Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Judgment and Mercy, Part XI   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy name, increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness, and by thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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Joshua 24:14-24

Colossians 1:24-29

John 17:20-26

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Due to thematic similarity between the readings for this post and the previous one, I could slip into excessive repetitiveness easily.  Nevertheless, I have tried not to do so.

Different Biblical authors had divergent opinions about how forgiving God is.  God was unforgiving of apostasy and apostates in Deuteronomy 29 and Hebrews 10:26-31, for example.  In Luke 9:62, Jesus, after listening to excuses for not following him, said,

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet God was forgiving in Deuteronomy 30.  This forgiving attitude did not indicate the absence of negative consequences of sins, though.

Heaven and Hell, which I understand to be realities, not places with geography and coordinates, are real.  God predestines some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  God damns no person, but people damn themselves.  God, in my theology, extends successive opportunities to repent.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  I do not pretend to know where one ends and the other begins.  Yet I understand that we ought to take faithful response to God seriously.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Judgment and Mercy, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124-125

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Deuteronomy 30:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

John 17:6-11

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I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to you.

Holy Father,

keep those you have given me true to your name,

so that they may be one like us.

–John 17:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One’s cultural assumptions frequently function as obstacles to proper interpretation of the Bible.  Western individualism, for example, may obscure the plural nature of “you” in many Biblical passages; perhaps one reads “you” and automatically thinking of it as being singular.  Responsibility, judgment, and mercy are both individual and collective in the Bible.  There is an individual aspect to collective matters, of course, but may we never ignore the reality of collective matters.

Faithfulness and faithlessness are collective in the assigned readings.  Those God (the Father) gave to Jesus are supposed to be one, as Jesus and God (the Father) are one.  News of the faithfulness of the Thessalonian congregation, evident in the actions of that assembly and its members, continues to spread, for people continue to read 1 Thessalonians.  Deuteronomy 30:1-10, with its assurance of divine mercy on the people following divine judgment on them for faithlessness, contradicts Deuteronomy 29:15f (with an emphasis on verse 19), where forgiveness and restoration are absent.

I like divine mercy.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  This principle applies to both Testaments, contrary to stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  Actions and the lack thereof have consequences, both positive and negative.  Yet the love of God continues to seek us out, to offer us new chances to do as we should, to be as we ought.  Do we (both as individuals and as collectives) care?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Judgment and Mercy, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Halstead & Company, Beef & Pork Packers, Lard Refiners & Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01454

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For the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 64:1-9

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 7:14-23

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The end of the Babylonian Exile, according to a portion of prophecy, was supposed to bring about paradise on Earth for returning exiles.  It did not.  Third Isaiah, after recounting some mighty acts of God in Isaiah 63, immediately asked where God was and why such mighty acts were absent.  The recorded divine response (in Isaiah 65) cataloged national sins and insisted that the divine promise remained.

God, ever an active agent, dispenses both judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment terrifies and divine mercy amazes.  The centrality of Christ, certainly a figure of mercy, also functions as a defining agent of the terms of judgment.  On one hand we have the atonement and unity in Christ.  On the other hand, however, we have those who refuse to participate in that unity, with all its moral requirements, both individual and collective.  As C. H. Dodd wrote, the Incarnation, good news, made more apparent what was already true, and those who rejected Christ were worse off for having done so.

The author of the Gospel of Mark (let us call him “Mark,” for the sake of convenience) included an aside to the reader or hearer of Chapter 7; he wrote that Jesus pronounced all foods clean.  The dating of the Markan Gospel (either shortly before or after 70 C.E., most likely) aside, that news flash about food laws did not reach many early Jewish Christians.  It also countermanded the condemnation of those who ate pork in Isaiah 64.  Moral impurity was an internal matter, Jesus said.

That principle applies both individually and collectively.  Human nature is what it is, for both good and ill.  That simple statement does not constitute an excuse for any bad behavior and improper inaction, of course.  Besides, grace is available to help us become better people, societies, families, et cetera.  We are imperfect, but we need not be shamelessly sinful and degraded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Faithful Community, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:   The Importunate Neighbor, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sunday after the Ascension, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou Lord of all times and places, whose thoughts are not our thoughts,

whose ways are not our ways, and who art lifted high above our selfish concerns:

rule our minds, redeem our ways, and by thy mercy draw us to thee;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Joel 2:23-27

1 Peter 4:7-11

Luke 11:5-13

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Above all, preserve an intense love for each other, since love covers over many a sin.

–1 Peter 4:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Divine restoration (extravagant mercy) follows punishment in Joel 2.  Contrary to stereotypes, the depiction of God in the Hebrew Bible is no more all wrathful than the portrayal of God in the New Testament is all merciful.  I wish that more people would read–really read–the Bible, and cease and desist from repeating such inaccurate statements.

