Archive for the ‘J. B. Phillips’ Tag

Who Do You Think You Are?   1 comment

Above:  Gideon

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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Judges 7:1-8, 16-22 or Jeremiah 3:21-4:4

Psalm 89:46-52

Romans 2:1-12

Luke 9:37-50

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To the extent that any person or group is estranged from God, the fault is entirely human.  Sin creates estrangement from God.  Many people blame God for that which God did not do and for which they have no business blaming God.  Many people blame God when they should blame other people and/or themselves.  Many people scapegoat God.  Many people operate from an erroneous God concept, as one reads in J. B. Phillips‘s classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961).

Perhaps the core of the readings for this Sunday is,

Who do you think you are?

Do we–individually and collectively–think more highly of ourselves than we should?

For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

–Luke 9:48c, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Do we think we are less sinful than others?  Do we think we are more worthy of glory than God?  Do we imagine that we do not depend on each other and entirely on God?  If we do, we err.

Ego can be difficult to tame.  Bringing it into line requires divine assistance.  I do not pretend to have mastered humility.  However, I know that, by grace, ego is less of a problem than it used to be.  I, as a mere mortal, am vulnerable to human frailties.  I am also responsible for my sins.  Ego, in balance, has its place.  Ego, in balance, is positive.  Ego, unbalanced, destroys and damages others and self, and constitutes a form of idolatry.  In Augustinian terms, I write of disordered love.

The ethics and morals Jesus taught are not topsy-turvy; social mores that contradict them are.  The ethics and morals Jesus taught are not topsy-turvy; human psychology frequently is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOPS FOR COLORED WORK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTHONY, JOHN, AND EUSTATHIUS OF VILNIUS, MARTYRS IN LITHUANIA, 1347

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENAIDA OF TARSUS AND HER SISTER, SAINT PHILONELLA OF TARSUS; AND SAINT HERMIONE OF EPHESUS; UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/devotion-for-proper-10-year-c-humes/

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Christ and the Syrophoenician Woman   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and the Woman of Canaan, by Michael Angelo Immenraet

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who seest the helpless misery of our fallen life;

vouchsafe unto us, we humbly beseech thee, both the outward and inward defense of thy guardian care;

that we may be shielded from the evils which assault the body,

and be kept pure from all thoughts that harm and pollute the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 148

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Isaiah 45:20-25

Psalm 32

Romans 2:1-10

Matthew 15:21-28

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Repentance is the theme of Lent, historically a time during which notorious sinners, penitent, prepared to return to the full fellowship of the church.  Changing one’s mind and turning one’s back on sins, barriers we erect between ourselves and God, is essential before one can deepen one’s relationship with God and grow into one’s potential in God.  The readings from Psalm 32 and Romans 2 cover that material more eloquently than I can paraphrase them.

Another theme in this week’s collection of pericopes is Gentiles worshiping the one true God.  We read about this in Isaiah 45 before we move along to the frequently misinterpreted story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28.

I realize that my orthodoxy resembles heresy to many in the Bible Belt of the United States.  (I live in the Bible Belt.)  I stand within the larger Christian tradition–one that embraces critical (in the highest meaning of that word) analysis of the Bible and that accepts both science and history.  My heroes include Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who said,

The Bible tells us the way to go to Heaven, not the way the heavens go.

I consider fossils, rock layers, and other scientific evidence, and understand that the universe and this planet are much older than six millennia, and that we human beings, in all our stages of evolution, are recent, in terms of geological time.  I cannot imagine a few million years.  Neither can I imagine many millions and billions of years.  I like to ask questions, especially those that prompt many fundamentalists and evangelicals to give me hard stares and become concerned about my salvation.  Nevertheless, I am fairly orthodox.

I, as an orthodox Christian, acknowledge the sinlessness of Jesus.  I also affirm that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, not God with skin on, without any humanity.  Furthermore, I read Matthew 15:21-28 not only in the context of the consensus of ancient ecumenical councils, but also in the context of the rest of Matthew 15 and of the Gospels as a whole.  He liked to dine with outcasts, notorious sinners, and other “bad company,” did he not?

