Archive for the ‘Karen Armstrong’ Tag

Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Reunion of Esau and Jacob, by Francesco Hayez

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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Genesis 33:1-11 or Isaiah 17:7-14

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33

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One might suffer for any one of a variety of reasons.  One might suffer (as in the case of Damascus, in Isaiah 17) as punishment for idolatry and injustice.  Maybe (as in 1 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 10) one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Perhaps one is merely unfortunate.  Or maybe another explanation fits one’s circumstances.

Either way, the commandment to remember, honor, and obey God remains.  Also, judgment for disobedience is both collective and individual.

As worthwhile as those points are, another one interests me more.  Certain verses in Genesis 32 and 33 refer to faces–of Jacob, Esau, and God.  Karen Armstrong, writing in In the Beginning:  A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996), makes a vital point:  they are all the same face.  Jacob, in confronting Esau, also confronts God and himself.

We human beings go to great lengths to avoid facing God, other people, and ourselves.  In the city in which I live, seldom do I enter a store or a restaurant in which music is not playing; silence is apparently anathema.  Unfortunately, the music is almost always bad, especially in one thrift store, the management of which pipes contemporary Christian “seven-eleven” songs over the speakers.  (I avoid that thrift store more often than not.)  Or, if there is no music, a television set is on.  Sensory stimulation is the order of the day.

But when we are alone and silent, we cannot ignore God and ourselves so easily.  And if we cannot face ourselves honestly, we cannot face others honestly either.  If we persist in running away, so to speak, we will cause our own suffering.  It will not be a matter of God smiting us, but of us smiting ourselves.

One would think that silence would be welcome in more churches.  The silence at the end of the Good Friday service in The Episcopal Church is potent, for example.  Yet many churchgoers have an aversion to silence.  And I recall that, one Good Friday, during that potent silence after the service had ended, someone’s cellular telephone rang, causing spiritual and liturgical disruption.

if we are to become the people we are supposed to be in God, we need to take time to turn off the distracting stimulation and face God, others, and ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-13-year-a-humes/

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Little Less Than Divine   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

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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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is the creation of Bishop Stephen of Liege (in office 903-920).  The feast, universal in Roman Catholicism since 1334 by the order of Pope John XXII, is, according to the eminent Lutheran liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher, author of the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), not so much about a doctrine but

the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

–page 301

Famously the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and no single verse or passage gives us that doctrine.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the result of much debate, some fistfights, ecumenical councils, Roman imperial politics, and the pondering of various passages of scripture.  The conclusion of 2 Corinthians and Matthew are two of those passages.  Perhaps the best summary of that process in the fourth chapter in Karen Armstrong‘s A History of God (1994).

I, being aware that a set of heresies has its origin in pious attempts to explain the Trinity, refrain from engaging in any of those heresies or creating a new one.  No, I stand in awe of the mystery of God and affirm that the Trinity is as close to an explanation as we humans will have.  We cannot understand the Trinity, and God, I assume, is more than that.

The great myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, itself a modified version of the Enuma Elish, affirms, among other key theological concepts, (1) the goodness of creation and (2) the image of God in human beings.  We are not an afterthought.  No, we are the pinnacle of the created order.  These themes carry over into Psalm 8.  The standard English-language translation of one verse (which one it is depends on the versification in the translation one reads) is that God has created us slightly lower than the angels.  That is a mistranslation.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane passage as

little less than divine.

The Anchor Bible (1965) translation by Mitchell J. Dahood reads

a little less than the gods.

The Hebrew word is Elohim, originally a reference to the council of gods, and therefore a remnant of a time before Jews were monotheists.  An alternative translation is English is

a little lower than God,

which is better than

a little lower than the angels.

Studies of religious history should teach one that Elohim eventually became a synonym for YHWH.

“Little less than divine” seems like an optimistic evaluation of human nature when I consider the past and the present, especially when I think about environmental destruction and human behavior.  But what if Pfatteicher is correct?  What if the work of salvation is complete?  What if the image of God is a great portion of our nature than the actions of many of us might indicate?

In Christ we can have liberation to become the people we ought to be.  In Christ we can achieve our spiritual potential–for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May we, by grace, let the image of God run loose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Regarding the Superiority of Lectionaries to the Lack Thereof   9 comments

Snapshot_20130616_16

Above:  The Author Studying the 2004 Irish Prayer Book on Sunday Afternoon, June 16, 2013

My review of The Book of Common Prayer (2004) is here:  https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/the-book-of-common-prayer-2004/.

