Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

Judgment, Mercy, and Ego   1 comment

Above:  The Pharisee and the Publican

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth;

enter not into judgment with thy servants, we beseech thee, but be pleased of thy great kindness to grant,

that we who are now righteously afflicted and bowed down by the sense of our sins,

may be refreshed and lifted up with the joy of thy salvation.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 152

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Malachi 3:1-6

Psalms 130 and 131

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 18:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  I do not pretend to know what that balance is, for I know I am not God.  Standards of behavior exist, however.  They include not practicing sorcery, committing adultery, swearing falsely, cheating workers of wages, and subverting the cause of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.  I wonder how many people ignore the mandate of economic justice and of protecting strangers, encoded into the Law of Moses, present in the books of the Hebrew prophets, and extant in Christian moral teaching, and consider themselves sufficiently moral.

Lists, such as the one in Malachi 3:5, are not comprehensive.  They are not supposed to be.  They do, however, prompt us to consider what, in our context, we would add to any given list, consistent with the lists from the Bible.  These lists, never intended to be comprehensive, contain timeless principles and some timeless examples, too.

Such lists condemn almost all of us, do they not?  As the author of Psalm 130 asked, if God were to count sins, who could stand?  Yet we know that divine judgment is real, as is mercy.

Recognition of total dependence on God is a principle in Judaism and Christianity, from the Law of Moses to the writings of St. Paul the Apostle.  Yes, we bear the image of God.  Yes, we are slightly lower than “the gods”–members of the divine court–usually translated into English as “the angels.”  No, we are not pond scum.  Yet we are also powerless to commit any righteousness other than what Lutheran theology categorizes as civic righteousness.  Civil righteousness is objectively good, but it cannot save us.

For many people, the main idol to surrender to God is ego.  People will go far to protect ego.  They will frequently disregard objective reality and continue to believe disproven statements to protect ego.  They will commit violence to protect ego sometimes.  Some people even slander and/or libel others to protect ego.

Yet, as St. Paul the Apostle, who knew about his ego, understood, ego was rubbish before Christ.

How much better would the world be if more people cared about glorifying God, not themselves?

I do not pretend to have reached a great spiritual height and surrendered my ego.  No, I continue to struggle with it.  I do know something, however.  I know from observation that giving power, from the church level to the national and global levels, to a person with either an inferiority complex or a raging ego is folly at best and doom at worst.  One with an inferiority complex will seek to build up oneself, not the church, country, world, et cetera.  An egomaniac will behave in the same way, with the same results.  People with balanced egos are the ones to work for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUCCOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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Opposing Corruption   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 3:5-12

Psalm 63:1-8

Titus 3:1-15

Luke 22:1-6, 39-53

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Psalm 63 is a royal text.  Titus 3:1 instructs Christians to obey civil authorities.  Yet in Luke 22 and Micah 3, the authorities (civil and religious) are corrupt.  The stance of faith is to confront corruption, not to support it or accept its bribes.

In full disclosure, the founders of my country rebelled against the British Empire.  I think of a line from Man of the Year (2006):

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

Furthermore, nuances regarding obedience to the civil magistrate exist in Christian theology.  For obvious reasons, when to resist and when to obey civil authority has been a question in segments of German theology since 1933.  One may think, for example, of the great Karl Barth (1886-1968) and the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934), anti-Nazi.  Nevertheless, extreme law-and-order-affirming Christian theology exists.  One historical prime example of this attitude I found during research into conservative Presbyterianism (the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, to be precise) comes from The Presbyterian Journal, the magazine that midwifed the birth of the PCA in 1973.  In the October 30, 1974, issue, the editor agreed with a letter-writer, one Joan B. Finneran, “an elect lady of Simpsonville, Maryland.”  Finneran wrote that God establishes governments and commands people to obey earthly authority, therefore

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the LORD’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

Finneran needed to read the Theological Declaration of Barmen.

