Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Tag

Psalm 68: The Sovereignty of God   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XLIX

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Psalm 68

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Psalm 68 is either the most difficult entry in the Psalter or one of the most difficult psalms, depending on the Biblical scholar with whom one agrees.  The disjointed text contains 15 words found nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible, plus many words rare in that canon.  Psalm 68, which reads like a series of first lines of psalms, describes the divine victory over God’s foes and affirms Jerusalem’s status as the place of divine dominion.

Psalm 68 does have a coherent message, though:

The reign of God is never fully manifested; it is always opposed.  The people of Israel and Jerusalem were regularly assaulted; Jesus was crucified.  Or, to put it in slightly different terms, the proclamation of God’s reign is always polemical.  For the psalmist, to say that Yahweh is sovereign means that Baal is not.  For first-century Christians, to say that Jesus is Lord meant that Caesar is not.  For contemporary Christians, to say that God rules the world, and that Jesus is Lord is to deny ultimacy and ultimate allegiance to a host of other claims–national security, political parties, economic systems, ethnic heritage, job, family, self.  Indeed, the underlying temptation represented by Baalism is perhaps more prevalent than ever–that is, to conclude that human beings can manipulate the deity and thus ensure security by our own efforts.

–J. Clinton McCann, Jr., in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 4 (1996), 947

The illusion of control may be near the top of the list of most common idols.  This illusion feeds our egos and creates and exacerbates a plethora of unnecessary problems.  Indeed, to accept the sovereignty of God entails surrendering other sources of identity.  In some contexts, to accept to accept the sovereignty of God may make on a traitor, as in the case of Christians for centuries during the Roman imperial period.  In the context of the Roman imperial cult:

Christianity was, quite unambiguously, a cosmic sedition.

–David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions:  The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (2009), 124

And the Book of Revelation, which denounces the Roman Empire as being Satanic, constitutes treason against the Roman Empire.  The Apocalypse of John is not a go-along, get-along text.

Our identities as people of God are properly rooted in God.  God properly and fully defines us.  Our accomplishments do not properly and fully define us.  Neither do our socio-economic status, our careers, our partisan affiliations, our cultures, our skin colors, our genders, or anything else.  And we depend on God.  Can we handle these truths?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Psalm 49: The Folly of Materialism   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XXXVII

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Psalm 49

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The aspect of Psalm 49 that grips me is the principle of

You can’t take it with you.

This is always an important message, but especially so in a materialistic, consumer society.

My maternal grandmother died in August 2019.  My girlfriend died two months later, to the day.  I did much to clean out both apartments.  Those two experiences pushed me further away from materialism.  I had already been moving away from it, but I accelerated the pace of my march closer to minimalism.

We accumulate possessions during our lifetimes.  Then, after we died, others must decide what to do with that which we left.  The New Testament is correct; life does not consist of the abundance of possessions.  The greatest aspects of life are intangible.

So, to apply St. Augustine of Hippo’s definition of sin as disordered love to materialism, objects can become idols if we love them more than we should.  At a minimum, if our possessions–many of which we store away and live well without using or visiting, and seldom ponder–make us feel better psychologically, we create and maintain burdens for those who must clean out after us.  This may not constitute a major moral or theological matter, but it is real.  I recall a story about two daughters cleaning out their mother’s house.  One daughter found a box labeled

Strings Too Short to Use.

Money and possessions are common idols, for many people trust in them.  People should trust in God instead.  Having what we need and use is fine but make an idol of it is sinful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF IGNATIUS SPENCER, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND APOSTLE OF ECUMENICAL PRAYER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, ELIZABETH PROUT, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE CROSS AND PASSION

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS II OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF AQUILEIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Posted January 11, 2023 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 49

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Psalms 13 and 22: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XII

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Psalms 13 and 22

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Psalms 13 and 22 share a theme, which becomes obvious as one reads them.  Each text opens with a cry of desolation and a sense of abandonment by God.  Each text also concludes with an affirmation of trust in God.  Psalm 22, of course, carries an association with Good Friday for Christians.  That makes sense, given the account of Jesus quoting the beginning of that text from his cross.  Yet I read that, originally, Psalm 22 refers to the author’s serious illness and related problems.  A psalm can carry more than one meaning, depending on the circumstances.

