Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Tag

A Light to the Nations VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Kent Lighthouse at Night

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Master of us all, you have given us work to do.

Also give us strength to perform it with gladness and singleness of heart;

and when it is completed grant us a place in your kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Jeremiah 10:1-7

Psalm 50

Acts 8:26-35

John 4:7-26

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We have a fine set of readings (as usual) this time.  My only negative comment regards not the portions of scripture themselves but the old lectionary itself; the lessons from Jeremiah, Acts, and John are too short.  One should read through Jeremiah 10:16, Acts 8:40, and John 4:42 for full effect.

God (in Jeremiah 10) and Jesus (in John 4) notably avoided condemning anyone.  (The condemnation came in Psalm 50 instead.)  God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, condemned idolatry and cautioned against practicing it, but proclaimed (in that passage) no punishment of practitioners of idolatry.  No, God did that elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.  And Jesus, scandalously speaking at great length to the Samaritan woman at the well, did not condemn her for anything.  No, he, like God in Jeremiah 10:1-16, encouraged repentance.  That strategy worked on the woman.

A recurring theme in this series of posts has been being a light to the nations.  This has been appropriate, given the theme of the Season after the Epiphany, with the message of Christ spreading to the Gentiles, or to the nations.

Find the good and praise it.

–Alex Haley

A light to the nations stands out among them; it does not blend in.  Neither is a light to the nations a reflexive contrarian.  No, such a light affirms the positive and names the negative.  It does so in the proper way, so as to avoid defeating divine purposes by making unnecessary scenes.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ, by its nature, offends many, but the record of Christian missionary efforts is sadly replete with examples of evangelists who, out of racism, ethnocentrism, and other faults, sabotaged their work and actively (yet accidentally) discouraged many people from coming to God.

May we be lights to the nations properly.  May we be like St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle), who, in Acts 8, engaged constructively with the Ethiopian eunuch.  May we be like Jesus, who, in John 4, spoke the truth gently and persuasively to the Samaritan woman.  May we draw people to God and encourage discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Dedicated to God   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest, by Jan Victors

Image in the Public Library

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and earth,

Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and grant us your peace all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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 1 Samuel 1:19c-28

Psalm 16

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Luke 2:39-52

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The theme of being dedicated to God unites these readings.

Psalm 16 reflects the spiritually healthy ethic of avoiding idolatry and seeking divine guidance.  All of us need to do better in those regards, I propose; idols are plentiful and tempting, and we frequently imagine that we know more than we do.  Furthermore, recognizing divine guidance might be more challenging than asking for it.

We read of two dedicated boys and their devoted parents in other lessons.  We meet Samuel and his parents in 1 Samuel.  Perhaps nobody can imagine accurately the gratitude of Hannah as well as the difficulty of lending her precious son to the service of God.  Her story demonstrates the essence of sacrifice in the Bible; one gives of what is dearest to one.  It is a real sacrifice.  Although I do pretend to know how Sts. Joseph and Mary of Nazareth must have felt when raising Jesus, I suppose that parenting him was especially challenging quite often.  I also conclude that they did a fine job.  If one accepts that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, one must agree that the incarnate God needed good parents, who influenced him positively.

It is not ourselves that we proclaim; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.

–2 Corinthians 4:5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

May we never lose heart as we proclaim Christ, glorify God, renounce idolatry, and seek and recognize divine guidance.  May we grow to achieve our full spiritual stature as we deepen our relationship with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Varieties of Exile   Leave a comment

Above:  Road to Natural Bridge in Death Valley National Park, California, 2012

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-23917

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

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Bestow your light on us, O Lord, that, being rid of the darkness of our hearts,

we may attain to the true light;  through Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Isaiah 62:10-12

Psalm 32

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Luke 3:2b-6

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Isaiah 40:3-5 (quoted in Luke 2:4b-6) and Isaiah 6:10-12 share the thread of return from exile.  In order to grasp Isaiah 62:10-12 one should back up to the beginning of the chapter.  The Babylonian Exile is over yet the reality of Jerusalem after liberation by the Persian Empire does not live up to expectations.  God will indeed restore the fortunes of Jerusalem, we read; more exiles, accompanied by the Presence of God, will return to their ancestral homeland via a highway in the desert.  This is the same highway in Isaiah 40:3-5.

The Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, occurred mostly because of persistent societal sinfulness, such as that manifested in idolatry and institutionalized social injustice.  Divine judgment was simply the consequence of human actions.  Then forgiveness followed, hence the reading of Psalm 32 in the context of Isaiah 62:10-12.  Mercy followed judgment.

Quoting Isaiah 40:3-5 in Luke 3 was thematically appropriate, for life in Roman-occupied Judea constituted exile of a sort.  Expectations of deliverance from the occupiers was commonplace yet not universal among Jews in the homeland.  Jesus, of course, was not the conquering hero; he was no Judas Maccabeus.  No, Jesus was a savior of a different sort.  The high expectations left over from Isaiah 62 remained unfulfilled.

