Archive for the ‘Inclusion’ Tag

Stereotypes of God   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Joel

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 1:1-20 (January 21)

Joel 2:1-17 (January 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–January 21)

Psalm 54 (Morning–January 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–January 21)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–January 17)

Romans 10:1-21 (January 21)

Romans 11:1-24 (January 22)

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Some Related Posts:

Joel 1-2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/week-of-proper-22-friday-year-1/

Romans 10-11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/week-of-proper-25-saturday-year-1/

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Rend your hearts

Rather than your garment,

And turn back to the LORD, your God.

For He is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger, abounding in kindness,

And renouncing punishment.

Who knows but He may turn and relent,

And leave a blessing behind

For meal offering and drink offering

To the LORD your God?

–Joel 2:13-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Now suppose that some branches were broken off, and you are wild olive, grafted among the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree….

–Romans 11:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Sometimes a lectionary is too choppy.  At such occasions extended readings are appropriate.  Such is the case with the readings for January 21 and 22 on the daily lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006).

The Book of Joel, from the Persian period (539-332 B.C.E.) of Jewish history, opens with frightening images.  Read the first chapter, O reader of this post, for full effect.  Locusts, flames, and other forces have devastated the land.  And, as Chapter 2 opens, the terrifying Day of the LORD approaches.  The earth trembles, the sky shakes, and stars go dark.  Yet even then there is the possibility of forgiveness, assuming repentance, or turning around.

Paul spends Romans 10 and 11 dealing with the question of Jews who have rejected Jesus.  In this context he likens Gentiles to branches grafted onto the tree of Judaism.  Gentiles, he advises, ought not to become proud and dismissive.  As much as there is divine mercy, there is also divine judgment–for Jews and Gentiles alike.

There is an often repeated misunderstanding about God as He comes across in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The God of the Old Testament, we hear, is mean, violent, and vengeful.  This is a gross oversimplification–read Joel 2 for evidence of that statement.  I am convinced that some of the violent imagery and some of the stories containing it result from humans projecting their erroneous assumptions upon God.  Yet I refuse to say that all–or even most–of such incidents flow from that practice.  I seek, O reader, to avoid any stereotype–frightful or cuddly–about God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA SKOBTSOVA, ORTHODOX MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENJAMIN, ORTHODOX DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS ASBURY, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN DONNE, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/devotion-for-january-21-and-22-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (II)   1 comment

Above:  The Persian Empire in 500 B.C.E.

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 47:1-14, 21-23

Psalm 67 (Morning)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening)

Romans 9:19-33

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A Related Post:

Ezekiel 47:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fourth-day-of-lent/

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But suppose that God, although the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed; so that he may make known the glorious riches ready for the people who are the instruments of his faithful love and were long ago prepared for that glory.  We are that people, called by him not only out of the Jews but with the gentiles too.

–Romans 9:22-24, The New Jerusalem Bible

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This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel.  You shall allot it as a heritage for yourselves and the strangers who reside among you, you have begotten children among you.  You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel.  You shall give the stranger an allotment within the tribe where he resides–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 47:21-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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What a difference a day makes!  In the previous day’s entry in this series (http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/devotion-for-january-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/) I wrote of the exclusion of Gentiles from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  Some foreigners had joined the Jews and lived among them, living according to the covenant and embracing monotheism.  Yet they were to be excluded from parts of the Temple complex.  Nevertheless, in Ezekiel 47:21-23, those same foreigners were to receive the same rights of citizenship as Jews and to have the same land rights.  I sense a double standard.

Paul wrote that the faithful people of God included Jews and Gentiles.  In Christ, he wrote elsewhere, the barriers of hostility between the two groups cease to exist.  Recently, over lunch, a friend and I discussed Paul’s inclusive view of Christian identity (transnational and transethnic) and how, for many people in the non-Western world, the sense of Christianity is quite different.  For many of them Christianity and Western civilization are linked closely.  This hinders the spread of Christianity where anti-Western sentiments are widespread.  That is most unfortunate.

Christ is universal.  May we who claim his name act according to that truth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSSE, AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/devotion-for-january-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 47, Psalm 46, Psalm 67, Psalm 93, Romans 9

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Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (I)   1 comment

Above:  Peter’s Vision

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 44:1-16, 23-29

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Romans 9:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 9:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/week-of-proper-25-friday-year-1/

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Thus said the Lord GOD:  Let no alien, uncircumcised in spirit and flesh, enter My Sanctuary–no alien whatsoever among the people of Israel.

