Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Judgment and Mercy, Part XXVI   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Harrowing of Hades

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Acts 17:22-31

Psalm 66:1-6, 14-18 (LBW) or Psalm 98 (LW)

1 Peter 3:15-22

John 14:15-21

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O God, from whom all good things come:

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit

to think those things which are right,

and by your goodness to do them;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 22

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Lord, because you promised to give what we ask

in the name of your only-begotten Son,

teach us rightly to pray and with all your saints

to offer you our adoration and praise;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 54

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YHWH is no mere tribal deity.  No, YHWH is the sole, universal deity.  This is a summary of Judeo-Christian monotheism.  I affirm it and trust that it is true.

Two properties of YHWH are judgment and mercy.  They exist in a balance I dare not even pretend to understand.  However, I favor mercy, if I must make an assumption in a given circumstance.  I do not want to be a judgmental person, after all.  I leave the determination to God.

1 Peter 3:19-20 indicates that divine mercy may reach farther than conventionally pious Christians may often think.  This passage tells us that damnation is not necessarily final.  This is distressing news for those who prefer unambiguous theological categories and detest theological uncertainty.  So be it.

Let us be honest about and with ourselves.  We probably seek unbridled mercy for ourselves, people we like, and those similar to us.  We probably desire divine judgment for everyone else.  How many of those in “everyone else” think the same way about us, people we like, and those similar to us?  Grace is scandalous.  Divine mercy really rocks the boat and sinks some theological boats.

To be clear, I am not a universalist.  As I have written many times already, God sends nobody to Hell.  People condemn themselves.  C. S. Lewis said it best:  The doors to Hell are locked from the inside.  Some people never listen, unfortunately for them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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Adapted from this post

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Hesed, Part V   3 comments

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:19-25

John 10:1-10

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God of all power,

you called from death our Lord Jesus Christ,

the great shepherd of the sheep. 

Send us as shepherds to rescue the lost,

to heal the injured,

and to feed one another with knowledge and understanding;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

OR

Almighty God,

you show the light of your truth to those in darkness,

to lead them into the way of righteousness. 

Give strength to all who are joined in the family of the Church,

so that they will resolutely reject what erodes their faith

and firmly follow what faith requires;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 22

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Almighty God, merciful Father,

since you have wakened from death the Shepherd of your sheep,

grant us your Holy Spirit that we may know the voice of our Shepherd

and follow him that sin and death may never pluck us out of your hand;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 52

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The lectionary wisely omits 1 Peter 2:18:

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I realize that the First Epistle of Peter dates to a time and comes from a cultural setting in which the Church was young, small, and not influential.  Nevertheless, I reject any defense that these circumstances excused not denouncing the indefensible.

This is Good Shepherd Sunday.  “Good Shepherd” is a metaphor originally applied to YHWH (Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34) then to Jesus.  Instead of going over shepherds again, I choose to focus on competing translations of one line in Psalm 23.  Divine goodness and mercy may either pursue or attend/accompany one.  Enemies cannot catch up.  After leading many lectionary discussions and comparing translations of Psalms, I have become accustomed to competing, feasible translations of text and lines.  I do not know if I should prefer divine goodness and mercy pursuing me or walking beside me.  Perhaps that does not matter.  Either way, the metaphor provides comfort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, MINISTER, MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “PASTOR OF THE REFORMATION”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN X, KING OF DENMARK AND ICELAND; AND HAAKON VII, KING OF NORWAY

THE FEAST OF MARION MACDONALD KELLERAN, EPISCOPAL SEMINARY PROFESSOR AND LAY LEADER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post

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Judas Iscariot   1 comment

Above:  Judas Iscariot, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 70:1-2 4-6 (LBW) or Psalm 18:21-30 (LW)

Romans 5:6-11

Matthew 26:14-25

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Almighty God, your Son our Savior suffered at the hands of men

and endured the shame of the cross. 