There is, of course, the major of the continuing passage of time.  The fact that these hopes remain unfulfilled does not mean that they will remain so indefinitely.  God’s schedule is not ours.  God, who is the ultimate judge, is faithful and full of surprises.  May the incongruity between our expectations and divine tactics and schedules not stand in the way of serving God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Psalms 132-135   1 comment

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POST LV OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Psalms 120-134 are Songs of Ascents, which pilgrims to Jerusalem used en route to festivals at the Temple.

Psalms 132 and 133 come from the time after the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 132 reflects the aspirations of many for the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty.  Psalm 133 celebrates the rebuilding of the Temple and the resumption of worship there.  Communal hopes for a better future mark these texts.  Psalm 134 flows naturally from its immediate predecessor; in Psalm 134 people bless God and God blesses them.

People also bless God in Psalm 135.  This text condemns idolatry and extols the greatness of God, as evident in nature and in previous dealings with the Israelite people.  The name of God, we read, endures forever.

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a frequent refrain was

God bless America.

At the same time a new bumper sticker read,

AMERICA, BLESS GOD.

“God bless America,” by itself in that context, was incomplete, for it ignored human duties to God (while avoiding theocracy and calls for it, of course).

May we not be so concerned about obtaining divine blessings that we fall into or remain in a transactional relationship with God.  May we nurture a mindset of gratitude because it is the correct spiritual practice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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Psalm 119:33-72   5 comments

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POST XLIX OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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This is the second of five posts on Psalm 119 in this series.  The first is here.  The third is here.  The fourth is here.  The fifth is here.

This is my comfort in my affliction,

that Your promise has preserved me.

–Psalm 119:50, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The psalmist, who is faithful to God and seeking to become more so, is confident in God.  The author, who endures taunts and false accusations, trusts in God during his difficulties, which might result from his faithfulness.

To trust in God during good and prosperous times might be relatively easy.  One might point to one’s good fortune (as some psalmists do) and label them evidence of God’s bountiful grace.  (Or one might make an idol of prosperity and forget that one depends on God fully.)  To trust in God when times are difficult might be more of a challenge.  One might interpret such circumstances as evidence of abandonment by God.  Alternatively, one might learn that the experience of such metaphorical light of grace seem brighter.  Perhaps grace is more plentiful.  Or maybe one simply perceives it better.  Either way, the valley experience might prove more spiritually edifying than the mountaintop experience.

Mountaintop experiences are wonderful.  We need them.  Yet we spend much time in valleys.  Can we recognize the presence of God there?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Psalms 114 and 115   1 comment

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POST XLVI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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To read Psalms 114 and 115 together is appropriate, for they are one psalm in the Septuagint.  Non nobis, Domine.

Not to us, O LORD, not to us

but to Your name bring glory

for the sake of Your love and Your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Psalm 114, set after the Exodus from Egypt, uses wonderful poetic imagery to depict nature itself rejoicing at the mercy and power of God.  The miracle of the Exodus, as Exodus 14 presents it, is not the parting of the waters of the Sea of Reeds (instead of the Red Sea), for verse 21 mentions

a strong east wind.

No, the miracle is the liberation itself.  In the wake of such a feat one must surely recognize the futility of idolatry, correct?  Not necessarily!

That was orthodoxy pertaining to the concept of Sheol, or the Hebrew underworld.  Neither did anyone there have any (further) obligations to God, according to the theology of a former time.  Theology changed, of course.

The implication of the text is that those who do not praise God in this life are like the dead.  By that standard many people are like the dead, unfortunately.  Life is in God, however.

How many of us are like the dead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 15:  THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Posted August 20, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 14, Psalm 114, Psalm 115

Tagged with

Psalms 73 and 74   1 comment

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POST XXVIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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One of the themes of Psalm 72 is that a monarch is responsible for establishing and maintaining economic and social justice in the realm.  We know from the Hebrew Bible that all but a few Kings of Israel and Judah failed in this matter and many did not even try to succeed in it.  Psalm 73 is a fine companion piece to Psalm 72.  The author of Psalm 73 struggles with the question of why justice persists and many of the wicked prosper while righteous suffer.  Why does God permit this to occur?  The psalmist concludes that there is an ultimate divine justice we mere mortals do not witness.  That might provide some psychological comfort, but it does not solve problems in this life.

Speaking of injustice, we know that the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was brutal and that violence was one of its foundations.  Psalm 74, from the Babylonian Exile, is a national lament.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, in its final form, is that longterm, national disobedience to the Law of Moses, as evidenced by idolatry and disregard for the mandate of economic justice, contributed greatly to the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The author of Psalm 74, recognizing national sins, asks,

How long?

Then he asks God to end the exile.

How long?

is a valid question.  How long will many of the evil continue to prosper?  How long will institutionalized social injustice persist?  How long will God seem to turn a blind eye to all this social injustice?  How long will the population suffer the consequences of collective action and inaction that violates God’s law?  How long until we learn our lessons?  How long until the wicked who refuse to repent meet with divine justice?

How long, indeed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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