Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

St. Paul the Apostle in Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXI

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Acts 21:17-23:22

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St. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey spanned 53-58 C.E.  He was back in Jerusalem for Passover in 58 C.E.

St. Paul’s reputation preceded him.  He agreed to St. James of Jerusalem’s plan for damage control.  St. Paul accompanied four men to the Temple, where they made their Nazarite vows.  He also sponsored sacrifices, consistent with the Law of Moses.  This strategy failed.  A Jewish mob beat St. Paul outside the Temple.  They would have killed him had Roman soldiers not rescued him.  The mob’s cries of “Kill him!” echoed another mob’s cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).

Notice the sympathetic portrayal of the Romans, O reader.  It is consistent with the Lucan motif of identifying good Roman officials even though Luke-Acts presents the Roman Empire as being at odds with God.  Alas, Luke-Acts presents the empire as being an unwitting tool of God sometimes.

St. Paul had impeccable Jewish credentials as well as Roman citizenship.  As a citizen, he had the legal right to appeal to the emperor.  This fact led him to Rome.

Roman soldiers had to save St. Paul from a Jewish conspiracy a second time.  The soldiers transferred him to Caesarea.

Keep in mind, O reader, that I have been writing this weblog for more than a decade.  During those years, I have made many opinions abundantly clear and repeated myself at least a zillion times, lest someone who reads a post without having read other posts or many other posts mistake me for someone who holds positions I find abhorrent.

For the sake of clarity, I repeat for time number zillion plus one that I reject and condemn anti-Semitism.  Really, I should not have to keep repeating myself in this matter and many other matters.  Yet I do, for even a dispassionate statement of objective historical reality may seem hateful to certain people.  I live in an age of ubiquitous hyper-sensitivity, which I find as objectionable as ubiquitous insensitivity.  I favor ubiquitous sensitivity instead.

As I keep repeating ad nauseum in this series, I have no interest in condemning long-dead people and resting on self-righteous laurels.  I may condemn long-dead people, but I refuse to stop there.  No, I examine myself spiritually and draw contemporary parallels, too.  Sacred violence is an oxymoron, regardless of who commits it.  And I should never approve of it.  Also, my Christian tradition has a shameful legacy of committing and condoning “sacred violence” against targets, including Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

By this point in the narrative, St. Paul was taking a circuitous route to Rome, to bear witness for Jesus there.  The Roman soldiers and officials, as well as the homicidal Jews of Jerusalem, were tools to get him to the imperial capital.

Ask yourself, O reader:  What would push you over the edge into homicidal tendencies?  Answer honestly.  Then take the answer to God in prayer and repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Repentance, Part XI   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Hosea

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 5:15-6:6

Psalm 50:1-15 (LBW) or Psalm 119:65-72 (LW)

Romans 4:18-25

Matthew 9:9-13

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O God, the strength of those who hope in you: 

Be present and hear our prayers;

and, because in the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do nothing good without you,

give us the help of your grace,

so that in keeping your commandments

we may please you in will and deed,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God, from whom all good proceeds,

grant to us, your humble servants,

that by your holy inspiration we may think the things that are right

and by your merciful guiding accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 64

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For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999)

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Yet the Law of Moses commands sacrifices and burst offerings.

Hebrew prophets did not always express themselves as clearly as some of us may wish they had.  In context, Hosea 6:6 referred to God rejecting the opportunistic appearance of repentance or a habitually errant population.  Divinely-ordained rituals were not properly talismans; they did not protect one from one’s proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Hosea 6:6 asserted the primacy of morality over rituals.

I am neither a puritan nor a pietist.  I favor polishing God’s altar and eschew condemning “externals.”

God, metaphorically, is a consuming fire.  Before God, therefore, false repentance does not impress.  The attitude in Psalm 119 is preferable:

Before I was humbled, I strayed,

but now I keep your word.

You are good, and you do what is good;

teach me your statutes.

–Psalm 119:67-68, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Sometimes recognizing one’s need to repent may be a challenge.  How can one repent if one does not think one needs to do so?  How can one turn one’s back on one’s sins (some of them, anyway) unless one knows what those sins are?  Self-righteousness creates spiritual obstacles.

How happy are they who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Matthew 5:3, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The test, O reader, for whether you need God is simple.  Check for your pulse.  If you have one, you need God.  We all stand in the need of grace; may we admit this then think and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post

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Mutuality in God XIV   1 comment

Above:  Figs

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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Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28

Psalm 31:1-5 (6-18), 19-24 (LBW) or Psalm 4 (LW)

Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28

Matthew 7:(15-20) 21-29

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Lord God of all nations,

you have revealed your will to your people

and promised your help to us all. 

