Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Tag

The Golden Rule, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace:

give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our divisions.

Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Genesis 9:8-17

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 12:13-21

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People who long to be rich are a prey to trial; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

–1 Timothy 6:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One theme this week is greed.

Money and, more generally, wealth, are morally neutral.  How one relates to them is not, however.  The Bible contains more verses about money and wealth than about sexual desire and activities, but the latter conveniently receives more attention in sermons and lessons that the former.  I propose that ranking our moral concerns according to Biblical priority is a good idea.

A bigger idea than greed is the lack of trust in God that greed indicates.  We want security blankets, so to speak.  Radical discipleship does not permit them, however.  Trust in God becomes evident in one’s actions, just as lack of trust in God does.  Whenever we turn against each other for selfish purposes, we reveal our lack of trust in God.  We are en route to evil when we do so.

According to a note in The Jewish Study Bible, an excellent resource, especially for a Gentile, the Talmud teaches that all Gentiles who observe the

seven commandments of the descendants of Noah

will meet with full divine approval.  Jews have 613 commandments, but Gentiles have just the following:

  1. To establish courts of justice,
  2. To avoid blaspheming the God of Israel,
  3. To refrain from committing idolatry,
  4. To refrain from committing sexual perversion,
  5. To refrain from committing bloodshed,
  6. To refrain from committing robbery, and
  7. To avoid eating meat cut from a living animal.

Most of these seven commandments relate to how we relate to God and each other.  Those two relationships are akin, after all.  One cannot love God and habitually tear others down for our immediate benefit.  Besides, when we harm others, we really damage ourselves, too.  This may become clear to us only with the passage of time, but the principles remain true.

Do we trust God enough to love our neighbors as we love ourselves?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Signs, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

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 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-20-year-b-humes/

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Forgiveness, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Simon, by Dieric Bouts

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord Jesus, who art the same yesterday, today, and forever:

strengthen our weak resolve, that we may remain faithful in all the changes of this life

and, at the last, enter the joy of thy kingdom.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Isaiah 55:1-13

1 John 2:1-17

Luke 7:36-50

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The readings from Isaiah 55 and 1 John 2 are consistent with St. Augustine of Hippo‘s definition of sin–disordered love.  To love something one should not love is a form of disordered love.  If, however, something is worthy of love, but one loves it too much, one manifests another form of disordered love, which takes love away from God, and, therefore, constitutes idolatry.

There was no question of the full love of the sinful woman in Luke 9:36-50.  She (not St. Mary Magdalene–named in Luke 8:2 in a positive light–despite centuries of erroneous tradition) loved Jesus so much she did not care how foolish she looked.  She loved him extravagantly.  She loved him so much she did not care about violating social conventions.  Her love for Jesus was not disordered.  Perhaps the main spiritual difference between her and Simon the Pharisee, the host of our Lord and Savior that day, was that she understood how much she needed forgiveness.  She was, therefore, grateful to receive it.

When one is experiencing spiritual darkness, the light of grace, always present, seems brighter than at other times.  The sense of God’s presence and grace can reduce one to tears as one feels one’s unworthiness powerfully.  I know this firsthand.  Perhaps you do, also, O reader.

My need for forgiveness is on my mind daily.  Sometimes I sin before I get out of bed.  On other occasions, I begin my daily sinning after getting out of bed.  I make no pretenses of being a spiritual giant or master, but I do try to refocus myself throughout each day.  The divine call to come to the water and drink beckons me.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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God’s Coins   11 comments

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Peter Paul Rubens

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:

Acts 8:1-2, 9-25

Psalm 23

2 Peter 2:1-11

Mark 12:13-17

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The context for the reading from Mark 12 is Holy Week.  As one reads the chapter, one should notice the tension building up to the crucifixion in Chapter 15.

Jesus had the ability to spring traps on people who tried to ensnare him.  The Roman coin bore the idolatrous image of Emperor Tiberius, allegedly the “Son of God, ” the heir of Augustus, supposedly the “Savior of the World.”  The hypocrisy of Christ’s would-be ensnarers was evident physically by the possession of such a coin.

St. Augustine of Hippo, writing in On the Psalms 58, provided sage advice:

Caesar seeks his image; render it.  God seeks his image; render it.  Do not withhold from Caesar his coin.  Do not keep from God his coin.

In Tractates on John 40, St. Augustine wrote,

We are God’s money.