What should we do in good conscience when systems are corrupt and inhumane?  Corruption leads to collective ruin, after all.  Timeless principles are useful, but they are also vague.  Proper applications of them varies according to circumstances.  If I say,

Oppose corruption and work against the exploitation of the poor and the powerless,

I sound like the Law of Moses, various Hebrew prophets, and Jesus.  I also provide no guidance about how best to follow that counsel.  Proper application of timeless principles depends upon circumstances–who, when, and where one is.

That guidance must come from the Holy Spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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Private and Public Morality   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-14

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Titus 1:1-16

Luke 18:31-43

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Three ideas intertwine to the point of becoming inseparable in these assigned readings:  trusting God, having good public morality, and having good private morality.  Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Leaders receive particular attention in the readings from Habakkuk and Titus.  Injustice–social, economic injustice, to be precise–is rife while corrupt rulers pile up what is not properly theirs.  Furthermore, for a bishop (in the case of the reading from Titus) to teach properly, the home life cannot contradict spoken orthodoxy.

The Law of Moses forbids exploitation.  This teaching informs Judeo-Christian orthodox morality all the way from both Testaments to current times.  Yet many professing, conventionally devout Jews and Christians somehow justify exploitation.  Fortunately, many other Jews and Christians condemn exploitation in words and deeds.  Their witness is consistent with the Law, the prophets, and Jesus.

Jesus died at the hands of an unjust system of a violent empire.  It dominated with fear and intimidation.  Jesus, however, exposed that empire for what it was by being better than it was.

Can we see that?  Can we also see the link between public and private morality, as well as the connection between them and trusting in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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Collective Sins   3 comments

Above:  Gleaners Beating Out Their Sheaves, Palestine, 1938

Photographer = John David Whiting

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-03080

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For the First Sunday Before Lent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth;

send thy Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues,

without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee.

Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 141

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

Psalm 23

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Luke 1:18-31

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God loves us, we read.  God cares about us, we hear.  Only goodness and kindness will either attend or pursue us in Psalm 23, depending on the translation.  Our enemies must watch, powerless, as we feast in a divine banquet.

Grace descends.  It is free yet not cheap.  Grace demands that we extend love and respect to God and each other.  The Law of Moses contains much practical, usually culturally-specific guidance about how to do that.  How might we find new practical examples in our contexts?

The instructions in Leviticus 19:1-18 contain guidance about how to treat God and each other.  The two are inseparable.  How can we love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love people, whom we can see?  The commandments call for reverence for God and justice for people, especially parents, the poor, the hungry, the deaf, the blind, and anyone who is vulnerable, powerless, or less powerful.  Exploitation is not an option in Leviticus 19:1-18.

Challenges to living according to this high standard are different to overcome.  Sin is not just a personal matter.  No, it is also a societal and an institutional problem.  Sinful institutions and societies restrict the non-sinful options of their members, even the most pious ones.  Who makes our clothes and towels, and under what circumstances, for example?  And what about our beloved devices, some of them essential to our lives and the world?  Checking out of a society built on cheap labor is not easy and rarely feasible.  As we go about our days, trying to do good work and pay bills, we find that our time to care about who made our towels in a foreign sweatshop is scarce.  Our societies make us complicit in collective sins.

Only God can save the world by replacing the corrupt world order built on violence and exploitation.  We can, however, do something, even if only a little.  We can make ethical shopping choices when possible.  We, as members of society, can improve it by changing our minds and acting accordingly.

It is something, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

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

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Parts of One Body III   2 comments

Above:  King Josiah

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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2 Chronicles 34 or Joshua 23 (portions)

Psalm 82

Ephesians 5:21-33

Luke 6:27-42

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The faithfulness of God calls for faithfulness to God.  We humans, living in communities, have a moral obligation to obey the lofty principles in the Law of Moses, as in Leviticus 18:

  1. We are responsible to each other.
  2. We are responsible for each other.
  3. We depend entirely on God.
  4. We depend on each other.
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

To act on these principles is to behave in a way consistent with righteousness/justice (the same word in the Bible).