Help us to hear and to do what you command,

that the darkness may be overcome by the power of your light;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God,

whose never-failing providence sets in order all things

both in heaven and on earth,

put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things;

and give us those things that are profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 62

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Jewish Covenantal Nomism, present in Deuteronomy 11 and in the background of Romans 3, establishes the tone for this post.  Salvation for Jews comes by grace; they are the Chosen People.  Keeping the moral mandates of the Law of Moses habitually is essential to retaining that salvation.

Love, therefore, the LORD your God, and always keep His charge.  His laws, His rules, and His commandments.

–Deuteronomy 11:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985,1999)

Perfection in these matters is impossible, of course.  Therefore, repentance is crucial daily.  In broader Biblical context, God knows that we mere mortals are “but dust.”  Do we?

Grace is free, not cheap.  Nobody can earn or purchase it, but grace does require much of its recipients.  Thin, too, O reader, how much it cost Jesus.

Both options for the Psalm this Sunday contain the combination of trust in God and pleading with God.  I know this feeling.  Maybe you do, too, O reader.

St. Paul the Apostle’s critique of Judaism was simply that it was not Christianity.  As E. P. Sanders wrote:

In short, this is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism:  it is not Christianity.

Paul and Palestinian Judaism:  A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977), 552

For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

I, as a Christian, agree.  However, I also affirm the continuation of the Jewish covenant.  I trust that God is faithful to all Jews and Gentiles who fulfill their ends of the covenant and mourns those who drop out.  Many of those who have dropped out may not know that they have done so.

The good fruit of God, boiled down to its essence and one word, is love.  Recall the First Letter of John, O reader:  Be in Christ.  Walk in the way Jesus walked.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.

–1 John 5:2-3a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), 203

And how could we forget 1 John 4:7-8?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God; God is love.

Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

This point brings me back to Psalm 31.  In verse 6 or 7 (depending on versification), either God or the Psalmist hates or detests idolators.  Translations disagree on who hates or detests the idolators.  In context, the voice of Psalm 31 is that of a devout Jews falsely accused of idolatry; he protests against this charge and defends his piety and innocence.  Human beings are capable of hating and detesting, of course.  I reject the argument that God hates or detests anyone, though.

Salvation comes via grace.  Damnation comes via works, however.  God sends nobody to Hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, says to love like Jesus.  Consider, O reader, that Christ’s love is self-sacrificial and unconditional.  It beckons people to love in the same way.  This divine love, flowing through mere mortals, can turn upside-down societies, systems, and institutions right side up.

However, anger, grudges, and hatred are alluring idols.  Much of social media feeds off a steady diet of outrage.  To be fair, some outrage is morally justifiable.  If, for example, human trafficking does not outrage you, O reader, I do not want to know you.  But too much outrage is spiritually and socially toxic.  To borrow a line from Network (1976):

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

That kind of rage is a key ingredient in a recipe for a dysfunctional society.

We human beings all belong to God and each other.  We are responsible to and for each other.  May we think and act accordingly, by grace and for the common good.  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post

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The Council of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  St. James of Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXVIII

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Acts 15:1-35

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For another slightly different version of the Council of Jerusalem, read Galatians 2:1-10.

This was a turning point.  In the Gospel of Matthew, the ministry of Jesus was to Jews, until chapter 28, when the ministry widened to include Gentiles in its scope.  After Acts 15, St. Luke wrote of the Christian mission first to Gentiles.  And, consistent with a Lucan motif, the Holy Spirit guided the Council of Jerusalem and subsequent evangelism.

Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism and keep the Law of Moses to become Christians.  This seemed odd; Christianity remained a Jewish sect at the time of the composition of Luke-Acts (circa 85 C.E.).

I, having written about Judaizers in the context of Pauline passages many times, choose not repeat those comments on that point here and now.  Everything germane is here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

In history, the greatest answer to question is,

So what?

Supposing that one has written accurately and neither cherry-picked nor proof-texted, so what?  Why does one text matter?  In this case, the question pertains to conflicts within the Church.  What should people and what do people do when tradition and experience collide?  What they should do is not always what they do, sadly.  The proper application of timeless principles depends on circumstances, for real life plays out in circumstances.  When the proper decision results, the Holy Spirit is at work.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MYSTIC, 1622

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Ministry of St. Simon Peter   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXIV

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Acts 9:32-11:18

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I refer you, O reader, to the other posts here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA in which I have written about the constituent parts of Acts 9:32-11:18.  In this post, I focus on broader themes, not narrower ones.