Consider, O reader, that, in the narrative, Jesus had recently argued with some Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem about ritual purity functioning as a distraction from moral responsibilities to relatives.  In that context, our Lord and Savior had decreed that what comes out of one’s mouth makes one’s defiled–common, as J. B. Phillips (1906-1982) translated the germane Greek verb.  To be pure was uncommon.  Impurity was ubiquitous; rituals for becoming ritually pure were also ubiquitous.

In narrative, Jesus then voluntarily withdrew to Gentile territory.  He was not trying to avoid Gentiles.  Our Lord and Savior’s seemingly harsh words to the Syrophoenician woman were not insults, and she did not change his mind.  No, Jesus tested her verbally; he wanted her to reply as she did.  Her answer pleased him.  I understand that “little bitch” (a literal translation from the Greek text) does not sound nice.  It is certainly rude when one intends to insult.  I argue, of course, that this was not the case in the story.

In the rest of Matthew 15 Jesus healed people before conducting another feeding of the multitude–4000 men, plus women and children–for the Gentiles.

…and they glorified the God of Israel.

–Matthew 15:31d, The New American Bible (1991)

I, standing in a tradition that dates to the Church Fathers, affirm that the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus meant, among other truths, that the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did not know all that the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did.  This is an orthodox Christian position.  So is my interpretation of Matthew 15:21-28.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus was of Israel and that the proclamation of the message was first to Israel.  The Gospel of Matthew also includes the Great Commission (which includes Gentiles) in Chapter 28.

Jesus handled the Syrophoenician’s woman’s case better than his Apostles did; they wanted to send her away.  Christ commended her–a foreigner and a Gentile–for her faith and healed her daughter.

I wish that, in passages such as Matthew 15:21-28, the author had mentioned tones of voices, which can change the meaning of words.  Perhaps, if the author (“Matthew,” whoever he was; probably not the apostle) had done so, many generations of Christians would have avoided bad sermons on this pericope, as well as misinterpretations in commentaries and Sunday School lessons.

[Aside:  Today, March 24, 2020, I consulted N. T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone, Year A (2011), focused on the Gospel of Matthew.  Even he thought that Jesus was insulting the woman.  How did I, of all people, become more orthodox than N. T. Wright on a point of interpretation? (Start playing the theme to The Twilight Zone now.)]

All may come to God through Christ.  All need to repent.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance only God understands; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR, 1980-1992

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHRISTIAN MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LEDDRA, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYR IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY, 1661

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Prelude to the Passion, Part I   1 comment

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees James Tissot

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

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:

Jeremiah 22:1-9 or Zechariah 7:7-14

Psalm 58

Matthew 23:13-39 or Luke 11:37-54

1 Timothy 3:1-6

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In Timothy Matthew Slemmons’s Year D (2013) Propers 15-18 are the “Prelude to the Passion” of Jesus Christ.

The emphasis of the readings this Sunday is the moral responsibility of leaders to effect social justice–especially for widows, orphans, aliens, the poor, victims of evil plots, victims of judicial corruption, and the innocent killed.  Fasting and otherwise maintaining appearances of piety and respectability does not deceive God, who is righteously angry.  J. B. Phillips, in The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), cuts to the point, as he usually does in that translation.  Instead of the customary

Woe to you,

we read Jesus thundering,

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you utter frauds!

–Matthew 23:23

and

What miserable frauds you are, you scribes and Pharisees!

–Matthew 23:27 and 29.

Those who dress up their impiety in righteousness are just that–utter and miserable frauds.  The job descriptions for bishops and deacons require officeholders to be the opposite of utter and miserable frauds.

