Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Hope III   1 comment

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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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24 (LBWLW) or Isaiah 65:17-25 (LW)

Psalm 95:1-7a (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (LBWLW) or 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a, 13 (LW)

Matthew 25:31-46 (LBWLW) or Mathew 25:1-13 (LW)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son,

whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation;

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united under the glorious and gentle rule

of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son, we pray,

that he may lead home his bride, the Church,

that we with all the redeemed may enter into your eternal kingdom;

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), 94

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I wrote about Matthew 25:31-46 in the previous post in this series and about Matthew 25:1-13 here.

We–you, O reader, and I–have arrived at the end of Year A of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship Lectionary (1973).

This journey concludes on divine judgment and mercy, ever in balance and beyond human comprehension.  Much of this divine judgment and mercy exists in the context of impending apocalypse, in certain readings.  Maintaining hope can prove challenging to maintain during difficult times, but that is another motif.  Apocalypse offers hope for God’s order on Earth.

  1. We read of YHWH as the Good Shepherd (in contrast to bad shepherds–Kings of Israel and Judah) in Ezekiel 34, during the Babylonian Exile.
  2. Third Isaiah (in Isaiah 65) offered comfort to people who had expected to leave the Babylonian Exile and to return to a verdant paradise.  Instead, they returned to their ancestral homeland, which was neither verdant nor a paradise.
  3. Psalm 130 exists in the shadow of death–the depths of Sheol.
  4. Even the crucifixion of Jesus became a means of bestowing hope (1 Corinthians 15).

So, may we all cling to hope in God.  The lectionary omits the parts of Psalm 95 that recall the faithlessness in the desert after the Exodus.  No, we read the beginning of Psalm 95; we read an invitation to trust in the faithfulness of God and to worship sovereign YHWH.  We read that we are the sheep of YHWH’s pasture (see Ezekiel 34, too).

We are sheep prone to stray prone to stray.  We have a Good Shepherd, fortunately.

If You keep account of sins, O LORD,

Lord, who will survive?

Yours is the power to forgive

so that You may be held in awe.

–Psalm 130:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Hope always exists in God.  So, are we mere mortals willing to embrace that hope?

As I type these words, I know the struggle to maintain hope.  For the last few years, current events have mostly driven me to despair.  Know, O reader, that when I write about trusting and hoping in God, I write to myself as much as I write to you.  I am no spiritual giant; I do not have it all figured out.  Not even spiritual giants have it all figured out; they know this.  They also grasp that no mere mortal can ever figure everything out anyway.

God has figured everything out.  That must suffice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post

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Secret Disciples of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Last Judgment

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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Jeremiah 26:1-6 (LBWLW) or Jeremiah 25:30-32 (LW)

Psalm 105:1-7

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13 (LBWLW) or 1 Thessalonians 1:3-10 (LW)

Matthew 24:1-14 (LBWLW) or Mathew 25:31-46 (LW)

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Almighty and ever-living God,

before the earth was formed and even after it ceases to be,

you are God. 

Break into our short span of life

and let us see the signs of your final will and purpose;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Almighty and ever-living God,

since you have given exceedingly great and precious promises

to those who believe,

grant us so perfectly and without all doubt

to believe in your Son Jesus Christ

that our faith in your sight may never be reproved;

through our Savior, Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

–Lutheran Worship (1982), 92

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Divine judgment and mercy come mixed in the assigned readings.  Contexts vary.  They include the Day of the LORD, the Exodus, the latter years of the Kingdom of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and the Second Coming of Jesus.  God is faithful and universal, we read.  And many people who have a relationship with God may be unaware of that relationship.  The flip side is that many people who think they have a relationship with God do not.

In the parable from Matthew 25, those astonished righteous learned that, by helping the vulnerable with whom Jesus identified, they had a relationship with Jesus.  Those astonished righteous learned that they had performed good works for Jesus and had been faithful to him.

A parable, by definition, contains layers of meanings.  Let us not ignore this layer of meaning, O reader.  The parable in Matthew 25:31-46 speaks of service.  The parable ought not to lead to Pietism–downplaying doctrine and falling into works-based righteousness.  No, the parable should tell us something about divine judgment and mercy; we mere mortals do not understand them.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance; we cannot grasp what that balance is.