We have some difficult readings this week.  “Do I have to love my enemies?”  “But I enjoy judging people without (much, if any) evidence!”  These are responses with which all of us can identify.  Hopefully, we have progressed in our spiritual pilgrimages in Christ.  Ephesians 5 and 6 contain some really chair-squirming material regarding husbands, wives, masters, and slaves.  I do not excuse that which I consider inexcusable.  I reject all forms of slavery at all times and in all places.  I also affirm gender equality.  Furthermore, I contextualize those passages within the epistle.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That verse exists within the context of Ephesians 4:25:

Then have done with falsehood and speak the truth to each other, for we belong to one another as parts of one body.

Regardless of one’s cultural context, if one treats others according to that context, one will do well.  Likewise, a society with norms that encourage that principle has much to commend it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN S. STAMM, BISHOP OF THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH THEN THE EVANGELICAL UNITED BRETHREN CHURCH

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF UMPHREY LEE, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND MINISTER OF SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/21/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/21/devotion-for-proper-6-year-c-humes/

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Parts of One Body I   2 comments

Above:  King Hezekiah

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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2 Chronicles 29:1-10 or Joshua 7 (portions)

Psalm 79

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 6:1-11

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The Law of Moses teaches, among other lessons, that we are responsible to and for each other.  Experiences and the past teach us that one person can improve the situation of many people or cause unfortunate events to befall them.  As we read in Ephesians 4:25,

we belong to one another as parts of one body.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

May we, belonging to one another as parts of one body, put on the new nature created in God’s likeness.  May we, therefore, build each other up every day–even commit good works on the Sabbath.  May we rejoice in each other’s blessings and support each other during times of adversity and suffering.  May those in positions of authority and power build up their countries and the world for the long-term common good, not selfishly build up themselves and boost their egos at high costs to many others.  May those who violate this principle fall from power, and may people who will honor this principle replace them.  May all of us love ourselves as people who bear the image of God then extend that love to all other human beings.  Such radical, certainly politically and socially subversive love and respect is consistent with Jewish and Christian moral teaching.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF ELLEN GATES STARR, U.S. EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/devotion-for-proper-4-year-c-humes/

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Living in Community, Part IV   4 comments

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Joshua 1:1-9

Psalm 91

Philippians 2:1-11

Luke 2:21-32

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George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), one of my great-grandfathers, was a Southern Methodist minister of the old school, including Pietistic condemnations of “worldly amusements” and of ritualism.  He was my opposite.  My great-grandfather also preached that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  This shocked me when I read his sermon notes, in his handwriting.  Jesus growing up in a Christian home would have surprised St. Luke, certainly.  Our Lord and Savior was Jewish, of course.  He grew up in an observant Jewish home that would have made Joshua, son of Nun, glad.

The essence of much of Judeo-Christian moral teaching is that one, by internalizing and living according to divine law, becomes one’s best possible self in this life.  This does not guarantee a life free of suffering, persecution, and economic hardship, of course.  In fact, one may have to endure much because of one’s piety.  The darkness has not conquered the light, and it has not ceased to try.

The focus in Philippians 2:1-11 is a moral and ethical living in a communal context, with Jesus as a model.  (We all know what happened to him, do we not?)  The following advice applies at all times and places, without any necessity for adjustment from cultural contexts not explicit in texts:

Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.

In other words, obey the Golden Rule and the Law of Love, the fulfillment of much of the Law of Moses.  Acting accordingly does not guarantee success in that moral and ethical endeavor, but it is a good start, at least.  Whenever I determine to build up others, I risk tearing them down if I choose the wrong strategy.  Looking to each other’s interests does not necessarily entail doing to them as they want, but it does necessarily involve doing to them as they need.  But what if I do not know what they need?  Good intentions alone are insufficient.

God requires us to be faithful, not successful.  May we heed divine guidance as we make decisions daily.  May we pursue proper goals via correct methods.  And may we succeed in these purposes, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, by grace.  May our lives be beacons of the grace of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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