I am an Episcopalian.  My adopted tradition affirms the validity of doubt in spiritual life.  So does the Bible.  Consider the Book of Job, O reader.  Recall Psalm 13 and 22, O reader.  And think about the doubts of the despairing St. John the Baptist, a political prisoner of Herod Antipas (Matthew 11:2-11).  I do not understand how anyone who has read the Bible seriously and paid proper attention to details and patterns therein can denounce doubt as being antithetical to faith.  Yet some denominations, congregations, and individuals take up that position.

Certainty has a firm grasp on many people.  I do not oppose certainty in all cases.  I, as one trained in historical methodology, seek certainty in objective matters:  x happened at a given place and time, and z said such and such then and there.  To quote Walter Cronkite,

And that’s the way it is.

Objective reality is not up for debate, despite the preference many people have for “alternative acts.”  However, objective reality is up for interpretation, as it is in the historical profession.  In fact, interpretation defines the historical profession.

Yet not all matters fall into the neat box labeled “objective reality,” complete with a clear perception thereof.  So, doubts abound.  In theological terms, the quest for misplaced certainty constitutes idolatry when God calls us to trust instead.  Trusting God can be more difficult than seeking and finding certainty, though.

I affirm that God exists.  Yet I reject any attempt to prove by the application of human reason the existence of God.  Proposed proofs for the existence of God apply logic to an issue for which it is ill-suited.  Besides, the quest to prove that God exists reminds me of the idolatrous quest for certainty.

Whenever people ask me if I believe in God, I ask,

What do you mean?

My question is sincere.  Those who ask that question usually refer to affirming the existence of God.  Yet, in the Biblical and the creedal sense, trust in God is belief in God.  Therefore, in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, belief in God is trust in God.  I always affirm the existence of God.  I trust in God most of the time.  Doubt is part of my spiritual life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE:  THE LAST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

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Zophar the Naamathite’s Second Speech and Job’s Answer   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF JOB

PART VIII

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Job 20:1-21:34

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Cognitive dissonance results when reality conflicts with one’s preconceived ideas.  How does one resolve this dissonance?  If one is wise, one proceeds based on reality.  If one is like Zophar the Naamathite, one falls back on preconceived ideas.

Zophar’s concept of God does not make allowances for God permitting Job to suffer unjustly.  Zophar’s theology belies reality in the Book of Job.  Zophar–along with the other so-called friends–puts God into a box.

Job is correct:

So, what sense is there in your empty consolation?

What nonsense are your answers!

–Job 21:34, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The world is not fair; Job understands this.  Many wicked people flourish while many pious people struggle.  Yet,

Together now they lie in the dust

with worms for covering.

–Job 21:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I reject easy answers to difficult questions, such as those in Zophar’s second speech.  These easy answers may affirm one’s imagined theological orthodoxy.  They may bolster one’s ego, too.  But these easy answers will not help one to accept reality.  They are idols, for they stand between one and God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE DAY OF INTERCESSION AND THANKSGIVING FOR THE MISSIONARY WORK OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK COOK ATKINSON, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 29, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Job 20-21

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Holiness, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Woodland Stream, by Alexander Demetrius Goltz

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 1

1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10

Matthew 22:34-40 (41-46)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

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

and, that we may obtain what your promise,

make us love what you command;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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Almighty God, we pray,

show your humble servants your mercy,

that we, who put no trust in our own merits,

may be dealt with not according to the severity of your judgment

but according to your mercy;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 87

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Holiness, in the Bible, pertains to separation from the profane/common (Leviticus 10:10; 1 Samuel 21:5-6; Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23; etc.).  Holiness is about complete devotion to God.  Holiness, however, is not about legalism, self-righteousness, and serial contrariness.  No, holiness is more about what it favors than what it opposes.