Utter and miserable frauds in secular and religious settings continue to exist, of course.  So does divine judgment against them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

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

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-15-year-d/

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Missing the Point, Part I   1 comment

archery-target

Above:  Archery Target

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

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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:

Deuteronomy 32:28-47 or Isaiah 5:18-30

Psalm 74

Matthew 12:22-37 or Luke 11:14-23

1 John 3:8-15 (16-24); 4:1-6

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Ah,

Those who call evil good

And evil good;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who present bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

Ah,

Those who are so wise–

In their own opinion;

So clever–

In their own judgment!

–Isaiah 5:20-21; TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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But the Pharisees on hearing this remark said, “This man is only expelling devils because he is in league with Beelzebub, the prince of devils.”

–Matthew 12:24, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

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Missing the point is a recurring theme in the assigned readings for Proper 5.  Psalm 74, an exilic text, asks why the Babylonian Exile has occurred.  Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 5 answer the question; faithlessness, evident in idolatry and rampant in institutionalized social injustice is the cause.  Certain opponents on Jesus accuse him of being in league with Satan when he casts out demons (in the Hellenistic world view).  However we moderns classify whatever Jesus did in exorcisms, that is not a point on which one should fixate while pondering the texts from the Gospels.

How often do we fail to recognize good for what is evil for what it is because of any number of reasons, including defensiveness and cultural conditioning?  How often do we become too lax or too stringent in defining sin?  I recall a single-cell cartoon.  A man is standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The apostle tells him,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Falling into legalism and condemning someone for playing bridge or for having an occasional drink without even becoming tipsy is at least as bad as failing to recognize actual sins.

1 John 3:18-20 provides guidance:

Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action.  This is how we shall know if we belong to the realm of truth, and reassure ourselves in his sight where conscience condemns us; for God is greater than our conscience and knows all.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Love does not object when Jesus cures someone on the Sabbath or any other day.  (Consult Matthew 12:1-14) for the Sabbath reference.)  Love does not seek to deny anyone justice, as in Isaiah 5:23.  Love does not compel one to seek one’s own benefit at the expense of others.  Love is not, of course, a flawless insurance policy against missing the point, but it is a good start.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-5-year-d/

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Too Busy for God   1 comment

Urban Traffic at Night

Above:  Urban Traffic at Night

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 57:14-21

Psalm 119:65-72

Luke 14:15-24

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You have been generous to your servant, Yahweh,

true to your promise.

–Psalm 119:65, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In Isaiah 57:14-21 we read of God, who revives the spirits of the lowly and the contrite and who removes all obstacles from the road of the people of God.  Thus God is laying out the welcome mat for everyone, but many people will refuse the invitation.

Luke 14:15-24 tells the story of a banquet, its host, those invited to attend it, and those who actually attended it.  When the time of the banquet nears, some of those who had accepted the invitation make excuses and stay away instead.  The annoyed host sends his servant to fill the empty places with

the poor and crippled and blind and lame.

–Verse 21c, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The servant does that, but empty places remain.  The host sends him out again to find more guests.

The heading of this passage in The New Testament in Modern English (1972) is

Men who are “too busy” for the kingdom of God.

That fits well and applies to my point.  God is the host in the parable.  He obviously has no qualms about violating social standards of propriety regarding socio-economic status.  The host is knocking down barriers, not erecting them.  Some of the invited guests construct barriers with regard to themselves, however.  The host seeks to include them yet they exclude themselves.

Many people drop out of church because they declare themselves atheists or agnostics.  Others, citing perceived doctrinal drift and alleged apostasy, leave some churches for other congregations.  Others drop out of church because they are too busy, they say.  They are not protesting any heresy, alleged or actual; they are simply distracted.  To be too busy for God is negative.  If one is too busy, one should remove something else from one’s schedule.  (Many people do lead overly programmed lives.)  After all, we all depend entirely on God.  Should we not respond to God faithfully and joyfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Extravagance of God and the Irrepressible Kingdom of God   1 comment

Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Above:  Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Photographer = Steve Hillebrand, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 13:17-27

Psalm 39

Luke 13:18-21

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Numbers 13:17-27 and Luke 13:18-21 speak of the extravagant generosity of God.