–Ezekiel 44:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Let not he foreigner say,

Who has attached himself to the LORD,

“The LORD will keep me apart from His people”…

As for the foreigners

Who attach themselves to the LORD,

To minister to Him,

And love the name of the LORD,

To be His servants–

All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,

And who hold fast to My covenant–

I will bring them to My sacred mount

And let them rejoice in My House of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

Shall be welcome on My altar;

For My House shall be called

A house of prayer for all peoples.

–Isaiah 56:3a, 6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female–for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And simply by  being Christ’s, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.

–Galatians 3:28-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand,” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

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In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free;

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–Laurence Hull Stokely, 1987; verse 3 of “In Christ There Is No East or West,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989)

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The bulk of the assigned reading from Ezekiel condemns the corrupt and idolatrous priesthood.  Idolatry is always worth condemning, but another part of that lesson attracted my attention.  Foreigners were excluded from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible referred me to a different perspective in Isaiah 56:3-8; I have quoted part of that passage in this post.  In that reading a foreigner who lives according to the covenant of God is to be welcomed at the Temple.  I have quoted other texts of inclusion in God (especially via Jesus) in this part.  If you, O reader, think of them as refutation of Ezekiel 44:9, you understand my meaning correctly.

Paul, a Jew, was a great apostle to the Gentiles.  As a Gentile, I am grateful to him.  He, Simon Peter (to a different extent) and others saw past boundaries such as national origin and ethnicity.  This position caused controversy in earliest Christianity, as history and the Bible tell us.  Exclusion helps define borders and thereby to help us know who we are; We are not those people over there.  This is a negative identification.

Yes, there are human and theological differences, some of them important.  But more vital is the love of God for everyone.  And we who claim to follow God ought to seek to express that love to others, regardless of a host of differences.  Each of us is foreign to someone; may we remember that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ALLEN, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/devotion-for-january-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Proper Forms of Inclusion   1 comment

Above: Rebecca and Eliezar, by Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo (1600s)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67 (An American Translation):

The length of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.  Sarah died at Kirjath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to wail and weep for Sarah.  Rising from the side of his dead, Abraham said to the Hittites,

Since I am an immigrant and a serf under you, give me some property with you as a burial ground, that I may inter my dead.

Following that Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is Hebron), in the land of Canaan.

Now that Abraham was old and well advanced in life, having been blessed by the LORD in all things, Abraham said to the oldest slave of his household, who had charge of everything that belonged to him,

Put your hand under my thigh, while I make you swear by the LORD, the God of the heavens and the earth, that you will not marry my son to a daughter of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but that you will go to my own land and kindred to get a wife for my son Isaac.

The son said to him,

Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land; am I to take your son back to the land that you left?

Abraham said to him,

See to it that you do not take my son back there!  It was the LORD, the God of the heavens, who took me from my father’s home and the land of my birth, who spoke to me and made this promise, ‘It is to your descendants that I am going to give this land’–it is he who will send his angel ahead of you, so that you shall get a wife for my son there.  But if the woman should be unwilling to follow you, then you will be absolved from this oath to me; only you must never take my son back there.

Now Isaac had moved from the neighborhood of Beer-lahai-roi, and was living in the land of the Negeb.  One evening Isaac went out to stroll in the fields, and raising his eyes, he saw camels coming.  Rebekah too raised her eyes, and seeing Isaac, she dismounted from her camel, saying to the slave,

Who is the man yonder that is walking through the field toward us?

The slave said,

He is my master.

Then she took her veil, and covered herself.

The slave told Isaac all that he had done; so Isaac brought her into his tent.  He married Rebekah and she became his wife; and in loving her, Isaac found consolation for the death of his mother.

Psalm 78:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Matthew 9:9-13 (An American Translation):

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, ‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.’  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The two readings for this day address the difficult issue of inclusion.

Abraham arranges the marriage of nearly forty-year-old son by sending Eliezar of Damascus to find a female cousin, who turns out to be Rebekah.  Abraham is clear in his instructions; the marriage must not be a religiously mixed one, with the other side being Canaanite.

Yet Abraham is living as foreigner among Hittites, with whom he has respectful relationships, so he is not xenophobic.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus dines with irreligious people and Jewish collaborators of the Roman Empire, thereby causing a scandal.  Eating with such people was not respectable, yet there Jesus was, in their company.

Nobody is beyond the reach of mercy, and many of those we consider outsiders are or can be insiders, according to God’s definition.

But where ought we to draw the line between including people, and in which social relationships?

I am single, never having married.  This is my preferred state.  So far be it from me to give marital advice to anyone.  But I know that if I were to marry, I would seek certain points of compatibility in the woman.  Among these would be spiritual and religious.  In other words, I would seek a wife with whom I could attend church comfortably and with whom I could engage in excellent religious discussion.  So Abraham’s choice makes sense to me.