God’s intense love for people provides a model for us to emulate.  We, as individuals, as family units, as congregations, as societies, have an obligation to love each other intensely and unconditionally and to build each other up into our best selves in Christ.  This requires sacrifices–often of egos and misguided ambitions.  This requires acknowledging that the common good is so important that we must give up some short-term gains for long-term greater good.  This requires that we sacrifice selfishness.  This requires that we confront each other in love sometimes, as when friends and relatives stage an intervention for an addict.

Living the Golden Rule entails doing the best for others, not necessarily what they want.  It involves doing what they need.  Sometimes intense love is uncomfortable for more than one party involved.  C’est la vie.

May we, following Jesus and deriving power from him, build up each other in Christ, for the common good and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Posted November 15, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 4, Joel 2, Luke 11

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everliving God, who gave thy Son to be a leader and servant of men:

grant that as he entered Jerusalem to suffer and die for us,

we may enter his world, follow his example, and, by his power,

live in obedience to thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 59:14-21

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Mark 11:1-11

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In Christian tradition there are two ways of handling the Sunday prior to Easter.  One is to make it, for lack of a better term, the Reader’s Digest condensed book version of Holy Week through Good Friday.  In this practice the Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion.  The old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 follows the other option–Palm Sunday.

The imagery of God, victorious and just, in Isaiah 59, is powerful.  The passage, set amid disappointment after exiles have returned to their ancestral homeland and not found the promised paradise, follows condemnation of faithlessness and injustice earlier in the chapter.  To quote a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014),

God brings justice, which is good news for the faithful and dreadful news for everyone else.

–884

Jews living in their Roman-occupied homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  This must have been especially true at Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, and the commemoration of their independence.  Jesus looked like the victorious messianic monarch of Zechariah 9:9-17 to many people as he entered Jerusalem as part of a counter-parade–not the Roman military parade into the city.

He was not that kind of king, though, as he said.

God brings justice for the faithful.  Sometimes this entails extravagant mercy, even for the purpose of repentance  At the same time this constitutes catastrophe for others.  Why God throws the book, so to speak, at some enemies and converts others may prove to be confusing.  Yet divine judgment is superior to human judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 9:23-24

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 20:1-16

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The issue is not, “who is my neighbor?” but “can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?”

–Amy-Jill Levine in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011), 123

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Jesus’ interlocutor, the Jewish lawyer, holds a restrictive definition of “neighbor”:  his question, “Who is my neighbor” presupposes that some people are not neighbors.

–Michael Fagenblat, “The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics,” 542, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011)

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…the lawyer…attempted to save face by asking a further question, “Just a minute.  Exactly who is my neighbor?”…He was really asking, “How far does my responsibility go here?  What, in fact, constitutes neighborliness, and who qualifies to receive the love called for in the Law?”  He might have been asking, “What is the least I am required to do to get by?”…Jesus, however, turned in the other direction altogether and said, “You’re to think of yourself as a neighbor.”  The question isn’t, “Is such and such a person worthy of my love?” but rather, “Am I willing to take what I have, what I know, and what I can do and place all this at the disposal of another person’s needs or growth?”

–John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells:  The Parables (New York:  McCracken Press, 1993), 101-102, 105

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  God expects much of us and enables us to fulfill those expectations.  We usually experience God as the Holy Spirit, probably.  That, at least, is the theologically approved term, according to Christian orthodoxy.  I, without straying into heresy, note that the Greek word we translate as “person,” as in “First Person of the Trinity,” “Second Person of the Trinity,” and “Third Person of the Trinity,” means “masks.”

Our one acceptable glory is in God, who is generous, according to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  The workers must work, of course, but all receive a daily wage, even if they work a partial work day.  The Kingdom of Heaven, we read, is like that employment situation in the vineyard.  Contrary to the ubiquitous Dalman consensus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a reverential circumlocution, as Jonathan Pennington writes.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is the fully realized reign/realm of God on the Earth.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is apocalyptic.

God’s ways are not ours, overall.  They overlap occasionally, by accident, perhaps.  Extravagant divine extravagance, as in the parables, certainly contradicts the corresponding way of the world.  One function of the rhetoric of the Kingdom of Heaven is to point out the ways in which human patterns are deficient.

Go is generous, with standards for beneficiaries of grace to adopt.  We often prefer cheap grace, so we can blithely follow familiar patterns of thinking and behaving, without nagging moral qualms.  We are also frequently stingy certainly compared to God.  Often we are like the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10); we ask,

Who is my neighbor?

We really mean,

Who is not my neighbor?

Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors.  We do not like that answer.  Our ways are deficient.

They can be less so in this life, by grace, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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