Holiness–in its proper sense–manifests itself in life:

  1. The Holiness code, as in Leviticus 19:1-37, includes honoring parents; keeping the sabbath; refraining from idolatry; offering a sacrifice of well-being properly; feeding the poor; dealing honestly with people; defrauding no one and stealing from nobody; not insulting the deaf; not placing a stumbling block before the blind; rendering impartial justice; loving one’s kinsman as oneself; not mixing different types of cattle, seeds, and cloth; refraining from sexual relations with a slave woman meant for another man; reserving the fruit of the food tree for God for the first three years; eating nothing with blood; avoiding divination and soothsaying; avoiding extreme expressions of grief and mourning; not forcing one’s daughter into harlotry; and eschewing necromancy.  Most of the items on this list are absent from the assigned portion of Leviticus 19.  Cultural contexts define them.
  2. “The man” (literal from the Hebrew text) is a student of the Torah.  He finds his stability in God, in contrast to the unstable scoffers.  When the scoffers find stability, they do not find it in God.
  3. Holiness is contagious in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10.
  4. Jesus knew the influence of Rabbi Hillel (Matthew 22:34-40).  Holiness manifests in how we treat each other.

In a dog-eat-dog world, more spiritually toxic since the advent of social media and internet comments sections one does well not to read, loving God fully and loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself (assuming that one loves oneself, of course) does separate one from the profane/common.  Holiness is love, not legalism.  Many particulars of holiness vary according to context, but the timeless principles remain constant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DAVID CHAMBERS, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HRYBORII KHOMYSHYN, SYMEON LUKACH, AND IVAN SLEZYUK, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS, 1947, 1964, AND 1973

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN KEMBLE AND JOHN WALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1679

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS PERCY, RICHARD KIRKMAN, AND WILLIAM LACEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1572 AND 1582

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Adapted from this post

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Mutuality in God XIV   1 comment

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28

Psalm 31:1-5 (6-18), 19-24 (LBW) or Psalm 4 (LW)

Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28

Matthew 7:(15-20) 21-29

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Lord God of all nations,

you have revealed your will to your people

and promised your help to us all. 

Help us to hear and to do what you command,

that the darkness may be overcome by the power of your light;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God,

whose never-failing providence sets in order all things

both in heaven and on earth,

put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things;

and give us those things that are profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 62

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Jewish Covenantal Nomism, present in Deuteronomy 11 and in the background of Romans 3, establishes the tone for this post.  Salvation for Jews comes by grace; they are the Chosen People.  Keeping the moral mandates of the Law of Moses habitually is essential to retaining that salvation.

Love, therefore, the LORD your God, and always keep His charge.  His laws, His rules, and His commandments.

–Deuteronomy 11:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985,1999)

Perfection in these matters is impossible, of course.  Therefore, repentance is crucial daily.  In broader Biblical context, God knows that we mere mortals are “but dust.”  Do we?

Grace is free, not cheap.  Nobody can earn or purchase it, but grace does require much of its recipients.  Thin, too, O reader, how much it cost Jesus.

Both options for the Psalm this Sunday contain the combination of trust in God and pleading with God.  I know this feeling.  Maybe you do, too, O reader.

St. Paul the Apostle’s critique of Judaism was simply that it was not Christianity.  As E. P. Sanders wrote:

In short, this is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism:  it is not Christianity.

Paul and Palestinian Judaism:  A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977), 552

For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

I, as a Christian, agree.  However, I also affirm the continuation of the Jewish covenant.  I trust that God is faithful to all Jews and Gentiles who fulfill their ends of the covenant and mourns those who drop out.  Many of those who have dropped out may not know that they have done so.

The good fruit of God, boiled down to its essence and one word, is love.  Recall the First Letter of John, O reader:  Be in Christ.  Walk in the way Jesus walked.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.

–1 John 5:2-3a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), 203

And how could we forget 1 John 4:7-8?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God; God is love.

Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

This point brings me back to Psalm 31.  In verse 6 or 7 (depending on versification), either God or the Psalmist hates or detests idolators.  Translations disagree on who hates or detests the idolators.  In context, the voice of Psalm 31 is that of a devout Jews falsely accused of idolatry; he protests against this charge and defends his piety and innocence.  Human beings are capable of hating and detesting, of course.  I reject the argument that God hates or detests anyone, though.

Salvation comes via grace.  Damnation comes via works, however.  God sends nobody to Hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, says to love like Jesus.  Consider, O reader, that Christ’s love is self-sacrificial and unconditional.  It beckons people to love in the same way.  This divine love, flowing through mere mortals, can turn upside-down societies, systems, and institutions right side up.