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I admit it:  I am a ritualist.  I am, in fact, a happy, contented, and unapologetic ritualist.  Rituals create a sacred environment in which worship comes naturally to me.

Many Protestants–a great number of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists especially–do not understand this tendency.  They are heirs to a tradition which has thrown out the baby with the bath water since 1517.  Many of them might not know this, for, as Karen Armstrong wrote:

…fundamentalism is antihistorical.

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, page xx)

She wrote that referring to theological developments (especially changing God concepts) over time, but the principle applies to broader matters.  I have met many Protestants who did not know the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have also encountered professing Baptists who did not know that they were Protestants.  In fact, many people are quite ignorant of the traditions they profess to embrace and practice.

I, as a student of history, seek to know as much as possible about not only my tradition but others.  How else can I  be an informed practitioner of my faith?  Part of Judeo-Christian heritage is ritualism–from the Law of Moses to missals and Prayer Books to lectionaries to bowing at crosses and high altars.  Some very conservative, Low Church Protestants bristle at all of it, calling it “going through the motions” dismissively.  From time to time I have had unpleasant encounters with some of them–usually the sort which the late Molly Ivins called “Shi’ite Baptists.”  (I do live in the U.S. South.)  They do not understand, for they mistake the simplicity of worship for the purity thereof.  Those are actually separate matters.

The combination of my inherent interests and my youthful experiences brought me to the embrace of full-blown ritualism.  My father, a United Methodist minister in the South Georgia Conference, seldom preached from a lectionary, the existence of which I knew of vaguely.  But I always like more ritual and beauty of worship than those rural congregations practiced.  My adolescent self-directed study of pre-Protestant Reformation Christianity brought me closer to Roman Catholicism.  But I was too Protestant to cross the Tiber River.  So I walked the Canterbury Trail instead.

Order appeals to me.  I practice it in my living space, in my being, and in my public and private worship of God.  Tying the Bible study to lectionaries, plans for reading the Bible in an orderly manner, has provided the discipline necessary to sustain the practice consistently for years.  Converting that Bible study into a blogging project (http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/, and http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/) has encouraged me to write more, thereby increasing my comprehension and retention of material.

I collect worship books and books about worship.  Thus I have hymnals, Prayer Books, and related volumes from a variety of denominations and decades.  Many of these books contain lectionaries, all of which stand within Judeo-Christian tradition.  This post is not a history of lectionaries, but a few details are appropriate here.  Lectionaries go back to Judaism, before the birth of Jesus.   Thus they entered Christianity via Judaism.  Although the oldest known year-round Christian lectionary dates to the 600s, established, orderly plans for reading Scripture in Christian public worship existed in first century CE.

I have easy access to a variety of lectionaries.  The Jewish Study Bible (2004) and The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) contain a lectionary each.  But I, being a Western Christian, not a Jew or an Eastern Orthodox Christian, find other lectionaries more applicable or at least interesting.  Episcopal Church lectionaries for Sundays and major feast days have changed over time.  The first editions of The Book of Common Prayer (1928) contained one, but copies printed since 1945 and contained another.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) debuted a new lectionary, since superceded (in 2007 and later printings) by the Revised Common Lectionary.  The 1979 BCP also debuted a new two-year Daily Office cycle, altered slightly and reprinted in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship from 1993 (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/).  U.S. Presbyterians have had one proper Sunday lectionary or another since their 1946 Book of Common Worship (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-1946/).  The oldest volume in my collection of U.S. Lutheran service books is the 1917 Common Service Book, which contains a Sunday lectionary.  U.S. Methodism has had one Sunday lectionary or another since at least the 1945 Book of Worship for Church and Home (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/the-book-of-worship-for-church-and-home-1945/).  That is a partial list of liturgies in my library.

But the fact that a church body authorizes a lectionary does not mean that many people use it, especially in much of U.S. Protestantism, affected negatively by

  1. Puritan hostility to lectionaries and rituals;
  2. the reality of frontier life and worship in the colonial era and the early republic; and
  3. widespread anti-Roman Catholicism, quite virulent, for example, in the 1928 and 1960 Presidential election campaigns.

