoint?  The Gospels offer differing answers to those questions.  Nevertheless, the core details of those four accounts are identical.  Biblical inconsistencies do nothing to damage my faith, for I have never expected consistency in every detail of scripture.  I emphasize the forest, not the trees.  As for reason, it is a gift from God can take one far.  One ought to make the most of the best possible uses of it.  Nevertheless, since we mere mortals are fallible, so is our reason.  The balance of scripture, tradition, and reason is a virtue.

The great infallible depository knowledge of God is God, whom we can know partially yet intimately.  Regardless of how well one knows God, there remain limits, for the nature of deity is quite different from human realities.  Most of the nature of deity exceeds the human capacity to comprehend it.

In God alone I place my trust regarding matters of salvation, which I understand to be a process, not an event.  As Martin Luther said well, we who turn to God can trust in the faithfulness of God.  I, as a Christian, affirm that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the historical, incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity (whatever that means; I have learned not to try to untangle the knot of the Trinity) constituted a unique event, the breaking of God into human history as one of us.  Our Lord and Savior’s life–complete with the crucifixion and resurrection–was the means of atonement for sins.  Unfortunately, Hell remains a reality, for many people have rejected the offer of redemption and the accompanying responsibilities.

Here I stand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER, U.S. STATESMAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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The Wrath of God   1 comment

Flevit Super Illam, by Enrique Simonet

Above:  Flevit Super Illam (He Wept Over It), by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

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

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:11-19

Psalm 56

Luke 19:41-44

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Be kind to me, God, for men are persecuting me,

continually assailants oppress me.

My adversaries persecute me all day long,

indeed those who attack me are many.

Though each day I am afraid of fierce enemies

still I put my trust in you.

–Psalm 56:1-3, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The main two readings for today are unhappy.  The prophet Jeremiah, having just accepted God’s call, receives his commission, complete with the following promise:

They will attack you,

But they shall not overcome you;

For I am with you–declares the LORD–to save you.

–Jeremiah 1:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah spent much time on the run from the law, in custody, and finally, in exile.

Jesus, just a few days away from his death, lamented over Jerusalem.  Then he cleansed the Temple of merchants profiteering from the upcoming Passover.  Certainly the memory of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. informed the telling of that story, but one did not need to be a seer or a genius to predict that, in time, yet another rebellion by Jews would lead to Roman forces destroying the city.  The account is historically plausible.

In both readings the cause of the disaster is the same–prolonged, systematic, and societal failure to recognize God and to act accordingly.  One might interpret the resulting disaster not so much as God being vengeful as the proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Actions have consequences.  We know that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah strayed far from the societal vision of mutuality underpinning the Law of Moses, and that idolatry was ubiquitous.  In the case of the reading from Luke, the Temple establishment was in league with the occupying Roman forces.  Perhaps the wrath of God in these cases, if one chooses to interpret the doom as such, was as simple as,

You have made your bed.  Now sleep in it.

I am cautious in addressing this matter, for I seek to avoid committing certain errors.  Within my memory during the last decade and more, certain prominent professing Christian evangelists have brought reproach on Christianity by blaming some natural disasters (frustrated by human shortsightedness in matters such as civil engineering) on God, whom they have portrayed as vengeful.  Was Hurricane Katrina (2005) God’s wrath for toleration and acceptance of homosexuality?  Of course not!  How dare anyone suggest that it was!  Despite my caution, I recognize that there is such a thing as the wrath of God, and that it frequently takes the form of having to deal with the consequences of one’s actions and inactions.  My concept of God differs greatly from that of those who worship the gangster God of whom all people should stand in terror and whom nobody can possibly belove.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

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

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Looking Upon the Heart   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-04411

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 20:1-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 21:22-34 (Friday)

Genesis 23:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Romans 8:1-11 (Friday)

Luke 16:14-18 (Saturday)

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When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;

mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

You have made them little lower than the angels

and crown them with glory and honour.

–Psalm 8:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Genesis is honest about the vices and virtues of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham was a man who valued his relationship with God so much that he acted to the detriment of his family sometimes.  Sarah knew jealousy and acted accordingly.  Abraham, who preferred that people deal honestly with him, dealt dishonestly with others on occasion, telling lies.  These were not the

No, that dress does not make you look fat

variety of lies.  No, these were lies with negative consequences for people.  Yet Abraham and Sarah were instruments of divine grace in their time.  Their legacy has never ceased to exist.