However, anger, grudges, and hatred are alluring idols.  Much of social media feeds off a steady diet of outrage.  To be fair, some outrage is morally justifiable.  If, for example, human trafficking does not outrage you, O reader, I do not want to know you.  But too much outrage is spiritually and socially toxic.  To borrow a line from Network (1976):

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

That kind of rage is a key ingredient in a recipe for a dysfunctional society.

We human beings all belong to God and each other.  We are responsible to and for each other.  May we think and act accordingly, by grace and for the common good.  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post

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A Daring Dance with God   1 comment

Above:  Tango Postcard, 1920

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Psalm 105:1-7

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

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Almighty God, we have celebrated with joy

the festival of our Lord’s resurrection. 

Graciously help us to show the power of the resurrection

in all that we say and do;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 21

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Grant, almighty God,

that we who have celebrated the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection

may by the help of your grace bring forth

the fruits thereof in our life and conduct;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 50

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Given that I have written lectionary-based devotions for more than a decade, I choose not to use this post to focus on a passage that may not seem like the obvious bullseye.

John 20:30-31 is probably the original conclusion to the Fourth Gospel.  That conclusion ends:

…that through this belief [that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God] you may have life in his name.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This theme, present also in the readings from Acts and 1 Peter, is where I dwell today, instead of defending St. Thomas the Apostle again.  Two words attract my attention:

  1. Belief, in the full, Biblical sense, is trust.  Whenever someone asks me if I believe in God, I ask what that person means.  In vernacular English, “believe” indicates acceptance of a preposition.  In the English-language vernacular, to believe in God is to affirm the existence of God.  I always affirm the existence of God.  I usually trust in God.  Likewise, to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God is to trust that he is both of those.
  2. Life” refers to eternal life.  In Johannine theology, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus.  Logically, beginning with Johannine theological assumptions, to trust that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God leads to eternal life.  If x, then y.

These are articles of faith; we have no evidence for them or against them.  When trust in God is required, the quest for certainty constitutes idolatry.  Certainty feels comforting.  We can be certain of much, either by proving or disproving propositions.  Yet much falls into the gray zone of faith; we have it or lack it.  That uncertainty may unnerve us.  Fundamentalism undercuts trust in God by offering the crutch of false certainty.

Somewhere, years ago, I heard an intriguing spiritual metaphor–performing a daring dance with God.  That daring dance is the dance of trust, of faith.  It is daring from a human perspective.  May God have this dance?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF MARY C. COLLINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIOUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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Adapted from this post

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The Empty Tomb, with Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LII

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Luke 24:1-49

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When I begin to read Luke 24, I recall the conclusion of chapter 23.  That ending includes:

All [Jesus’s] friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee and saw all this happen.

–Luke 23:49, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

We also read:

Meanwhile the women who had come from Gailee with Jesus were following behind.  They took note of the tomb and how the body had been laid.

Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.  And on the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

–Luke 23:55-56, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Immediately, at the beginning of chapter 24, we find these women at the tomb.

The Gospel of Luke depicts women as the first ones to understand salvific events.  Recall, O reader, Sts. Mary of Nazareth and Elizabeth in Luke 1.  We read in Luke 24 that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.  We also read that women were the first evangelists after the resurrection.

The quest for certainty is idolatrous when faith is required.  I refer to circumstances in which evidence for or against a proposition does not exist.  When one has proof either way, one does not need faith.  The resurrection of Jesus falls into the article of faith.  No historical evidence can logically prove or disprove it.  One may rationally deem the resurrection of Jesus improbable.  If so, one must also admit that improbable events sometimes occur.  I affirm the resurrection of Jesus as I disregard all pious attempts to prove it, thereby trying to remove the necessity of faith regarding this matter.

Attempts to harmonize the post-resurrection stories in the canonical Gospels into a chronology have failed.  So be it.  The Gospels are not journalism.  No, they are good news, literally.

And women continue to proclaim this good news.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANNA OF OXENHALL AND HER FAITHFUL DESCENDANTS, SAINTS WENNA THE QUEEN, NON, SAMSON OF DOL, CYBI, AND DAVID OF WALES

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HODDER, ENGLISH BIOGRAPHER, DEVOTIONAL WRITER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WISHART, SCOTTISH CALVINIST REFORMER AND MARTYR, 1546; AND WALGER MILNE, SCOTTISH PROTESTANT MARTYR, 1558

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROGER LEFORT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF BOURGES

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Posted March 1, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Luke 23, Luke 24

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The Parable of the Dishonest/Crafty Steward/Manager   2 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXIX

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Luke 16:1-15

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This parable has prompted the raising of many eyebrows for a very long time.