Canaan, the Promised Land, is the bountiful territory overflowing with milk and honey in Numbers 13.  One finds similarly wonderful descriptions of the promise of the Jewish homeland after God has ended the Babylonian Exile later in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Those were dashed hopes, as the narrative of the Old Testament indicates, but the hope for a better future free from deprivation and foreign occupation continues to inspire people living in difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous slave mentality and unreasoning fear of the Canaanites led many Israelites to oppose entering Canaan.  Many, according to Numbers 14:3, regretted ever having left Egypt, where they were slaves but at least the leftovers were nice.  God punished the generation which had left Egypt, the Book of Numbers tells us, by granting them their wish not to enter Canaan.  At least God was merciful enough to refrain from striking them dead or sending them back to Egypt.

The generosity–grace–of God–demands a faithful response.  What will we do with grace?  Will we even accept it and its accompanying responsibilities?  Human life is transient, as the author of Psalm 39 understood well, but it does offer many opportunities to function as an agent of God to others.

Cedar of Lebanon

Above:  A Cedar of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06183

Luke 13:18-21 provides two brief parables illustrating the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.  In the first parable (verses 18 and 19) the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, the small beginning of a large, if not noble, mustard plant–a large shrub, really.  A mustard plant, which can grow to be as large as twelve feet tall, offers shelter to a variety of birds.  Implicit in the Lukan version of the parable is that Gentiles are welcome in the Kingdom of God.  The parable shocks by not invoking the image of a mighty, impressive cedar of Lebanon.  Such imagery would indicate a mature plant.  The imagery of a mustard plant, however, promises continued growth.  The Kingdom of God is present among us, but not fully; there is more to come.

Then again [Jesus] said,

“What can I say the kingdom of God is like?  It is like the yeast which a woman took and covered up in three measures of flour until the whole had risen.”

–Luke 13:20-21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

The second parable is that of yeast which a woman hides in three measures (fifty pounds) of flour.  Most contemporary translations I consulted render a certain Greek word as “mixed,” but the proper meaning is “hid.”  The Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952, and 1971), the Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965), the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), and the New American Standard Bible (1971 and 1995) render that word properly as “hid.”  The 1958 and 1972 editions of The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips) use “covered up,” which makes the same point.  The woman in the parable seeks to conceal the yeast by hiding it in flour, but the yeast permeates the flour instead.  The parable contains the element of hyperbole, for baking 50 pounds of flour, enough to feed 150 people, at one time, is perhaps improbable.  The hyperbole points to the extravagance of God and the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.

Nobody among mortals can conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God.  That lesson comforts me.  Secularization of society and religious persecution are powerless to conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God, which is like yeast pervading the whole.  The blood of the martyrs waters the church, which has, in certain times and at certain places, gone underground yet remained alive.  The lesson here is about what God does, often despite what certain people do.  God is sovereign.  We can accept or reject that reality, but we can never change it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Knowing One’s Need for God   1 comment

Calling of St. Matthew Caravaggio

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 32

Psalm 25:1-10

Matthew 9:2-13

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For your Name’s sake, O LORD,

forgive my sin, for it is great.

–Psalm 25:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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How happy are those who know their need for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Jesus in Matthew 5:3, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), J. B. Phillips

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The emphasis this time, in contrast to the previous post, is the individual.

I lift up my soul….

Forgive my sin….

Then I acknowledged my sin….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is one of those well-worn King James phrases which requires explanation.  It refers to those who know their need for God and act accordingly.  Each one of us needs God, of course, but some are oblivious to that fact.  St. Matthew, originally a literal tax thief for the Roman Empire, knew his need for God and acted accordingly.  The paralyzed man with friends carrying him might have known of his need for God; the text says nothing about that point.  His friends, however, were acting based on confidence that Jesus would heal him.  On the other hand, Pharisees who accused our Lord and Savior or committing blasphemy (an offense punishable by death according to the Law of Moses) due to his act of healing and words of forgiveness (more the latter than the former) also criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  These Pharisees did not realize their need for God.  They would have, in fact, benefited from  open minds and many meals with Jesus.