The power of God that flowed through Jesus through St. Simon Peter, according to Acts 9:32-42.

Jewish-Gentile relations require some attention.

As we have already established in this series, Judaism allowed for divine acceptance of righteous Gentiles.  Earlier in Luke-Acts, Jesus healed the slave of a Roman centurion who had favorable relations with the Jewish community of Capernaum (Luke 7:1-10).  Yet, obviously, in Acts 10:1-11:18, some Jews were less accepting of Gentiles than other Jews were.

We need to read Acts 10:1-11:18 on three levels:

  1. the timeframe in which 10:1-11:18 is set,
  2. the timeframe of circa 85 C.E, and
  3. the timeframe of today.

The problem of social relations between Christians converted from Judaism and Christians converted from paganism underlies the narrative, cf. 10:10-16, 28-29; 11:2-14; and Ga[latians] 2:11-21.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966), 217

The present-day lens of Acts 10:1-11:18 was circa 85 C.E.  St. Paul the Apostle had argued valiantly and vehemently on the behalf of Christians converted from paganism, that they did not have to obey the Law of Moses.  Decades after his martyrdom in Rome, the debate continued to rage.

Alas, St. Simon Peter was inconsistent regarding accepting Gentiles after Acts 10-11 (Galatians 2:11-21).

I, not content to chastise long-dead people and feel spiritually smug and self-righteous, look in the spiritual mirror instead.  In my cultural context, which people do I exclude wrongly?  And which people do I favor including yet get quiet about because of what others may think, say, or do?  You, O reader, should ask yourself the same questions.  Likewise, communities and institutions should ask themselves these questions, also.  For example, many congregations proclaim that everyone is welcome.  How accurate is that sentiment, though?

I realized then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?

–Acts 11:17, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Who am I to stand in God’s way?  Who are you, O reader, to stand in God’s way?  Who is anyone to stand in God’s way?  What is any institution or congregation to stand in God’s way?

Grace scandalizes by not discriminating.  Does that make you, O reader, comfortable or uncomfortable?  If it makes you uncomfortable, why does it do so?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ADAME ROSALES, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT CONRAD OF PARZHAM, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE B. CAIRD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEN UNITED REFORMED MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, ETHICIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 341

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The Divine Mandate for Social Justice II   4 comments

Above:  Icon of the Ministry of the Apostles

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 17:1-15

Psalm 33:1-11 (LBW) or Psalm 146 (LW)

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 14:1-12

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O God, form the minds of your faithful people into a single will. 

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid, all the changes of this world,

our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found;

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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O God, you make the minds of your faithful to be of one will;

therefore grant to your people that they may love what you command

and desire what you promise,

that among the manifold changes of this age our hearts

may ever be fixed where true joys are to be found;

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), 53

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…the people who have been turning the whole world upside down have come here now….

–Acts 17:6b, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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One need not be evil to favor maintaining the status quo, even when it is exploitative and for overturning.  Good, morally defensible change can cause disorientation and discomfort, even among conventionally pious people.  The terms “revolutionary,” “liberal,” “conservative,” and “reactionary” are inherently relative to the center, the definition of which varies according to time and place.  These four labels are, in the abstract, morally neutral.  In circumstances, however, they are not.  Being conservative, for example, may be right or wrong, depending on what one hopes to conserve.  And, if one is not a revolutionary in certain circumstances, one is morally defective.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a

moral revolution of values

on April 4, 1967, when he finally unambiguously and unapologetically opposed the Vietnam War.  That address, which he delivered at the Riverside Church, Manhattan, proved to be extremely controversial, mainly because of King’s position on the Vietnam War.  That controversy obscured much of the rest of the contents of the speech.  (King was correct to oppose the Vietnam War, by the way.)  The other content of that speech remains prophetic and germane.  The call for a society that values people more than property, for example, has not come to fruition, sadly.

Sometimes “turning the world upside down” is really turning it right side up, as in Psalm 146 and the Beatitudes.  Giving justice to the oppressed, feeding the hungry, caring for the strangers, sustaining the orphan and the widow, and frustrating the way of the wicked are examples of turning the world right side up, not upside down.  You, O reader, and I live in an upside-down world.

This is theologically orthodox.  False theological orthodoxy mistakes social justice for heresy and bolsters social injustice.  However, the Law of Moses, the Hebrew prophets, and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are consistent in holding that social injustice is a divine mandate.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ADAME ROSALES, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT CONRAD OF PARZHAM, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE B. CAIRD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEN UNITED REFORMED MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, ETHICIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 341

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Adapted from this post

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The Healing of a Crippled Beggar, with Its Aftermath   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVI

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Acts 3:1-4:31

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A cliché tells us that no good deed goes unpunished.  If the world were not so!