In cultural context, however, the parable makes more sense than it does at the first, superficial reading, as well as out of context.

The rich man, a property owner, charged interest in violation of the Law of Moses.  The steward’s job was (1) to manage his employer’s wealth, and (b) to collect rent, debts, and interest.  A steward kept some of the interest for himself. The steward in this parable was (1) squandering his employer’s wealth, (2) “cooking the books,” and (3) making friends in the process of “cooking the books.”  He “cooked the books” by bringing the employer into compliance with the Law of Moses.  The steward had placed his soon-to-be-former employer in a difficult position.  The employer could not charge the steward with dishonesty without admitting his illegal activities.

The steward’s audaciousness in achieving his ends calls attention to Jesus’s lesson.  Anyone of us would go to the greatest lengths, no matter how unsavory, to ensure a place in this world; how much more should we devote our attention to the world to come (v. 8)?

–Michael F. Patella, in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegiate Bible Commentary:  New Testament (2009), 277

Then we keep reading:  We are to use “dishonest wealth” to win friends but not to trust “dishonest wealth.”  No, we need to trust God.  We, unlike the steward in the parable, ought not to squander that which is entrusted to us.  No, we should be trustworthy, so as to earn trust.

Then–as now–the origins of vast fortunes were usually unsavory.  For that reason, wealth, in these verses, was dishonest.  In a society in which the vast majority of the population was poor, the relatively few rich people benefited from exploitation.  Many of them had seized the land of the less fortunate, for example.  Or wealthy heirs reaped the rewards of the land grabs.

Wealth is a popular idol.  Money, by itself, is morally neutral.  However, people’s relationship to it cannot be morally neutral.  So, is money an instrument or an idol for you, O reader?  Whom–or what–do you trust?  And are you trustworthy with your responsibilities?

God is the owner; we mere mortals are stewards.  “Steward” derives from “sty ward,” as in one who tends a master’s pigs.  May we tend faithfully to God’s sty and not imagine ourselves to be owners.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND HIS WIFE, EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALESSANDRO VALIGNANO, ITALIAN JESUIT MISSIONARY PRIEST IN THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WINFRED DOUGLAS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, LITURGIST, MUSICOLOGIST, LINGUIST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND ARRANGER

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Trust in God, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above: From My Study, January 7, 2022

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXI

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Luke 12:13-34

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In the context of Jesus’s society, the rich man’s conduct was especially egregious.  Most people were poor.  A relative few were wealthy, and the middle class was small.  Hoarding crops kept food away from people who needed it.

In whom or what do we trust?  If we trust in anyone or anything else more than we trust in God, we commit idolatry.  If we trust in money and possessions, we trust in ephemera.

Another issue regarding possessions is that they occupy space.

I moved from Athens, Georgia, to Americus, Georgia, last October.  I rented an enclosed trailer to haul behind my truck.  I had some space in the truck cab, too. I knew better than to haul anything in the truck bed.  As I prepared to move, I obsessed over how much space I had.  This obsession led me to downsize more than I had already.  I downsized well; I used the available space well.

When one downsizes, one may realize that one has not used x, y, and z for a long time.  One, therefore, may not miss them.

That which matters most is intangible.  Relationships with other human beings and God matter most and are related to each other.  One may realize this after a loved one has died and one is cleaning out the deceased person’s abode.  A life does not consist of possessions.

Anxiety and worry cannot improve one’s life.  However, proper concern may spur appropriate actions to resolve problems.  If one is anxious because one lacks, one may still remain anxious after coming into a fortune.  Such a person may become anxious about safeguarding wealth.  Scarcity is a human creation; there is always plenty with God.  God calls us to take care of each other, to ease each other’s anxiety, and to ensure that everybody has enough.  How to accomplish this goal most effectively within a given context is a legitimate topic for discussion.  The underlying commandment is not up for debate, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS FÉNELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LE MANS

THE FEAST OF JEAN KENYON MACKENZIE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 312

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Posted January 7, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Luke 12

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