Revivalism has thrived and become its own tradition in these circumstances.  Jerald C. Brauer, author of Protestantism in America:  A Narrative History (Westminster Press, 1953), summarized revivalism as follows:

The whole thrust of revivals was to get results in the moral life.  This could be done only by concerting individual souls.   Thus revivalism was not concerned so much with theology or with the structure of society; it was concerned with personal morality and personal conversion.

–Quoted in Kenneth G. Phifer, A Protestant Case for Liturgical Renewal (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press,  1965, page 104)

Revivalism is insufficient and founded too much on emotionalism.  It was, however, the style of religion which my great-grandfather, George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), practiced.  He was a Southern Methodist minister of the old school–no ritualism, no lectionaries, no alcohol, no playing cards–and a preoccupation with personal sin at the expense of addressing societal, structural sins properly.  I know this because I have undertaken an effort to post as many of his sermon outlines as possible online (http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/family-tree-of-george-washington-barrett/http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/spiritual-religion-and-ritualism/, etc.).  The effort is in progress.

A study of his sermons reveals a pattern:  The man preached variations on the same sermon again, again, and yet again.  I wonder how the variety of material a lectionary would have provided would have changed his preaching.  I know that this variety expands my horizons theologically.  For, as Richard Bauckham wrote:

The final context which is authoritative for the meaning of a biblical text is the complete canon of Scripture.

The Bible in Politics, 2d. Ed.  (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, page 17)

There is a more basic reason for using lectionaries, especially in public worship.  A good Sunday lectionary, such as either of those near-twins, the Revised Common Lectionary and the most recent Roman Catholic lectionary, provide for reading aloud much of the Bible in church during three consecutive years (A, B, and C).  This is a good things for one who values Scripture, is it not?  Among the content read are passages which a minister might have skipped over otherwise for reasons of discomfort.  But now he or she must address such material, perhaps even wrestle with it.  That is also a positive activity.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal.  Somewhere in the U.S. South, an old Baptist minister always preached on baptism by immersion, regardless of the biblical text.  Finally, some members persuaded him to preach on a text with no relation to baptism.  The pastor addressed that context seriously for a brief time before making a segue:

That brings me to baptism by immersion.

The Bible contains many germane topics.  Following lectionaries helps one cover them well and to establish connections between and among passages.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6–THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND OF HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

(They were quite interesting!  http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/feast-of-norman-macleod-and-john-macleod-june-16/)

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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Books Which Influenced This Post, Yet Which I Neither Quoted Nor Named Therein:

Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold, and Paul Bradshaw, eds.  The Study of Liturgy.  Revised Edition.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1992.

Micks, Marianne, H.  The Future Present:  The Phenomenon of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Seabury Press, 1970.

Wainwright, Geoffrey, and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, eds.  The Oxford History of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2006.

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May God Have This Dance?   1 comment

tango-postcard

Above:  A Tango Postcard

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Trinity Sunday, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/trinity-sunday-year-a/

Trinity Sunday, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/trinity-sunday-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-trinity-sunday/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday-2/

Prayer of Dedication for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-trinity-sunday/

Alta Trinita Beata:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/alta-trinita-beata/

Trinitarian Benedictions:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/trinitarian-benedictions/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday/

Ancient of Days:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/ancient-of-days/

Thou, Whose Almighty Word:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/thou-whose-almighty-word/

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Wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon, personifies divine wisdom as feminine.  Much of this imagery influenced the prologue to the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is the Logos of God; the Logos resembles divine wisdom.  Thus, in Proverbs 8, we read a premonition of the Second Person of the Trinity.  The  Second and Third Persons come up in Romans 5 and John 16.  And both possible responses address the First Person of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fine example of theology.  The doctrine has no single, definitive passage of scripture to attest to it.  Rather, it is the product of deep Christian thinkers who pondered a number of passages carefully and put them together.  Some professing Christians disapprove of that process of doctrine-making; it is, to them, like sausage-making in the simile of laws and sausages:  it is better not to know how they are made.  But that comparison does not apply to sound doctrine, a category in which I file the Trinity.  Those who object to the process of sound doctrine-making are living ironies, for they are more attached to such doctrines than I am.  Yet the process by which the Church itself–a human institution–arrived at them–offends such people.  Such doctrines, they prefer to imagine, fall from Heaven fully formed.  Karen Armstrong is correct:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical….