Empires, kingdoms, and nation-states rise and fall, but God lasts forever.  The latter deserves more love than the former.  Divine love, depending on the translation of Psalm 23, either pursues or accompanies us.  This grace, which is free, imposes demands and obligations on us in public and private morality.  We have an obligation to be God’s coins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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This is post #2050 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Destiny IV   1 comment

Above:  Jesus and the Rich Young Man

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church,

being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and

the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Genesis 45:1-15

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

Luke 18:18-30

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Whenever we ponder destiny, we must, if we are to be thorough, contemplate at least three factors:  God, other people, and ourselves.  The Joseph Epic in Genesis (Chapters 37, 39-50) shows all three.  It demonstrates that God works through the decisions of others, sometimes contradicting the desires of those others.  The Joseph Epic also shows that God works independently.

The greatest spiritual gift, we read in 1 Corinthians, is love.  It builds people up, laughs with them, weeps with them, endures with them.  Love forgives.  It seeks the best for others and is sad when they reject the best.

St. Augustine of Hippo defined sin as disordered love.  He understood that God deserved the most love, and that loving people, objects, wealth, et cetera more than one should constituted idolatry.  St. Augustine must have been contemplating the reading from Luke 8, among other texts, for the story of the man overly attached to his wealth fits easily into the theologian’s definition of sin.

For many people attachment to wealth is not an option, but all of us have attachments.  Our attachments may be to the tangible or to the intangible or to both, but they are no less at risk turning into idolatry, if they have not already done so, than the rich man’s attachment to his wealth.

He made his choice.  He chose his destiny.

What choice will I make?  What choice will you, O reader, make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Honest Faith Versus False Certainty II   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

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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Job 8:8-22 or Deuteronomy 11:18-28

Psalm 42

James 2:18-26

Mark 2:1-12

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In the perfect moral universe of Bildad the Shuhite and those who think like him, piety is a shield against misfortune.  This is an attitude present in parts of the Book of Psalms.  That book also contradicts the attitude, however, for certain psalms acknowledge that innocent people suffer.

Jesus, without ignoring that the suffering of many resulted partially from their sins, did not state that all human suffering resulted from the sins of the suffering.  His sinless life testified to a different reality, that sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others, and piety sometimes leads to persecution and/or death.

Certainty can become an idol, as in the cases of Bildad (Job 8) and the accusers of Jesus (Mark 2).  Idols abound; certainty is one of the most popular ones.  I refer to false, misplaced certainty, not to confirmed knowledge, such as 2 + 2 = 4.  No, I refer to certainty that fills voids meant for faith in God.  The human psyche craves certainty.  Unfortunately, false certainty leads to conspiracy theories, to other denial of reality, and to idolatry.  In reality, what we do not know outweighs what we do know, and humility is in order; certainty be damned much of the time.

May we walk the path of faith in Christ without ignoring that of which we can objectively be certain.  May God grant us the wisdom to recognize the difference between matters in which we need faith and those in which we can reasonably have certainty.

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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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Repentance and Restoration, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Onesimus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,

and art wont to give more than wither we desire or deserve:

pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy;

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125-126

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Hosea 14:1-9

Philemon 4-20

Luke 18:9-14

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Repentance–national in Hosea 14, individual in Luke 18 and Philemon–is the essence of these readings.

The Letter to Philemon has long been a misunderstood text.  Since antiquity many have cited it to justify reuniting runaway slaves with their masters–obviously a misinterpretation, given verse 16.  Onesimus may even not have been a slave, for the correct translation of verse 16 is

…as if a slave,

not the usual

…as a slave.

And Onesimus may not have been a thief either, according to a close reading of the text.

According to tradition, by the way, Philemon heeded the letter’s advice; he freed Onesimus.  Both men became bishops and martyrs, furthermore.

Tax farming was an inherently exploitative system.  Not only did the collected taxes support the Roman occupiers, but tax collectors were not salaried bureaucrats.  No, they lived off what they collected in excess of Roman taxes.  They were literal tax thieves.  The tax collector in the parable knew what he was.  He was honest before God as he pleaded for mercy.  The Pharisee in the parable was proud, though.

As Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the retired Episcopal Bishop of Georgia, said, the Pharisees were the good churchgoing people of their day.

If we churchy people are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have more in common with the Pharisee than the tax collector of the parable.  We make our handiwork–spiritual, more than physical, probably–our idol.  Perhaps we imagine ourselves as being better than we are.

What would a sequel to the parable have been?  Would the tax collector have found a new profession?  Would the Pharisee have continued to be insufferably smug and self-righteous?

Repentance is active. Grace, although free, is far from cheap.  Perhaps it requires one to become a bishop and martyr, or to change one’s career.  Certainly it requires one to be humble before God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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