Grant that we may walk in the way of his cross

and find it the way of life and peace;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 20

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Merciful and everlasting God the Father,

who did not spare your only Son

but delivered him up for us all that he might bear our sins on the cross;

grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in our Savior

that we may not fear the power of any adversaries;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 43

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In context, Isaiah 50:4-9a is an odd lection to read on this Sunday.  The speaker–the prophet/servant (Second Isaiah)–is pious yet merely human, therefore, sinful.  He believes that the suffering of the exiles during the Babylonian Exile has been justified.  Yet he also anticipates the divine vindication of that exiled population, for the glory of God.  Applying this reading to sinless Jesus (who suffered an unjust execution as an innocent man) requires astounding theological gymnastics.

Judas Iscariot played an essential role in a divine plan.  The writers of the four canonical Gospels portrayed him negatively, for one major obvious reason.  The Gospel of John added that Judas was an embezzler (John 12:6).  Despite all this, Judas was not outside the mercy of God.  And he had not committed the unpardonable sin–blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:28; Luke 12:10).  Judas may have thought that he knew what he was doing, but he did not.  Recall Luke 23:24, O reader:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I do not pretend to know the ultimate fate of Judas Iscariot.  I am not God.  I do, however, repeat my position that the only people in Hell are those who have condemned themselves.  God sends nobody to Hell.  Divine mercy and judgment exist in a balance I cannot grasp, for I am not God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2022 COMMON ERA

HOLY TUESDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Adapted from this post

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Repentance, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Joel 2:12-19

Psalm 51:1-13

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

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Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made,

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. 

Create in us new and honest hearts, so that,

truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from you,

the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17

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Almighty and everlasting God,

because you hate nothing you have made

and forgive the sins of all who are penitent,

create in us new and contrite hearts that we,

worthily repenting of our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain from you, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 32

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The prophet Joel, in the 400s B.C.E. interpreted a plague of locusts as divine punishment on the people for disobeying the Law of Moses repeatedly and habitually.  He also understood that repentance remained an option.

I do not share Joel’s first assumption.  I do not interpret natural disasters as acts of divine judgment.  Those who live in Kansas may expect tornadoes.  Those who reside near the Gulf of Mexico may expect hurricanes and tropical storms.  Those who live near fault lines may expect earthquakes.  Those who live near active volcanoes may expect volcanic activity.  Those who live in a flood plain may expect floods.  Such is nature.

The Hebrew prophetic tradition could not make up its mind when repentance remained an option and when God had stopped listening.  (I know; I read the Hebrew prophetic books carefully recently.)  However, I have made up my mind on part of the issue:  So long as one has breath, repentance remains an option.  Whether one can repent after death is a question I cannot answer.  The answer to that question is for God to provide.  I do not presume to know the balance of divine judgment and mercy.

Remorse for sins prepares the way for repentance of those sins.  Talk is cheap.  Nevertheless, some words are necessary and helpful.  Martin Luther was correct; language–especially sacramental language–has power.  And actions are where, as a cliché says, the rubber meets the road.

Lent is a season in which the Church (that part of it with good liturgical sense, at least) focuses on repentance.  We mere mortals need to repent individually.  Societies, cultures, kingdoms, empires, nation-states, and institutions need to repent collectively.  Even the best of us, who have mastered the Lutheran theological category of civil righteousness, have fallen far short of God’s standard.  The rest of us have fallen far short of the same standard, too.  Everyone above a very young age struggles with habitual sins we know better than to commit.

Fortunately, God welcomes penitents and knows that we mere mortals are, poetically, like dust.  May we be penitent dust daily.  And may we observe Lent in such a way that we grow spiritually during this season.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, CO-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXV   4 comments

Above:  Angry Talk

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-13

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

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Lord God, we ask you to keep your family, the Church, faithful to you,

that all who lean on the hope of your promises

may gain strength from the power of your love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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God of compassion, keep before us the love

you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies;

in our words and deeds help us to be like him

through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16

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O Lord, keep your family and Church continually in the true faith

that they who lean on the hope of your heavenly grace

may ever be defended by your mighty power;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 28

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Whenever I hear someone refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible as mainly judgmental and the God of the New Testament as primarily merciful, I wonder how closely that person has read the Old and New Testaments.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Consider the readings from the Old Testament for today, O reader.  Recall, also, that

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth 

(Exodus 21:24)

curtails violence.  Furthermore, nowhere does the Law of Moses say to hate one’s enemies.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the argumentative and self-destructive church in Corinth, told them that they were God’s temple in that city.  That was good news.  A warning preceded it:

God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy…..

