Archive for the ‘John Donne’ Tag

Psalms 30 and 31   1 comment

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POST XI 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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The theme of calling out to God amidst severe illness unites these two texts.  The author of Psalm 30 fears that he might be near death, actually.  Psalm 31 indicates a human, external source of the affliction in question in that prayer.  In each case the author concludes by blessing God.  In Psalm 30 yet not in Psalm 31 is a superscription noting the dedication of the Temple and reinterpreting the text to indicate national sickness and recovery from it.  Traditions point to the rebuilding of the Temple (520-516 B.C.E.; see Ezra 6:15-18) and the rededication of the Second Temple in 164 B.C.E. (see 1 Maccabees 4:36-59).  Thus Psalm 30 is a reading for Hanukkah.

The link between the individual and the collective interests me.  My North American culture, with its emphasis on rugged individualism, does not handle matters of the collective as well as it should.  Furthermore, rugged individualism is incompatible with the ethics of Judaism and Christianity.  We all depend on God and each other.  As John Donne expressed so eloquently,

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Whatever we do, we affect the lives of others.  We are responsible to and for each other.

We let each other down routinely, but we can trust in the fidelity of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Posted August 8, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 Maccabees, Ezra, Psalm 30, Psalm 31

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Empathy, Sympathy, and Community   1 comment

Christ Healing a Bleeding Woman

Above:  Christ Healing a Bleeding Woman

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 8:14-22

Psalm 68:1-10, 19-20

Luke 8:40-56

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God, you rained down a shower of blessings,

when your heritage was weary you gave it strength.

Your family found a home, which you

in your generosity provided for the humble.

–Psalm 68:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The lection from Jeremiah 8 is grim.  It comes from a section of prophecies of judgment against Jerusalem.  (Nevertheless, Hebrew puns are present.)  In some portions of the reading the identity of the speaker is unclear, but the tone is never vague–doom will arrive, and mourning will be abundant.

In Luke 8 grief and anguish give way to joy.  Jesus heals a ritually unclean woman with a gynecological condition.  He restores her to her community and ends her mental and emotional anguish.  Then he raises the daughter of Jairus, a leader of a synagogue, from the dead.  Our Lord and Savior restores the family of Jairus to wholeness and the daughter to life and community.

We mere mortals share our lives with each other when we live in community.  We might guard our privacy, but even those matters we choose not to disclose influence our lives in community.  Whenever we grieve and mourn, that affects others.  Likewise, whenever we rejoice and laugh, that affects others also.  May we support each other in positive living for the glory of God and the benefit of others, remembering that, as John Donne wrote so well,

No man is an island.

I think of the woman from Luke 8:42b-48.  The text informs us that she had endured her medical condition and the related stigma and stresses for twelve years.  How many people had tried to help her in any way?  And how many, guarding their ritual purity, had shunned her?  No woman is an island, even if she is ritually impure.

Sometimes politicians and pundits sneer at empathy, but it is a great virtue in short supply much of the time.  So is its cousin, sympathy.  Can we empathize or sympathize with a desperate father, a shunned woman, and a member of a doomed community?  How will we express that empathy or sympathy?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASIMIR OF POLAND, PRINCE

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-5-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 4, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Jeremiah 8, Luke 8, Psalm 68

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Wisdom, Folly, and Maliciousness   1 comment

Herbert Spencer

Above:  Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:-17

Psalm 147:12-20

James 3:13-18

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Great is our God and mighty in power;

his wisdom is beyond all telling.

The Lord lifts up the poor,

but casts down the wicked to the ground.

–Psalm 147:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The two main pericopes for this day contrast divine wisdom and human contrast divine wisdom and human folly and maliciousness.  Divine wisdom builds up communities and societies.  It is

first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full to mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

–James 3:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The alleged wisdom of the world, however, is actually folly and maliciousness.  It builds up those who practice it, but at the expense of others.  And it harms those who practice it, for whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  “No man is an island,” as John Donne wrote.

I have noticed for years the dismaying practice of engaging in Social Darwinism that would make Herbert Spencer blush and dressing it up as godly.  This has been especially egregious in U.S. politics.  Often being mean-spirited is better for one’s poll numbers than being compassionate and gentle.  Sadly, the condemnations of human folly and maliciousness in Proverbs 1 and James 3 remain relevant, for speaking favorably of programs of social uplift can lead to unjustified allegations from mean-spirited people, many of whom claim allegiance to Jesus.

This is a devotion for the second day of the year.  May the new year be a time for increased levels of compassion and gentleness, of love for one’s neighbors (we are all neighbors, according to Jesus), and respect for the inherent dignity of our fellow human beings during all stages of life.  Being compassionate and gentle builds up communities and societies.  It is good for individuals, none of whom are proverbial islands.  It is strength, not weakness, and virtue, not something to mock.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/devotion-for-january-2-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Responsibilities, Insiders, and Outsiders   1 comment

Boaz--Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Boaz, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-22 (Monday)

Ruth 3:14-4:6 (Tuesday)

Ruth 4:7-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 94 (All Days)

1 Timothy 5:1-8 (Monday)

1 Timothy 5:9-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:16-30 (Wednesday)

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The Lord will not cast off his people:

nor will he forsake his own.

For justice shall return to the righteous man:

and with him to all the true of heart.

–Psalm 94:14-15, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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The composite pericope from 1 Timothy comes from a particular place and time, so some of the details do not translate well into contemporary Western settings.  May we, therefore, refrain from falling into legalism.  Nevertheless, I detect much of value in that reading, which acknowledges the existence of both collective and individual responsibilities and sorts out the boundary separating them in a particular cultural context.  One principle from that text is that relatives should, as they are able, take care of each other.  Another principle present in the reading is mutuality–responsibility to and for each other.