Jesus had clashed with religious authorities.  The time for some of his Apostles–Sts. Simon Peter and John, in this case–to do so had arrived.  St. Simon Peter, who had often spoken before thinking, had eaten his spiritual Wheaties.

Two major themes stand out in my mind as I ponder Acts 3:1-4:31:

  1. Acts 3:17 includes the Lucan motif that those who had rejected and crucified Jesus had done so in ignorance.  See Luke 23:34, also, O reader.
  2. Acts 4:18f, in which the commandments of God override human orders to the contrary, belies strict law-and-order arguments that quote the Bible.  Acts 4:18f is not the only such passage in the Bible, but it is the one in the section of scripture for this post.  We will return to this matter in Acts 5.

My politics regarding the strict law-and-order, my-country-right-or-wrong argument are plain.  Neither anarchy nor totalitarianism allow freedom.  Disobeying some governments is a moral obligation.  Yet, on many other occasions, obeying governments is moral.  Everything depends on the circumstances.  The timeless principle at work is the Golden Rule.

We all know less than we imagine we do.  For example, we may think we know what we are doing when do not.  Or we may know partially.  Luke 23:34 has the crucified Jesus intercede for those who had put him on the cross and for those who had consented to this action:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I have recorded my mixed thoughts regarding the extent of this ignorance in Luke 23:34.  I have not arrived at a consistent position yet.

Sometimes we do not know what we are doing.  However, sometimes we do.  And sometimes we know somewhat.  I cannot always tell which situation is which.

Nevertheless, I know something, however, slight, regarding sins of ignorance:  We all commit them, individually and collectively.  And we all–individually and collectively–stand before God in need of forgiveness.  May we–collectively and individually–forgive each other, as we–individually and collectively–need forgiveness.  And may God forgive us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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Selfless Love   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary of Bethany and Jesus (Nicholas Ge)

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 42:1-9

Psalm 36:5-10

Hebrews 9:11-15

John 12:1-11

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O God, your Son chose the path which led to pain

before joy and the cross before glory. 

Plant his cross in our hearts,

so that in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 19

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Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ

chose to suffer pain before going up to joy,

and crucifixion before entering into glory,

mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,

may find this path to be the way of life and peace;

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), 41

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In context, the servant in Isaiah 42:1-9 is the Jewish people personified, created and appointed to be a covenant people and a light to the nations.  In context, this group was about to emerge from the Babylonian Exile, which the Deuteronomistic theology of the Bible explained as divine punishment for persistent, collective violation of the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  To identify this servant with sinless Jesus requires theological gymnastics.

Yet here we are.

Hebrews 9:11-15 presents Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant via his sacrificial death (and his resurrection).  Do not forget the resurrection, O reader.  Without it, we have dead Jesus, who can do nothing to redeem anyone.

But I am getting ahead of the story.

Each of the canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  Scholars tell us that there were two anointings–one of Christ’s head and another one of his feet–and that the Johannine account merges elements of both.  So be it.  In the Gospel of John, the setting was the home of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany, and St. Mary of Bethany was the anointer.  We read of her, with her hair down (in the style of a harlot, not a respectable woman who could afford expensive nard ointment from India), behaving in an undignified and loving way.  We read that this anointing foreshadowed the anointing of Jesus’s corpse a few days later.

Displays of selfless love may shock one.  Ponder what Jesus did later that week, O reader.  Ponder what St. Mary of Bethany did at the beginning of the week, too.  Consider that these acts were different from each other yet had much in common.  The application of any given timeless principle varies according to who, when, and where one is.

What does the playing out of selfless love entail and look like where and when you are, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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Pentecost: The Birth of the Church   Leave a comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned from a Bulletin

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LV

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Acts 2:1-47

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Historically, Christian communities in the United States of America that have emulated the young Jerusalem church have received much scorn and suspicion from other Christians.  Cold War politics heightened this scorn and suspicion.  What kind of weirdos would live in community and share their possessions?  Were they communists?  No, they were Christians who had paid close attention to the Acts of the Apostles.

I suspect that Acts 2 includes prose poetry.  That is fine; poetry is the best method of expressing the truth sometimes.  At the Feast of Weeks, a harvest festival associated with the giving of the Law of Moses, God reversed the curse from the mythical story of the Tower of Babel.  The multiplicity of languages was not a barrier to communication.  And St. Simon Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, proclaimed him fearlessly.

Consistent with Lucan themes, Jews and Gentiles alike were welcome.