One purpose of a home, as I understand it, is to propagate faith.  This has been my experience, and I am grateful for it.  So I argue affirmatively for marriage within a religion.

I also defend Jesus’ choice to associate repeatedly with the allegedly unclean, such as Gentiles, apostates, and collaborators, for nobody is beyond grace.  One never knows who can bring to God if one does not try. More people than we might suspect are insiders, according to the divine standard.  May we not judge them as being outsiders unjustly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

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Posted February 6, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis, Matthew 9, Psalm 78

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

No Outsiders in Jesus   1 comment

Above:  Hadrian’s Wall

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Galatians 3:1-29 (Revised English Bible):

You stupid Galatians!  You must have been bewitched–you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly displayed on the cross!  Answer me one question:  did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing the gospel message?  Can you really be so stupid?  You started with the spiritual; do you now look to the material to make you perfect?  Is all you have experienced to come to nothing–surely not?  When God gives you the Spirit and works miracles among you, is it because you keep the law, or is it because you have faith in the gospel message?

Look at Abraham:  he put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness.  You may take it, then, that it is those who have faith who are Abraham’s sons.  And scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, declared the gospel to Abraham beforehand:

In you all nations shall find blessing.

Thus  it is those with faith who share the blessing with faithful Abraham.

On the other hand, those who rely on obedience to the law are under a curse; for scripture says,

Cursed is everyone who does not persevere in doing everything that is in the book of the law.

It is evident that no one is ever justified before God by means of the law, because we read,

He shall gain life who is justified through faith.

Now the law does not operate on the basis of faith, for we read,

He who does this shall gain life by what he does.

Christ brought us freedom from the curse of the law by coming under the curse for our sake; for scripture says,

Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.

The purpose of this was that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

My friends, let me give you an illustration.  When a man’s will and testament has been duly executed, no one else can set it aside or add a codicil.  Now, the promises to pronounced to Abraham and his “issue.”  It does not say “issues” in the plural, but “your issue” in the singular; and by “issue” is meant Christ.  My point is this:  a testament, or covenant, has already been validated by God; a law made four hundred and thirty years later cannot invalidate it and so render its promises ineffective.  If the inheritance is by legal right, then it is not by promise; but it was by promise that God bestowed it as a free gift on Abraham.

Then what of the law?  It was added to make wrongdoing a legal offence; it was an interim measure pending the arrival of the “issue” to whom the promise was made.  It was promulgated through angels, and there was an intermediary; one party acting alone, and God is one.

Does the law, then, contradict the promises?  Of course not!  If a law had been given which had power to bestow life, then righteousness should indeed have come from keeping the law.  But scripture has declared the whole world to be prisoners in subjection to sin, so that faith in Jesus Christ should be the ground on which the promised blessing is given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were close prisoners in the custody of the law, pending the revelation of faith.  The law was thus put in charge of us until Christ should come, when we should be justified through faith; and now that faith has come, its charge is at an end.

It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus.  Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment.  There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female;  for you are all one person in Christ Jesus, you are the “issue” of Abraham and heirs by virtue of the promise.

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A Related Post:

Prayers for Inclusion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-inclusion/

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Edmond Browning, a retired Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, advocated a church without outsiders.  He did not mean to expel the marginalized; rather, he spoke and wrote of expanding the margins.  Everyone in the church, he said, ought therefore to be an insider.  That was his inclusive vision of the church.  It was a vision consistent with Galatians 3:26-29:

It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus.  Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment.  There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female;  for you are all one person in Christ Jesus, you are the “issue” of Abraham and heirs by virtue of the promise.  (Revised English Bible)

In other words, to quote a great hymn:

In Christ there is no East or West,

in him no South or North,

but one great fellowship of love

throughout the whole wide earth.

–John Oxenham, 1913

This is radical grace and inclusion, the breaking down of barriers and erasing of separate identities, some of them quite old and revered, even comfortable.  So the removal of them quite old and revered, even comfortable.  So the removal of them makes many of us uncomfortable, even within the Christian Church.  So we fortify our walls and stand by our ramparts, so to speak.  Sometimes we even commit schism to maintain these barriers which grace tears down.  We like having a sense of who is an outsider (those other people) and who is an outsider (people like us).

I confess that I am not immune to this tendency.  I catch myself in it more often than my conscience likes.  So, when I condemn such exclusionary tendencies, I refer to mine as well as those of others.  May God deliver us from this sin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 2, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/week-of-proper-22-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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