The lack of a support system, or at least an adequate one, is a major cause of poverty and related ills.  The support system might be any number of things, including:

  1. the social safety net (the maintenance and strengthening of which I consider to be a moral imperative),
  2. friends,
  3. relatives,
  4. neighbors,
  5. the larger community,
  6. a faith community,
  7. non-governmental organizations, or
  8. a combination of some of the above.

In the Book of Ruth Naomi and Ruth availed themselves of effective support systems.  They moved to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner but Naomi had relatives.  The women also gleaned in fields.  There Ruth met Boaz, a landowner and a kinsman of Naomi.  He obeyed the commandment from Deuteronomy 24:19 and left grain for the poor.  The story had a happy ending, for Ruth and Boaz married and had a son.  Naomi, once bitter, was thrilled.

One hypothesis regarding the Book of Ruth is that the text dates to the postexilic period.  If this is accurate, the story of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz functions as a criticism of opposition to intermarriage between Hebrews and foreigners and serves as a call for the integration of faithful foreigners into Jewish communities.  The Jewish support system, this perspective says, should extend to Gentiles.

Sometimes the call to exercise individual responsibility and to fulfill one’s role in collective responsibility becomes challenging, if not annoying.  One difficulty might be determining the line between the two sets of responsibilities.  Getting that detail correct is crucial, for we are responsible to and for each other.  The Pauline ethic (as in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15) which holds that those who have much should not have too much and that those who have little should not have too little is a fine goal toward which to strive, but who determines how much is too much and how little is too little?  And what is the best way to arrive at and maintain that balance?  These seem like communal decisions, given the communal ethos of the Bible.

If all that were not enough, we might have responsibilities to and for more people than we prefer or know we do.  John Donne wrote,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

Do we dare to live according to the standard that anyone’s death diminishes us?  Do we dare to recognize foreigners and other “outsiders” as people whom God loves and whom we ought to love as we love ourselves?  Do we dare to think of “outsiders” as people to whom and for whom we are responsible?  If we do, how will we change the world for the better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-27-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Responsibility to Others   1 comment

05958v

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window, “I Am the Light of the World,” After William Holman Hunt

Window Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios, Circa 1907

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006001069/)

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 6:6-23

Psalm 119:105-112

John 8:12-30

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Some Related Posts:

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-24-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/devotion-for-december-31-and-january-1-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The wicked have laid a snare for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

–Psalm 119:110, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Proverbs 6 contains maxims regarding how to and how not to behave toward others ethically.  None of our actions affect just us, for, as John Donne told us centuries ago,

No man is an island.

So we ought to consider carefully how our attitudes, which fuel our actions and inactions, affect those around us.  They are, after all, our neighbors.  And God is watching us.

Sometimes our perfidy–even violence or threats or promises thereof–flow from the motivation to confirm in our own imaginations our illusory righteousness.  Those whose words and mere existence make plain our wretchedness offend us, so they threaten our self-images.  And we might, if we are honest with ourselves, know this to be true.  Nevertheless, acknowledging our sin and repenting of it is more difficult than deepening that sin.  But we must, if we are to obey God, do the former, not the latter.

May we not sacrifice others on the altar of our ego structures or anything else.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JULIA WARD HOWE, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 18, 2013 by neatnik2009 in John 8, Proverbs

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Serving God and Each Other   1 comment

cmng_8361_2

Above:  Church of the Common Ground, Woodruff Park, Atlanta, Georgia, June 30, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://plus.google.com/photos/114749828757741527421/albums/5895768055006743249/5895768668837559218?banner=pwa&pid=5895768668837559218&oid=114749828757741527421)

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 17:15-22 (Monday)

Genesis 21:1-21 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (both days)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Genesis 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

1 Samuel 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-14-15-and-16-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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Hannah’s Song from 1 Samuel 2, a partial basis for the Magnificat, is fitting to read during Advent and with these lections.  The birth of Isaac was a miracle, as was the birth of Samuel.  And we read an allegory of Isaac and Ishmael in Galatians.  The essence of the allegory is this:  In grace there is freedom, not slavery–freedom to serve God.

Among the underlying principles of the Law of Moses was that everything belongs to God.  Therefore we are tenants on this planet and slaves of God, a kindly (at least some of the time) master.  God, in the Bible (both Testaments) does have quite a temper.  God, in both Testaments, exercises both judgment and mercy.  And, in the Law of Moses, there was mercy in exchange for obedience to the Law, which spoke of mutual responsibilities of people to each other.  If all were slaves of God, none was better than anyone else.  And nobody had the right to exploit anyone else.

There was, of course, the long list of stonable offenses (many of which I have committed), from working on the Sabbath day to showing disrespect to parents.  If one were subject to such laws, who would live into or past adolescence?  Obviously, executing someone does not indicate mercy toward him or her.  I mention these matters to avoid even the appearance of committing prooftexting and to acknowledge the complexity of the texts.  But my earlier point remains accurate.

That point–responsibility to each other–runs through the Galatians lessons also.  There is a consistent biblical testimony on the topic of what we owe to each other as social beings who bear the Image of God.  The well-being of the community is crucial to this theology, for none of us is, as John Donne said, an island.  So, just as surely as we ought not to endanger the community, the community has no right to crush us for simply not conforming to every rule.  Diversity enriches the whole and individualism and communitarianism can co-exist peacefully and respectfully.  Besides, if everybody were alike, much that is essential would not get done.  If that were not bad enough, the community and the world wold be incredibly dull.

May this Advent be a time to renew our commitments to God and each other to labor faithfully for the greater good in interesting and perhaps even quirky ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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