I strive to write clearly, O reader.  I do not mistake serial contrariness in the name of Jesus for Christian discipleship.  The reflexive rejection of “the world” overlooks that which “the world” gets right.  Yet Luke-Acts presents the dichotomy between the prevalent human order of the time and the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., was correct in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963):  The Church was powerful when its members rejoiced to suffer for what they believed.  The Church was powerful when it was disturbing the peace of the unjust social order.  The Church was powerful when it agitated for justice.  The Church was powerful when it was not

an arch-supporter of the status quo.

Christendom was not a golden age of the Church.  I have detected no reason to feel nostalgic for the long age of Christendom, of Constantinian Christianity.

In these days when “none” is the fastest-growing religious affiliation in my society, I recognize that many people have abandoned the Church, which has frequently betrayed its foundational principles and become a powerful voice for injustice and varieties of hatred.  I recognize an opportunity for ecclesiastical leaders and members to wake up from the slumber of the unjust status quo and to reclaim the pre-Constantinian Church’s power of witness.

Note:  I borrowed “Constantinian Christianity” from Dr. Cornel West.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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Faith and Works, Part III   2 comments

Above:  Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan, by József Molnár

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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Genesis 12:1-8

Psalm 105:4-11

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

John 4:5-26 (27-30, 39-42)

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Heavenly Father, it is your glory always to have mercy. 

Bring back all who have erred and strayed from your ways;

lead them again to embrace in faith

the truth of your Word and hold it fast;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

God our Father, your Son welcomed

an outcast woman because of her faith. 

Give us faith like hers,

that we also may trust only in our Love for us

and may accept one another as we have been accepted by you;

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), 18

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O God, whose glory is always to have mercy,

be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways,

and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith

to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word;

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), 34

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I grew up with a stereotype of Second Temple Judaism.  I learned that the Judaism of Christ’s time was a legalistic faith with works-based righteousness.  I learned a lie.

As E. P. Sanders thoroughly documented in his seminal work, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), Second Temple Judaism taught Covenantal Nomism.  Salvation came by the grace of being born Jewish.  The maintenance of that salvation was a matter of habitually keeping the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  The failure to do so resulted in dropping out of the covenant.  St. Paul’s objection to Second Temple Judaism was that it was not Christianity.  For the Apostle, the death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

The Law of Moses, which postdated Abraham, defined the lines one should not cross.  “Do this, not that,” was necessary guidance.  The application of timeless principles to culturally-specific circumstances was essential.

It remains so.  Unfortunately, many devout people fall into legalism by failing to recognize the difference between timeless principles and culturally-specific examples.

Faith, for St. Paul the Apostle, was inherently active.  He dictated, in Greek translated into English:

For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

–Romans 3:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The author of the Letter of James defined faith differently.  He understood faith as intellectual assent to a proposition.  Therefore, he reminded his audience that faith without works is dead (2:17) then wrote that Abraham’s works justified the patriarch (2:21f):

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Despite the superficial discrepancy between Romans and James, no disagreement exists.  When people use the same word but define it differently, they may seem to disagree when they agree.

Or justification may not be a factor at all.

Consider a different translation, O reader.  David Bentley Hart, The New Testament:  A Translation (2017) is a literal version that, in the words of its Eastern Orthodox translator, “provokes Protestants.”  Hart renders Romans 3:28 as:

For we reckon a man as vindicated by faithfulness, apart from observances of the Law.

“Justified” becomes “vindicated,” and “works” become “observances.”  Then we turn to James 2:24:

You see that a human being is made righteous by works, and not by faith alone.

“Justified” becomes “made righteous.”

Justification is a legal term.  “Vindicated” and “made righteous” are not.  That is a crucial distinction.  I acknowledge the existence of the matter.  Nevertheless, the point about using the same word and understanding it differently holds in both interpretations.

The reading from John 4 has become the subject of much misinterpretation, too.  For nearly two millennia, a plethora of Christian exegetes have sullied the reputation of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Yet Jesus never judged her.  And his conversation with her was the longest one recorded in the canonical Gospels.

Jesus violated two major social standards in John 4.  He spoke at length with a Samaritan and a woman he had not previously met.  Jesus was not trying to be respectable.  He had faith in the Samaritan woman at the well, who reciprocated.

For reasons I cannot fathom, God seems to have faith in people.  My opinion of human nature is so low as to be subterranean.  Observing the irresponsible behavior of many people (especially government officials who block policies intended to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic) confirms my low opinion of human nature.  Yet God seems to have faith in people.

May we reciprocate.  And may our deeds and words be holy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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