A few days ago, on the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, I encountered some members of an Evangelical college ministry.  I surmise that they were not from the school, for one young man representing the organization did not know that he was on a campus of a state college.  He asked me to complete a brief questionnaire.  I agreed.  One item entailed me rating my goodness on a scale of one (evil) to ten (perfect).  I guessed five, for I am far from both ends of the spectrum.  He and a comrade suggested that I was perhaps an eight or a nine, but I replied that no, I know myself.  (At least they were nice people.)

I know my need for God and the sacraments.  My record of acting on that knowledge is mixed.  Yet I improve, by grace.

None of us is worthy based on our own merit, but our effort is valuable nonetheless.  That little bit of desire and initiative is something with which God can work.  So may you, O reader, be aware of your need for God and respond favorably to God, regardless of how feeble and inadequate your response might seem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of God   1 comment

King Solomon's Court

Above:  King Solomon’s Court

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Monday)

1 Kings 4:29-34 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 1:1-7, 20-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:121-128 (All Days)

James 3:13-18 (Monday)

Ephesians 6:10-18 (Tuesday)

Mark 4:30-34 (Wednesday)

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I am your servant; grant me understanding,

that I may know your decrees.

–Psalm 119:125, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Biblical authors, although usually honest about the faults of heroic or allegedly heroic figures, nevertheless created a tapestry of ancient texts which sometimes overplays the virtues of certain people.  If David really was, for example, a man after God’s own heart, I have a major problem with the nature of God.  And, although the narrative of 1 Kings turned against Solomon after Chapter 4, Chapter 2 contained troubling information about the methods by which the new monarch consolidated his power and eliminated his rivals.  Thus the positive discussion of Solomon’s wisdom in Chapters 3 and 4 rings hollow for me.  Nevertheless, the much vaunted wisdom won him such a reputation that tradition has credited him with writing Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, historically dubious claims.

Perhaps nostalgia from a time after the division of the united monarchy–a split due in large part to Solomon’s own domestic policies–accounted primarily for the minimization of the acknowledged faults of David and Solomon.  I consider what the Bible tells me of those two kings and ponder Proverbs 1:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Then I consider incidents from their lives and interpret the verse as a negative commentary on them.  I arrive at the same conclusion regarding this passage:

The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of merciful thoughts and kindly actions, straight forward, with no hint of hypocrisy.  And the peacemakers go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness.

–James 3:17-18, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972

I think also of the large plant which grows from a mustard seed.  (The mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, but Jesus did not attend school to study horticulture.  Besides, there is a rhetorical device called hyperbole, which we find in the Bible.)  From that very small seed comes a large, pesky plant–a weed–to which the parable likens the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom, like the mustard plant, provides shelter for a variety of creatures and goes where it will.  One knows that not everyone in the Kingdom of God gets along well with each other, so this analogy is worth considering with regard to how we think of those who differ from us and are also of God.

David and Solomon presided over a kingdom built on force and compulsion, as political states are by nature.  Their Kingdom of Israel also sat on a foundation composed partially of economic injustice, evident partly in artificial scarcity.  In the weed-like Kingdom of God, however, there is no scarcity; everybody has enough.  The Kingdom of God functioned partially as a negative commentary on political-religious-economic realities within the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus and the early Church, contributing to his crucifixion.  The Kingdom of God continues to indict all forms of exploitation and injustice, including those which people have institutionalized.

