Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Receive the Holy Spirit, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit,

look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit.

Kindle in us the fire of your love,

and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom;

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

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:21-32

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Acts 2:1-21

John 7:37-39

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Joel 2:21-32 (Protestant and Anglican versification) = Joel 2:21-3:5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification)

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Dating the Book of Joel is difficult, but its message is simple:  After the judgment of God and the repentance of Israel divine mercy will be abundant and God will pour out His spirit on all people.  The assigned reading, quoted partially in Acts 2:1-21, fits well with Psalm 104.  The future age predicted in Joel 2:21-32/2:21-3:5 remains for our future, but its message of God’s universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit is timeless.  For the sake of completeness, however, one should not that Chapter 4 (if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox)/Chapter 3 (if one is Anglican or Protestant) contains both judgment and mercy.

By means of both the witness of the Holy Spirit and Single Predestination, taken together, salvation is available to all people, but many people reject it, hence divine judgment.  This is unfortunate, as well as beyond any mere mortal’s pay grade, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the extent of the boundaries of divine grace would probably shock most of us, if we knew all the details.  These are properly matters in the purview of God.

John 7:37-38, in the original Greek, is a somewhat ambiguous text, due to the question of punctuation.  Related to that issue is the matter of theological interpretation, as commentaries reveal.  I feel comfortable asserting that Jesus, not the believer, is the source of the rivers of living water.  In Christianity we must look to Jesus.  God is central; we are not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-pentecost-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah

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:

Jonah 4

Psalm 130

Philippians 4:1-14, 19-23

Matthew 26:69-75

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Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

–Philippians 4:5a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That sentence puts Jonah in his place.

My studies of the Book of Job have provided a lesson applicable to the Book of Jonah.  Job and his alleged friends committed the same error:  they presumed to know how God does and should act.  That, at least, was a lesson of one layer of the authorship of the Book of Job; the prose epilogue threw a wrench into the supposed sin of Job–supposing to know how God does and should act, for God agreed with Job in that epilogue.

When Yahweh had said all this to Job, he turned to Eliphaz of Teman.  “I burn with anger against you and your two friends,” he said, “for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done.  So now find seven bullocks and seven rams, and take them back to my servant Job and offer a holocaust for yourselves, while Job, my servant, offers prayers for you.  I will listen to him with favor and excuse your folly in not speaking of me properly as my servant Job has done.”  Eliphaz of Teman, Bildad of Shuah and Zophar of Naamath went away to do as Yahweh had ordered, and Yahweh listened to Job with favor.

–Job 42:7-9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Jonah, anyway, supposed to know how God does and should act.  When God extended mercy to Jonah’s national enemy, the reluctant prophet–“that clown,” as a Roman Catholic priest once described him in writing–became disappointed with God.  Yet Jonah depended on divine mercy as much as the people of Nineveh did.

If you, O LORD, should make iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Jonah ends on an ambiguous note.  God and the prophet have an unresolved theological confrontation.  The text, concluding thusly, invites us to consider who we are more like in the story.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We object to the scandal of grace on occasion.  We tell ourselves that we want justice when we actually seek retribution.  We want God to draw the circle tightly around us and people similar to ourselves, not to draw it wide and call even our foes to repentance.  Yet there are also those who want God to exclude us.

I do not pretend to know the mind of God; that is a glorious mystery too great for me.  I do, however, study scripture, read theology, and recognize patterns.  One of these patters is that we are not God.  Another pattern is that no theological box defines God.  Judgment and mercy exist side-by-side throughout the Bible.  Where one ends and the other begins resides in the purview of God, as it should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part I   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah in the Boat

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:

Jonah 1

Psalm 121

Philippians 1:15-30

Matthew 26:20-35

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The story of Jonah is a work of satirical fiction that teaches timeless truths.  It is the tale of a reluctant prophet who flees God’s call before finally accepting the vocation and succeeding, much to his disappointment.  The book is a story about repentance, God’s mercy on our enemies, God’s refusal to conform to our expectations, and the foolishness of religious nationalism.

St. Paul the Apostle, perhaps writing from prison in Ephesus, circa 56 C.E., wrote:

It is my confident hope that nothing will prevent me from speaking boldly; and that now as always Christ will display his greatness in me, whether the verdict be life or death.

–Philippians 1:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Christ, in Matthew 26, was obedient to God–soon to the point of death.  His final journey to Jerusalem had a result far different from that of the trek of pilgrims who sang Psalm 121.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  Each of us likes certain categories more than we ought and other categories we should reject.  We like for God to bless people like ourselves and overlook our sis, and to smite our enemies, collective and individual.  To some extent, we define ourselves according to who we are not.  Therefore, if our enemies and those we dislike change, what does of identity become?