Reread Matthew 25:31-46, O reader.  Notice the astonishment of those who thought they were righteous and the astonishment of those who learned they were righteous.  Then look around and ponder.  The parable counsels against spiritual complacency.  Love is active.  Jesus has many disciples, a host of whom do not know they are his disciples, based on the parable’s standard.  Celebrate grace and Christian service, O reader.  Live grace-fully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post

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Rejecting Grace, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

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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Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9

Psalm 90:12-17 (LBW) or Psalm 90:13-17 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30 (LBWLW) or Mathew 24:3-14 (LW)

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Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people

to seek more eagerly the help you offer,

that, at the last, they may enjoy the fruit of salvation;

through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds

by your Holy Spirit that, being ever mindful

of the end of all things and your just judgment,

we may be stirred up to holiness of living here

and dwell with you forever hereafter;

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), 90

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Rejecting grace is a frequent behavior, sadly.  Hosea 11:1-9 and Matthew 25:14-20 speak of it.

The difference between the blessed and the cursed is one thing and one thing only:  the blessed accept their acceptance and the cursed reject it; but the acceptance is already in place for both groups before either does anything about it…. The difference between heaven and hell, accordingly, is simply that those in heaven accept endless forgiveness, while those in hell reject it.  Indeed, the precise hell of hell is its endless refusal to open the door to the reconciled and reconciling party that stands forever on its porch and knocks, equally endlessly, for permission to begin the Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 3:20).

–Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment:  Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (2002), 356-357

Or, as C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

As some of the other assigned readings indicate, the lectionary has turned toward Advent.  Certain Confessional Lutheran denominations have labeled the last four Sundays before Christmas the End Times Season.  In England, in 1990, the Joint Liturgical Group prepared a four-year lectionary that starts nine Sundays before Christmas.

I cannot argue with the logic of both systems.  The Joint Lecitonary Group’s lectionary violates centuries of Western Christian tradition, but so be it.  I know of an Episcopal congregation that celebrates eight Sundays of Advent.

Psalm 90 contextualizes human rebellion, divine judgment, and divine grace within the contrast between divine permanence and human impermanence.  I reject the idea that we must respond favorably to God before we die, or else.  I reject any limitation of grace.  However, I affirm that responding favorably to God consistently and as soon as possible is the best possible strategy, one which gladdens God’s heart.

Receiving grace requires extending it to others.  This principle applies to groups and individuals alike.  As St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the church at Thessalonica:

So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

–1 Thessalonians 5:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God seeks everyone.  Divine love pursues and accompanies all of us.  Will we–collectively and individually–accept it or reject it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGREVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISZEK DACHTERA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS WIFE, CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS AUGUSTINE JUDGE, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST BLESSED TRINITY, AND THE MISSIONARY CENACLE APOSTOLATE

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Adapted from this post

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Tenants, Not Landlords, Part II   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

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 5:1-7

Psalm 80:7-14 (LBW) or Psalm 118:19-24 (LW)

Philippians 3:12-21

Matthew 21:33-43

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Our Lord Jesus, you have endured

the doubts and foolish questions of every generation. 

Forgive us for trying to be judge over you,

and grant us the confident faith to acknowledge you as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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O God, whose almighty power is made known chiefly

in showing mercy and pity,

grant us the fullness of your grace

that we may be partakers of your heavenly treasures;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 84

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The Bible moves past preaching and immediately starts meddling.  Good!  It ought to do this.

The vineyard is an image of the people of God in the Bible.  In Isaiah 5, the image of vineyard full of wild (literally, noxious) grapes condemns the population doomed to suffer exile and occupation.  Psalm 80 likens the people of Israel to a vine and prays for the restoration of Israel in the midst of exile.  The Parable of the Tenants condemns fruitless religious authority figures–a timeless warning.

That parable also quotes Psalm 119 when the Matthean text refers to the cornerstone the builders had rejected.  The cornerstone is a messianic theme, as in Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; and Zechariah 3:9; 4:7.  For other applications of the cornerstone to Jesus, read Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:4f; Ephesians 2:20; and 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Years ago, I had a discouraging conversation with a female student at the college where I taught.  She told me before class one day that she did not care about what happened to and on the Earth, for her citizenship was in Heaven.  I vainly attempted to persuade her to care.  Her attitude contradicted the Law of Moses, the witness of the Hebrew prophets, the teachings of Jesus, and the epistles–Judaism and Christianity, in other words.

The Golden Rule requires us–collectively and individually–to care for and about each other and the planet.  Judaism and Christianity teach that people are stewards–not owners–of the planet.  (God is the owner.)  The state of ecology indicates that we are terrible stewards, overall.  The lack of mutuality during the COVID-19 pandemic proves that many people do not give a damn about others and the common good.