–1 Corinthians 3:17a, J. B. PhillipsThe New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Agents of destruction frequently come from within, as in the case of the Corinthian church.

I wonder what the world would be like if the socially expected and normative behavior was to love people, or at least to be civil toward them.  I wonder what the world would be like if this extended to everyone.  I do not live in that world, of course.  I live in the world in which social media are mostly agents and conduits of anger, misinformation, half-baked conspiracy theories, and damn lies.  I live in the world in which sound advice includes not to read the comments section of a webpage.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance.  I do not pretend to understand what that balance is.  I do not know where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.  I do trust that God gets the balance right.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, C0-WORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXIV   1 comment

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 9:1b-5 (LBW) or Isaiah 9:1-4 (LW) or Amos 3:1-8 (LBWLW)

Psalm 27:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Matthew 4:12-23

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Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom

and to teach with authority. 

Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too,

may bring good news to the afflicted,

bind up the brokenhearted,

and proclaim liberty to the captive;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O Lord God Almighty, because you have always supplied your servants

with the special gifts which come from your Holy Spirit alone,

leave also us not destitute of your manifold gifts nor of grace

to use them always to your honor and glory and the good of others;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 24

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Isaiah 9 opens on a note of mercy.  The verb tenses in Hebrew throughout Isaiah 9:1-6 are vague.  My historical methodology makes me biased toward interpreting this text as a reference to King Hezekiah of Judah.  Yet millennia of Christian interpretation bypasses Hezekiah and makes the text about Jesus.  Anyhow, Isaiah 9:1-6 is about the divine deliverance of the Kingdom of Judah from the perils of the Syro-Ephraimite War.

Divine judgment of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel opens Amos 3.  Or divine judgment of the Jewish people (in general) opens Amos 3.  References to Israel in the Book of Amos are vague sometimes.  The status of being God’s chosen people–grace, if ever I heard of it–means that the people (collectively) should have known better than they do or seem to know, we read.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Psalm 27 is a pious Jew’s expression of confidence in God.  This text fits well with Isaiah 9 and stands as a counterpoint to Amos 3.

The Corinthian Christians should have known better than they did.  That church, still a group of problematic house churches long after the time of St. Paul the Apostle (see 1 Clement, circa 100), compromised its witness by being, among other things, petty and fractious.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Matthew 4:12-23, quoting Isaiah 9:1-2, tells of Christ’s first cousins, Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, leaving the family fishing business and following him, after two other brothers, Sts. Andrew and Simon Peter, had done the same.

God sends nobody to Hell.  God seeks everyone to follow Him.  All those in Hell sent themselves.  C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

Judgment need not necessarily lead to damnation, though.  It may function instead as a catalyst for repentance.  Some of the Hebrew prophetic books, with their layers of authorship over generations, contradict themselves regarding the time for repentance has passed.  That time seems to have passed, according to an earlier stratum.  Yet according to a subsequent layer, there is still time to repent.

Anyway, while the time to repent remains, may we–collectively and individually–do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SANTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCTISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Extending the Borders   1 comment

Above:  Adoration of the Magi Stamp from Latvia, 1992

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72

Ephesians 3:2-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Lord God, on this day you revealed your Son

to the nations by the leading of a star. 

Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives,

and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, by the leading of a star you once made known

to all nations your only-begotten Son;

now lead us, who know you by faith,

to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 20

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Third Isaiah, in Isaiah 60, applied motifs of the Davidic Dynasty, not to the Messiah, but to the Israelite nation as a whole.  (The “you” in Isaiah 60:1-6 is plural.)  There is no Messiah in Third Isaiah, which teaches that in the future, God will rule directly on Earth.

Yet we have this assigned reading on the Feast of the Epiphany, about Jesus, the Messiah.

Psalm 72, originally for a coronation, describes the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, defend the oppressed, crush the extortioners, and revere God, we read.  His renown spreads far and wide, we read.  These sentences describe few of the Davidic monarchs.  They do not even describe King David.  The Christian tradition of reading Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible interprets Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the text, though.

Call me a heretic if you wish, O reader, but I resist the tendency to read Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible.  Call me a heretic if you wish; I will accept the label with pride.  I even own a t-shirt that reads:

HERETIC.