Grace is radical and frequently disturbing.  It ignores human-created distinctions (as in the pericope from Galatians) and calls us to live according to a higher purpose.  We are free from the shackles we have accepted, those which others have imposed upon us, and those we have imposed upon ourselves.  We are free to love God and our fellow human beings as fully as possible, via grace.  We are free to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who taught us via words and deeds how to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I watched a sermon by Michael Curry, soon to become the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.  He spoke of an incident in the Gospels in which our Lord and Savior’s relatives, convinced that Jesus was crazy, sought to take him away and control him.  Seeking to control Jesus is what much of the Christian Church has sought to do for a long time, Curry stated accurately.  Our Lord and Savior was–and remains–beyond control, fortunately.  Yet elements of institutionalized Christianity have retained human-created distinctions (such as those St. Paul the Apostle listed in the pericope from Galatians) and have labeled doing so orthodoxy.  Fortunately, other elements of institutionalized Christianity have behaved properly in that regard.

Boundaries provide order, hence definition and psychological security.  Some of them are necessary and proper.  Other boundaries, however, exclude improperly, labeling members of the household of God as outsiders, unclean persons, et cetera.  Jesus, as the Gospels present him, defied social conventions and broke down boundaries relative to, among other factors, gender, ritual impurity, and economic status.  Erroneous distinctions regarding gender and economic status remain in societies, of course.  Many of us lack the concept of ritual impurity, but we have probably learned from our cultures or subcultures that certain types of people are somehow impure, that contact with them will defile us.  Often these are racial or ethnic distinctions.

The example of Jesus commands us to, among other things, lay aside erroneous standards of judging and to consider only the proverbial heart.  That is a difficult spiritual vocation, but it is a matter of obedience to God.  It is also possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-22-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Dressing Up Darkness as Light   1 comment

Little Rock 1959

Above:  A Racist Rally at the State Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas, August 20, 1959

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-19754

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:15-24

Psalm 29

John 15:18-20, 26-27

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The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

–Psalm 29:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ah,

Those who call evil good

And good evil;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who prevent bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

–Isaiah 5:20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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I am a student of history, especially that of the ecclesiastical variety.  Much of that content troubles me.  In my library I have documents justifying perfidy in the name of Jesus and more broadly in the name of God.  I think of a sermon, “God the Original Segregationist” (1954), which the minister continued to sell via mail as late as 1971.  I think also of sermons defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible.  And I own a reprint of an article from the magazine of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1960 arguing that no Roman Catholic should serve as the President of the United States.

I consider my family tree, which includes a slaveholder and Georgia state senator who, in the 1860s, complained in writing to Governor Joseph Brown that the state had drafted his (the senator’s) slaves’ labor yet been slow to compensate the senator for their work.  My relative was a deacon of the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, Fort Gaines, Georgia.  I assume that he thought of himself as a good Christian.

Fortunately, overt racism has fallen out of favor in many quarters, but covert racism remains ubiquitous.  Slavery, furthermore, has few prominent defenders of which I am aware in American Christianity.  Nevertheless, some prominent American Evangelicals defended the Crusades–orgies of violence, religious intolerance, and even some cannibalism–with much energy recently.

Dressing up darkness as light is an ancient sin which remains contemporary.  Even many who condemn slavery commit homophobia.  Some are malevolent, saying openly that homosexuals ought to have fewer civil rights and liberties than heterosexuals.  Certain malevolent homophobes go as far as to advocate executing or imprisoning homosexuals.  Others, however, act out of outdated mindsets based on erroneous assumptions and are not malevolent.  They are still wrong, of course.

The biblical call to justice, present in the works of the prophets and elsewhere requires us to reject the forms of bigotry we have learned from cultures.  To love our neighbors as we love ourselves and act toward them as we would have them behave toward us entails laying aside our negative biases and recognizing the image of God in them then acting accordingly.  This can prove risky when cultures, governments, and social institutions perpetuate bigotry and discrimination.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world–therefore the world hates you.

–John 15:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I have learned negative biases and unlearned some of them.  The main difficulty when dealing with one’s assumptions is trying to recognize one’s moral blind spots, especially those which are socially unacceptable.  Defense mechanisms interfere with this process, perpetuating the illusion that one is holier than one actually is.  Yet a faithful pilgrimage with God requires that one, by grace, face oneself honestly.  Hopefully this will result in an accurate self-appraisal and lead to repentance, that is, changing one’s mind, turning around.  That can be difficult, but it is possible via the power of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-saturday-before-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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