God remains God.  God still cares.  God cannot exist without caring.  That should comfort many people and terrify many others.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTEMISIA BOWDEN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS JOHN MCCONNELL, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PETTER DASS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXVII   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel

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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Ezekiel 33:7-9

Psalm 119:33-40 (LBW) or Psalm 119:113-120 (LW)

Romans 13:1-10

Matthew 18:15-20

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Almighty and eternal God,

you know our problems and our weaknesses

better than we ourselves. 

In your love and by your power help us in our confusion,

and, in spite of our weaknesses, make us firm in faith;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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Grant, merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace

that they may be cleansed from all their sins

and serve you with a quiet mind;

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), 79

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Context is crucial.  Any given text originates within a particular context.  To read that text without the context in mind is to distort that text.

Consider the relationship of the people to human authority, O reader.  Romans 13:1-7, which commands submission to the government, comes from a particular time and place.  That text also comes from the mind of a citizen of the Roman Empire.  On the other hand, Exodus 1 praises the midwives Shiphrah and Puah for disobeying the Pharaoh’s orders.  Likewise, the Apocalypse of John assumes that resistance to the Roman Empire, an agent of Satan, is mandatory for Christians.  In history, one may point to the Underground Railroad, the conductors of which were, according to United States federal law, criminals, at least part of the time.  Does anyone want to go on record as condemning the Underground Railroad?  I also know that, in the context of the Third Reich, many Christian theologians teach that one must oppose the government sometimes.  For the obvious reason, this teaching is especially strong among German theologians.

The caveat in Romans 13:1-7 is that any civil authority not responsive to the will of God is not a true authority.  Therefore, one may validly resist that government for the sake of conscience.  The examples of resisting slavery and Nazism certainly apply under this principle.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way….

One purpose of prophetic pronouncements of divine punishment is to encourage repentance.  Repentance, in turn, cancels punishment.  One who is supposed to warn people is not responsible for their fate if one warns them.  However, if one does not warn them, one is accountable for their fate.  The commandments of God impart life, but people must know what they are.

Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In context, “you” (Matthew 18:18-19) is plural.

I covered Matthew 18:18 in the post for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A.

Love confronts when necessary.  Love confronts in these contexts, for the benefit of the person confronted.  Many people understand this in the context of addiction interventions.  Obeying the Golden Rule sometimes entails practicing tough love, offering what someone needs, not what that person wants.  How one responds becomes one’s responsibility, for those who have confronted have done their jobs.

Although one may desire to rescue someone, doing so may prove impossible.  I know this from experience.  Some people cannot or will not do what they need to do.  I leave judgment in these matters to God, who frequently shows more mercy than many people do.  If I must err, I prefer to do so on the side of mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIÈGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF STEPHEN THEODORE BADIN, FIRST ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST ORDAINED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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Adapted from this post

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Good News and Bad News, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Net

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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1 Kings 3:5-12

Psalm 119:129-136

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

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O God, your ears are always open to the prayers of your servants. 

Open our hearts and minds to you,

that we may live in harmony with your will

and receive the gifts of your Spirit;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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O God, the Protector of all who trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy,

increase and multiply your mercy on us,

that with you as our Ruler and Guide,

we may so pass through things temporal,

that we lose not the things eternal;

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), 71

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Redeem me from human oppression….

–Psalm 119:134a, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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Good news and bad news come together.

  1. The reading from 1 Kings 3 marinates in hindsight and the wasted potential of King Solomon, who had come to power like Michael Corleone, settling disputes with murder.  One may reasonably speculate that King Solomon had already cast his die before 1 Kings 3.  Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, to quote a cliché.
  2. We read a portion of Psalm 119, in which the author extols God’s commandments in the context of human oppression.
  3. Single Predestination (Romans 8:28-30) is to Heaven.  Those not so predestined have the witness of the Holy Spirit available to them.
  4. We read that, at the end of the age, the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for the wicked.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

I paid little attention to predestination when I was a Methodist.  My theology has shifted, however, into Anglican-Lutheranism, which includes Single Predestination.  After growing up ignoring passages such as Romans 8:28-30, I have embraced them.

The good news of Single Predestination, paired with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is grace.  Those predestined receive one form of grace.  Those not predestined receive another form of grace.  Their free will to accept or reject the witness of the Holy Spirit exists because of grace.  Everything boils down to grace.

We human beings do not have to earn everything.  We cannot earn grace.  If we accept it, we also accept its demands on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Good news and bad news come together.  We mere mortals make our bad news and some of our good news.  God brings us good news.  Are we receptive to it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYL0R

JUNE 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER. POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND CONVERT IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1896

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post

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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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