Father Raymond E. Brown, whom I admire and some of whose books I own, argued against the historicity of the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I take this point while disagreeing with another one:  Brown considered the account in the Gospel of Luke closer to reality than the one in the Gospel of Matthew.  I reverse that.  I posit that there may have been a natural phenomenon (poetically, a star) that attracted the attention of some Persian astrologers.  This scenario seems plausible.

I, being a detail-oriented person, as well as a self-identified heretic, also wince at the depictions of the shepherds and the Magi together at Bethlehem.  Even if one mistakes the germane accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for historical stories, one may notice that up to two years separated the stories.  St. Dionysius Exiguus, for all his piety, counted badly.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  If one accepts the Massacre of the (Holy) Innocents as being plausible (as I do), then one may wish to notice that the Roman client king ordered the deaths of boys two years old and younger at Bethlehem.  This story, therefore, places the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  Either way, St. Dionysius Exiguus still place the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”  (This is why I use B.C.E. and C.E.)

Whoever wrote or dictated the Epistle to the Ephesians, I am grateful to St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist to the Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, am happy to be in the club of Christ.  I also acknowledge that I, as a Christian, stand on the shoulders of Judaism, a faith I refuse to malign.

The Epiphany–set on the old Eastern date of Christmas–reminds us that God seeks to attract as many followers as possible.  We Gentiles, grafted onto the tree of faith, need to remember that we are a branch, not the trunk, of that tree.  The limits of divine mercy exist, but I do not know where the borders are.  I assume that Judaism and Christianity are the two true faiths.  Yet I do not presume to know who God’s “secret friends”–secret to me–are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Reception and Rejection in the Kingdom of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod’s Gate, Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXV

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Luke 13:22-30

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Two prominent Lucan themes exist in this passage.  They are: (1) the inclusion of Gentiles, and (2) the reversal of fortune.

Consider the narrative context, O reader:  Jesus was en route to Jerusalem to die.  For all the mixed metaphors, 13:22-30 is about the Jewish rejection of Jesus and the inclusion of faithful Gentiles.  Judgment and mercy coexist in 13:22-30, and many people will be shocked that they do not pass through the narrow door or gate to enjoy the heavenly banquet.

I reject anti-Semitism, an unjustifiable Christian tradition.  Let us–you, O reader, and I–be clear about that as we move forward in this post.  And let us not take the easy way out in (mis)interpreting 13:22-30.

The ultimate message of caution is not to presume on grace.  Our efforts to obey God matter, as faithful response.  They are spiritual fruits.  Yet passage through the narrow gate depends on grace.  Many people exclude themselves by closing themselves to receiving grace.

Consider the context circa 85 C.E., O reader.  The Church was young, small, and growing.  Christianity was still a Jewish sect, albeit one with many Gentile members.  Tensions between Jewish Christians and non-Christian Jews were rising.  And many Christian Jews argued that Gentile Christians must convert to Judaism.  Judaism and Christianity were careening toward a schism, which occurred in 137 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.

The four canonical Gospels, which exist in the shadow of the First Jewish War, include the language of invective, often aimed at non-Christian Jews.  I admit that some of this may be historical in relation to Jesus clashing with religious authorities.  Co-religionists arguing remains a current practice, after all.  Yet I, trained in historical methodology, know that people recount the past through the lens of their present day–circa 85 C.E. for Luke-Acts.  Therefore, we read some circumstances circa 85 C.E. projected onto Jesus’s time.

Invective disturbs me.  Read in historical context, it makes sense.  One can dispassionately interpret invective, especially if one does not have a dog in the fight, so to speak.  Yet, read out of context, invective becomes justification for bigotry and violence, as in the case of Christian anti-Semitism.  I understand the link between centuries of Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

I dare not pretend to know who will enter through the narrow door or gate and who will not; I am not God.  Besides, not all people who profess of follow Jesus will make the cut anyway.  I do, however, notice a common thread in Covenantal Nomism (of Second Temple Judaism) and Luke 13:22-30:  Salvation is by grace, with the obligation to obey moral and ethical mandates.  Repeatedly and unrepentantly violating and disregarding those mandates leads to damnation.  God damns nobody, but people damn themselves

So, what are we supposed to make of grace?  In the U.S. South, we say that grace is like grits; it comes with everything.  (I dislike grits, by the way.)  I recall a t-shirt I wore until I washed it too many times.  It read:

GRACE HAPPENS.