Defense mechanisms are frequently negative.  When we embrace them and flee from God, they certainly are.  When we embrace them and find divine grace scandalous, they are surely negative.  When we embrace them and choose not to speak the words of God boldly or at all, they certainly are idolatrous.

May we, by grace, eschew this and all other forms of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2018  COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-21 or 6:1-6, 16-21

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Ash Wednesday is an ancient holy day.  Its origins are as old as the early Church, which created methods of disciplining sinners, as well as restoring them to the communion of the Church.  The record of Church history tells us that the penitential season of Lent, which grew to forty days in the sixth century, used to begin on a Monday, but came to start of Wednesday in the 500s.  One can also read that the reconciliation of the penitents occurred at the end of Lent–on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, depending on where one was, in the sixth century.

Interestingly, The Church of Ireland is unique in the Anglican Communion for having an Ash Wednesday ritual that does not require the imposition of ashes.

One function of the announcement of divine judgment is to prompt repentance–literally, turning one’s back to sin.  We cannot turn our backs to all our sins, given our nature, but (1) God knows that already, and (2) we can, by grace, improve.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance.  That God knows what that balance is, is sufficient.

That we do what we should matters; so does why we do it.  In Christianity and Judaism the issue is properly the faithful response to God; the issue is not the pursuit of legalism.  Stereotypes of Judaism (especially among many Christians) and Christianity aside, these are not legalistic religions when people observe them properly.  (There are, of course, legalistic Jews and Christians, hence the stereotypes.)  The standard of faithful response is love of God and, correspondingly, of one’s fellow human beings.  We have accounts of the unconditional and self-sacrificial love of God in the Bible.  The readings from 2 Corinthians and Matthew include commentary on that principle.  To paraphrase Rabbi Hillel, we should go and learn it.

May we do this while avoiding the trap of legalism, into which so many pious people fall easily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Gentiles and Divine Justice   1 comment

Above:  The Kingdom of Herod the Great

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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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-13

Matthew 2:-12

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…that through the Gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews, part of the same body, sharers together in the promise made in Christ Jesus.

–Ephesians 3:6, The New English Bible (1970)

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That is a prominent theme of the Feast of the Epiphany and the season that ensues.

Psalm 72 is a coronation text.  It describes the ideal monarch–one who judges with justice, brings prosperity, defends the poor, delivers the needy, crushes the oppressor, and therefore deserves great respect.  I, as a student of history, cannot identify any world leaders, past and present, whom that vaunted description fits.

The reading from Isaiah 60 makes the most sense in the context of the rest of the chapter.  The historical context is the end of the Babylonian Exile and the return of exiles to a glorified, exalted Jerusalem.  We read, in the voice of God:

For though I struck you in anger, in mercy I have pitied you.

–Isaiah 60:10b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

One reason we read Isaiah 60:1-6 on this occasion is the reference to camels in verse 6.  That element segues nicely into Matthew 2, in which Persian, Zoroastrian Magi arrived about two years after the birth of Jesus.  In Matthew 2 we meet the disturbed and violent client king Herod the Great, far removed from the ideal monarch in Psalm 72.  We read of these Gentiles, responsive to the direction of God, unlike the half-Jewish Idumean client king, a man clinging to power desperately.

Who are really the insiders?  Who are really the outsiders?  The answers, according to God, might shock many of us.  After all, the justice of God is superior to human justice, even the highest, most moral variety of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-epiphany-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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This is post #1850 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Life of Christ

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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Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 148

Philippians 2:12-18

Luke 2:21-40 or Matthew 2:13-23

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  An act of mercy for the Hebrews (as in Isaiah 63) is judgment upon the Edomites (as in Isaiah 63:1-6).  Divine mercy exists not because of imagined human fidelity among a given population (such as the Hebrews), but as pure grace.  So, as Psalm 148 reminds us, all of creation should praise God.

Divine graciousness creates the obligation of faithful response–manifested in devotion, not the impossible standard of moral perfection.  We cannot be morally perfect, but we can do better, by grace–and as faithful response.  Many will respond favorably to divine graciousness.  Many others, however, will be indifferent.  Still others will be violently hostile, for their own perfidious reasons.

Divine graciousness certainly has the power to offend.  That fact makes a negative point about those who find such graciousness offensive.  Taking offense wrongly is one error; becoming violent about it is a related and subsequent one.  How we respond individually to divine graciousness is our responsibility.  If we get this wrong, we will harm others as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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