The purpose of the Gospel, I have heard, is to comfort the afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted.  Are we among the comfortable or the afflicted?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-12-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Better Society   1 comment

Boomerang

Above:  A Boomerang

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 26:3-20 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 92 (Both Days)

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (Monday)

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 (Tuesday)

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Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God;

They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

–Psalm 92:12-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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What we do to others we do to ourselves.  This is a timeless truth which the readings for these two days affirm.  The lessons from Leviticus and Deuteronomy speak of obedience to the Law of Moses as the prerequisite to prosperity and security in the land of Canaan.  The best of the Law of Moses rests partially on an ethic of mutuality.  People, when not stoning others for any of a host of offenses (from committing blasphemy to having premarital sex to working on the Sabbath to being disrespectful to parents) were not supposed to exploit each other.  By harming others they injured themselves and damaged their society.  That reality informed the Pauline readings.  How we treat others in a variety of ways–in attitudes, speech, sexual acts, et cetera–matters, St. Paul the Apostle said accurately.  Why?

…for we are all parts of the same body.

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Thus whatever we do to another we do also to ourselves.  If we love our neighbors in need, we benefit ourselves.  If we seek to enrich ourselves to the detriment of others, we deprive ourselves in the long term and injure ourselves spiritually in the short, medium, and long terms.  Those who make others victims of violence (even that which might prove necessary to a higher purpose) become victims of their own violence.  It is a law of the universe.

The world is a messed-up place.  Often we must engage in or become complicit in bad just to commit some good.  I wish that this were not true, but it is.  We must work within the reality in which we find ourselves, but may we seek to transform it for the positive, so that more people may share in a better society.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-10-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Showing the Way   2 comments

paul

Above:  St. Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 12:22-28 (Thursday)

Isaiah 26:1-6 (Friday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-30 (Friday)

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O Lord, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth forevermore.

–Psalm 131, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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If anyone had good reasons for being concerned and worried, St. Paul the Apostle did. He experienced beatings, a shipwreck, and incarcerations. Yet he was not worried about himself in Philippians 2. He was concerned, however, about the congregation at Phiippi. That assembly had to contend with a host of local opponents.

Timothy, the great Apostle wrote, was not like the others around the imprisoned Paul. They were

all wrapped up in their own affairs

and did

not really care for the cause of Jesus Christ.

–Philippians 2:21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972

Yet Timothy, like Paul, cared about the Philippian Christians. So Paul sent Timothy to them, to encourage them in their faith.

The ability to get outside oneself is the essence of compassion. To care about the other more than for onselef is a great moral state in which to reside. Furthermore, having confidence that God will stand with the oppressed people who trust in God helps one to care more about others when one is among the oppressed righteous population. This helps one to say, in the words of Isaiah 26:4 (The New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition):

Trust in the LORD forever,

for in the LORD GOD

you have an everlasting rock.

And having such confidence helps one live according to the statement in Proverbs 12:26 (The New Jerusalem Bible):

The upright shows the way to a friend;

the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Challenges remain for churches. These challenges have existed since the birth of the Christian movement, in fact. They come from within and without. Positive challenges—to abandon prejudices, which injure others spiritually—often meet with strong opposition. But, to quote a frequently used statement,

I believe in the separation of church and hate.

Sometimes this opposition has proved sufficient to divide congregations and denominations, thereby weakening the body of Christ. It still does.

Other challenges have resulted from open hostility to the church from quarters outside it. Sometimes this has led to martyrdom and less extreme methods of persecution. Yet, as an old saying tell us,

The blood of the martyrs waters the church.

Then there have been the challenges which indifference has wrought and continues to create. In my nation-state, the United States of America, the fastest growing religious affiliation is none. This fact causes me great concern, but I know that the church has survived and re-emerged in the face of more daunting circumstances during its long history. After all, the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like a really big and persistent weed, for it will go where it will. The church might live underground for periods of time in certain places, but it will survive.

So I am confident that God will prevail despite all that we humans—apathetic, hostile, or misdirected yet well-intentioned—have done, do, and will do. And I hope that I am among those walking faithfully in the way of righteousness—at least more often than not—and that I am not leading anyone astray.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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