Archive for the ‘Humility’ Tag

Shattered Illusions   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant us, Lord, the Spirit to think and do what is right;

that we, who cannot do anything good without thee, may,

with thee, be enabled to live according to thy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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2 Kings 5:1-14

Acts 17:16-34

Mark 12:1-12

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God welcomes and seeks to be gracious to Jews and Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, thank God for this truth.  We are all children of God, although not all of us acknowledge and respond faithfully to God.  Humility before God is always proper.  We need to recognize that God is the landlord and that we are all renters and stewards.

All of these principles contradict some preciously-held cultural assumptions.  We humans enjoy establishing and maintaining categories that define ourselves as insiders and those who are different as outsiders.  But what if we are really the outsiders?  Furthermore, do we dare consider the possibility that we and very different people are all insiders?

If that is not sufficiently challenging, are we willing to part with the illusions of self-sufficiency and ownership?  Do we dare to adjust our egos and attachments to prestige to match reality.

May we do so, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Honor and Prestige   1 comment

Above:  Herod Antipas

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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Exodus 14:5-31 or 2 Samuel 18:5-33

Exodus 15:1-21

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Mark 6:14-29

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Honor and prestige are of limited value.  When we derive honor from the opinions of others, it does not reflect our character.  Furthermore, human prestige does not impress God.

Herod Antipas had honor and prestige, but he was far from noble, in the sordid tale in Mark 6 reveals.  He had incarcerated St. John the Baptist for publicly objecting to the client ruler’s marriage to his half-niece and former sister-in-law, Herodias.  Salome, the daughter of Herodias, was, therefore, his grand half-niece and his step-daughter.  In a rash moment, he chose to save face rather than spare the life of St. John the Baptist, a noble man, in the highest since of “noble.”

Honor and prestige underlie the reading from 2 Corinthians 8.  We are to follow the example of Jesus the Christ, who exemplified humility yet not timidity.  We are supposed to trust in God, not wealth, and to walk humbly before God.

Absalom, son of David, had honor and prestige, but not nobility of character.  David’s knowledge that his sin had brought about the rebellion of Absalom then the death of that errant son must have added much guilt to the monarch’s grief.

Slaves had no honor and prestige, but Hebrew slaves in Egypt had divine favor.  Unfortunately, they began to grumble before they left Egypt.  This did not bode well for the future.

God is faithful to us.  Divine favor–grace–is superior to human honor and prestige.  Will we try to be faithful to God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/23/devotion-for-proper-13-year-b-humes/

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Humility Before God, Part V   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

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Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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Vocation and Spiritual Maturity   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Jeremiah 1:4-12

Romans 12:1-13

Luke 5:1-11

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One of the themes that repeats in the Bible is that God qualifies the called; God does not call the qualified.  In the readings for today Jeremiah and St. Simon Peter were not qualified; they said so.  They knew who they were, what they were, and what they were not.  God transformed them into far more than they were originally.  Both men also made lasting contributions and met terrible fates.

The passage from Romans encourages various virtues, including humility.  Another virtue in Romans 12 is perseverance during hardship, something Jeremiah and St. Simon Peter did.  If we keep reading, we find the following order:

Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them.

–Romans 12:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jeremiah cursed his persecutors repeatedly, as I would have done in his place.  I, having suffered much less than he, have cursed my enemies repeatedly.

I do not condemn Jeremiah for his anger.  If I were to do so, I would have to condemn myself, too.  No, I try to leave matters of judgment in such cases to God, whose property is also mercy.  I like that Jeremiah was honest with God about his frustrations and anger.  Such openness with God is a sign of spiritual maturity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Repentance, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Preaching of St. John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Mark 1:1-8

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The readings, overall, have toned down and become less daunting since the previous Sunday in the Humes lectionary.  Not everything is all puppies and kittens, though.

The readings from the Hebrew Bible flow from the theology that sin led to collective suffering–exile in Isaiah 40 and drought in Psalm 85.  Isaiah 40 announces pardon and the imminent end of the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 85 prays for both forgiveness and rain.

Apocalyptic expectations are plain in the reading from 2 Peter.  Believing in the return of Jesus Christ is no excuse to drop the ball morally, we read.

The pericope from Mark 1 contains two major themes that jump out at me.  The text, which quotes Isaiah 40 and relates it to the Incarnation, indicates the call to repentance and makes plain that St. John the Baptist modeled humility, but not timidity.

Repentance is a recurring theme throughout the Bible.  Many devout people are aware of their need to change their minds and ways.  Being aware of that necessity is relatively easy.  Then the really difficult elements follow.  Can we see past our cultural blinders and our psychological defense mechanisms?  Are we humble enough to acknowledge our sins?  And, assuming that we can and are, changing our ways is difficult.  We need not rely on our puny, inadequate power, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, ABBOT, MONK, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Humility and Arrogance, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Agents of Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O almighty and most merciful God, of your bountiful goodness keep us,

we pray, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things which you command;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship of Church and Home (1965), page 153

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 33

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

Mark 10:28-31

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In Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel, people are impressed with themselves and their collective accomplishment.  That accomplishment is a tower that God, looking down from Heaven, can barely see because of its relative smallness.  Our accomplishments and might are puny compared to God, as Psalm 33 reminds us.  May we have proper perspective, that is, humility before God.

Humility before God would certainly be easy for one to have if one were in the position of Isaiah, eyewitness to a glorious vision.  Accepting the call of God, as continued in subsequent verses in Isaiah 6, is perhaps a greater challenge.  The consequences can be dire, even to the point of death.  Certainly obeying that call will make one a new creation.  Change–even of the positive variety–frequently scares many people, for it endangers their comfort zones.  God calls us away from complacency and into the unknown.  Sometimes, as in the cases of some Hebrew prophets, God calls us to enter the realm of the scandalous.  Ultimately, though, the result should be the reconciliation of people separated from God with God.

This goal offends many people, including some of the professing faithful.  One might think of the great satire that is the Book of Jonah, a criticism of post-Babylonian Exile excesses.  One lesson from the text is that God loves everyone and wants all people to repent.  God sends the reluctant Jonah on a mission.  The prophet succeeds, much to his dismay.  We have enemies, by whom we define our identities.  If they cease to be enemies, who are we?  The possibility of such drastic change frightens us, does it not?

Will we stand humbly before God and serve as willing agents of reconciliation?  Or will we remain in our comfort zones and function as agents of obstruction?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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