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page xx

(I, alas, have had some unfortunate conversations with some rather doctrinaire and less than intellectually and historically inquisitive professing Christians.  They have rendered me even more allergic to Fundamentalism than I already was.)

I propose that the best way to understand as much as possible about God is through poetry and other art forms.  We humans, I have heard, danced our religion before we thought it.  And the doctrine of the Trinity is at least as much artistry as it is theology.  The nature of God is a mystery to embrace and experience, not to attempt to understand.  So, O reader, dance with God, who seeks you as a partner on the dance floor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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Loving Each Other Intensely from the Heart in God   1 comment

Above:  A Crucifix Outside a Church

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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, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 2:1-22

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

1 Peter 1:13-25

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/second-day-of-advent/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-8-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-proper-3-wednesday-year-2/

Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/lord-whose-love-through-humble-service/

Fill Our Hearts with Joy and Grace:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/fill-our-hearts-with-joy-and-grace/

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/o-christ-who-called-the-twelve/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

An Advent Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-of-confession/

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O House of Jacob!

Come, let us walk

By the light of the LORD.

–Isaiah 2:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart….

–1 Peter 1:22, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and make good your vows to the Most High.

–Psalm 50:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This day’s readings speak of the imperative of positive human responses to divine actions.

God will end the Babylonian Exile; get ready.

That is the essence of Isaiah 2.  Gratitude is in order of course.  But gratitude consists of more than saying, “Thank you!” or sending a note or card.  It is really a matter of attitude, which informs how we live.  1 Peter 1:22, set in the context of Christ’s sacrifice for us, tells us, in the lovely words of The New Jerusalem Bible, to

love each other intensely from the heart.

I like to listen to radio podcasts.  Recently I listened to an interview with Karen Armstrong on the topic of the Golden Rule.  She said that many of us prefer to be proved right than to live compassionately.  This statement rings true with me.  How often have I wanted to win an argument more than to live as a merely decent human being?  Too many times!  One instance is one time too many.

May we–you, O reader, and I–look around.  Whomever we see, may we love those individuals intensely from the heart.  That is what Jesus did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST FROM NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-28-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Authentic Spirituality   1 comment

Above:  Bottle Feeding an Abandoned Kitten

http://lovemeow.com/2010/03/men-rescued-abandoned-new-born-kittens/

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.

We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition.  We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God,who can read our inmost thoughts. You know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money; nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with the full weight, as apostles of Christ.

Instead, we were unassuming.  Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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What is the test of authentic spirituality?  Or, to phrase the question differently, what does God require of us?  We ought, when pondering this matter, realize that divinity exists in a realm beyond the limits of our ability to understand; God refuses to fit into our intellectual boxes.  So, as valuable as theology can be (which is to say, very), we need to avoid turning theological concepts into idols.

Karen Armstrong proposes the answer that makes the most sense to me.  Compassion, she says, is the test of authentic spirituality.  Compassion is at the heart of the reading from 1 Thessalonians.  Paul cared deeply for the people of Thessalonica, so he shared his life with them.  Compassion impelled Jesus, too.  This helps explain why he was so critical of those who, in the name of God, obsessed over small matters while neglecting what mattered most–that is, to love God with everything and each other as one self.

Compassion transcends species.  The most appropriate image I could find for this post is the one I have attached to it.  I have provided a link to its source, and the story is worth reading.  David Dixon and Paul Ortega, of Palm Springs, California, rescued four kittens from a trash bag in 2010.  Two survived.  Dixon and Ortega named the survivors Scooter and Dixie.  The men bottle fed the kittens until this was no longer necessary.  The kittens became well and the humans decided to keep them.

Admittedly I have a soft spot for cats, especially vulnerable kittens.  Felines are creatures of God and agents of grace, and human compassion ought to extend to all who are vulnerable, regardless of species.  Jesus would approve of what Dixon and Ortega have done for these cats.

In contrast I read about honor killings, sometimes by immigrants to the United States.  Those who perpetrate these crimes use religion to justify their actions.  But the God I worship does not approve of honor killings.  The God I worship teaches compassion, condemns honor killings, says to love my neighbor as I love myself, and adores kittens.  (Being part of creation, they fall under the description of “good.”) This God does not always agree me with me.  Indeed, I know that I am wrong about certain points, but remain unsure which ones those are.  But compassion matters more than fine points of theology.

May the hallmark of your faith life, O reader, be compassion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MENEVIA

THE FEAST OF GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-1/

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