BLOGA THEOLOGICA is a PG-related weblog, so I will not name what, in the vernacular, usually happens.  After that usual thing happens, grace happens.  Yet scripture keeps warning against behaving badly and presuming on grace; this is a theme in both Testaments.  Furthermore, as the the late Episcopal Bishop Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., said in my hearing:

Baptism is not fire insurance.

As for the Jews, I affirm that God’s covenant for them remains.  I, as a Gentile, come in via a second covenant.  Covenants are, by definition, about grace.  A covenant is not a contract; it is not a transactional relationship.

Grace is free yet not cheap.  Grace requires much of its recipients; they may even die because they fulfill these duties.  Grace also imposes the responsibility to extend grace to each other.  Saying and writing that last sentence is easy.  Living it is difficult, though.  But living grace is possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

THE FEAST OF SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Repentance, Part IX   2 comments

Above: The Parable of the (Barren) Fig Tree, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXIII

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Luke 13:1-9

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Some people never learn from the Book of Job.  Suffering does not necessarily result from one’s sin.  Some people sound more like Job’s alleged friends than Job himself.  Even God, in the Book of Job, criticizes the alleged friends and says they spoke inaccurately.  Yet some people never learn from the Book of Job.

Luke 13 opens with misinterpretations of the the deliberate killing of rebellious civilians (on the orders of Pontius Pilate) and the accidental deaths after the collapse of the Tower of Siloam, Jerusalem.  We read of Jesus scotching those misinterpretations.  We also read of Christ moving the metaphor from physical death to spiritual death.

The Parable of the (Barren) Fig Tree emphasizes (a) the value of each sinner, and (b) the importance of repentance.  One may wonder why the “certain man” had a fig tree planted in his vineyard.  Perhaps he liked fig trees.  Jesus is the vinedresser who urges the vineyard owner (God) to give the unproductive fig tree another chance.  But will the fig tree ever bear figs?

The fig tree stands for a struggling sinner.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  God is patient, but not infinitely so.  Sooner or later, the fig tree must bear figs, or else.  This is a parable about repentance, divine forbearance, and human procrastination.  So, as I like to tell people, procrastinate later.

JANUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCANGELO CORELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, AND SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II OF BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

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Eschatological Ethics XIV   Leave a comment

Above: Icon of the Second Coming

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXII

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Luke 12:35-59

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The parable contains disturbing content–one disobedient slave cut into two pieces, and two other slaves beaten.  One of the beaten slaves, we read, did not know he was doing anything wrong when he erred.  The vivid and disturbing parable–surely not the topic of any children’s sermon–underscores the importance of living in a consistent moral and obedient way relative to God.  We all sin daily; we can also repent daily.  God understands that we are “but dust,” so we can take comfort in that detail.  Knowledge of one’s sinfulness ought to lead one to treat other sinners compassionately and empathetically.

Have utmost devotion to Jesus.  That is the theme of the parable.  Maintain this devotion until (a) death, or (b) the Second Coming.  And divine judgement and mercy remain in balance.  The most severe punishment falls on those who should have known better.  Lighter punishment falls on those who did not know what God expected of them.  On the other hand, Jesus and the Holy Spirit advocate for us.  We derive comfort from this factor, too.

Attempting to predict the timing of the Second Coming is a fool’s game.  I do not play this game.  I do not even say that the Second Coming is nearer now than it was circa 85 C.E., for I cannot know that.  Fixating on the Second Coming is alien to my theology.  Obeying the moral mandates of Christ’s teachings is superior to studying alleged prophecies in Daniel and Revelation.  (I have blogged through those books at this weblog, by the way.)  Instead of vainly linking recent and current events to books are are not (and never were intended to be) predictors of the future, why not do something constructive?  Why not, for example, volunteer at a soup kitchen, work for social justice, or purchase groceries for a food bank?  Whatever good you do, O reader, do it in the name of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCANGELO CORELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, AND SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II OF BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

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Posted January 8, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Luke 12

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