Archive for the ‘Lent’ Tag

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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The Cross and Glorification, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:   Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Savior of the world, who by thy cross and precious blood hast redeemed us:

save us, and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord.  Amen.

or

Merciful Father, who gave thy Son Jesus to suffer the shame of the cross:

save us from hardness of heart, that, seeing him who died for us,

we may repent, confess our sins, and receive the outpouring of thy love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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Merciful Father:  you gave your Son to suffer the shame of the cross.

Save us from hardness of heart, so that, seeing him who died for us,

we may repent, confess our sin, and receive our overflowing love in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

How great is your love, O God, for sending Jesus to take up a cross and lay down his life for the world.

Work in us such true remorse that we may cast out sin, welcome mercy, and live in wonder,

praising the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Savior.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 147

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Hebrews 10:4-18

John 19:17-42

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In this post stunned near-silence compels me to write little, for the assigned readings speak for themselves.

In The Episcopal Church we read the Passion narratives as congregational plays, complete with large and small parts.  The reading of Passion narratives on Palm/Passion Sunday and Good Friday is powerful–more effective than a bookcase full of commentaries.  The service for Good Friday, according to The Book of Common Prayer (1979), ends in silence, as it should.  That is a moving silence, replete with grief and reverence.

My advice is to permit Jesus to be liturgically dead until Easter.  Permit the stunned silence to have its full effect.  Easter will, after all, arrive on schedule; do not hurry it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Episcopal Church, Hebrews 10, John 19

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The Cross and Glorification, Part IV   4 comments

Above:   Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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For Holy/Maundy Thursday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Christ, who washed the feet of the disciples on the night of thy betrayal:

wash from us the stains of our sin, that we may not fail thee in the hour of danger,

but follow thee through every trial and confess thee to the world; for thine own sake.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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O God:  your love lived in Jesus Christ, who washed disciples’ feet on the night of his betrayal.

Wash from us the stain of sin, so that, in hours of danger,

we may not fail, but follow your Son through every trial,

and praise him to the world as Lord and Christ, to whom be glory now and forever.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 146

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Hebrews 8:1-6

John 13:1-17

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Often the Bible repeats themes.  Here is one of those:  the way to true greatness is the path of humble service, not the quest for self-glorification.  Jesus is a role model.

The difficulty in writing this post is in not being too repetitive.  My writing schedule on Saturday, October 27, 2018 (the day I drafted this post), being what it is, this is the seventh consecutive post I have drafted.  By now the theme of service and the caution against seeking greatness via ego is familiar content from the previous six posts alone.

So, without becoming excessively redundant, here is a challenge appropriate for any day, but especially Maundy Thursday:  value being compassionate more highly than being right, according to your self-image, O reader.  I need to pursue that challenge, too.

Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.

–Hebrews 10:24, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

That will glorify God, will it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 8, John 13

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The Cross and Glorification, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:   A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

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Everlasting God, who delivered the Children of Israel from cruel captivity:

may we be delivered from sin and death by your mighty power,

and celebrate the hope of life eternal within your promised kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 145

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Hebrews 5:5-10

Luke 22:24-34

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The author of the misnamed Epistle to the Hebrews (neither an epistle nor to Hebrews), whoever he was (Origen said that only God knew who wrote it) did not read the Gospel of John.  The most probable reason for this was that the “Epistle to the Hebrews” predated the Fourth Gospel.

The reading from Hebrews 5 may mystify a Christian shaped by the Johannine Gospel.  What does it mean that Christ learned obedience via his sufferings?  And what about Christ being perfected?  The divine passive in the latter case indicates that God was the actor, the one who perfected Christ.  But was not Jesus already perfect–always perfect?  The confusion does not cease even when one realizes the particular meaning of perfection in this case–suitability to be the ultimate sacrifice.

None of this inconsistency constitutes a difficulty for me, for I am not a fundamentalist.  I acknowledge the obvious fact–that the New Testament contains mutually exclusive points of view presented and authoritatively.  I prefer the Johannine perspective to that of the author of the “Epistle to the Hebrews” when the two contradict each other.

Both readings (Luke 22 and Hebrews 5) agree on the priority of obeying God.  The ethic of service (from Luke 22) fits hand-in-glove with the obedience of Jesus (Hebrews 5).  One may also ponder John 12:26 (from the previous post‘s readings), about following Jesus, who loved us all the way to an ignominious execution–his execution, in the Gospel of John.

Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, likes to say,

Love like Jesus.

When one considers that statement in the full context of Christ’s life, one realizes that this is no feel-good slogan, but a challenge to discipleship, to cross-bearing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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The Cross and Glorification, Part II   1 comment

Above:   A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

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Holy Father, whose mercy never ends:  even as Jesus came not to judge but to save men,

so may we, his believing people, seek to reach men everywhere with your saving word;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 145

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Philippians 2:5-11

John 12:24-53

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Without duplicating the previous post, which I could easily do, given the assigned readings, I choose to focus on the commonality of Philippians 2:5-11 and John 12:24-43–glory and glorification.  Notice, O reader, the contrast between John 12:26 (the call to follow and serve Jesus, paired with the promise that God the Father will honor those who do) and John 12:42-43 (staying quiet for fear of losing one’s reputation).  Choosing the second option seems to be more common than selecting the first option, does it not?

Not one of us is innocent of the offense of valuing the opinions of certain human beings (especially powerful and influential ones) more than following and serving God.  We who call ourselves Christians identify literally as followers of Christ.  May we, by grace, live up to that name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in John 12, Philippians 2

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The Cross and Glorification, Part I   1 comment

Above:   A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

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Great God:  cleanse your church of fake piety,

overturn our greed, and let us be a holy people,

repentant, prayerful, and ready to worship you in spirit and in truth;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 144-145

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Hebrews 9:11-15

John 12:1-23

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In the Johannine Gospel the glorification of Jesus was his crucifixion, an essential part of the process of atonement.  Resurrection completed the process.

Public execution for a crime of which one is innocent as the method of one’s glorification is certainly counter-intuitive.  Yet that is the theology of the assigned portion of John 12.  Now, however, the cross has become a symbol of divine love and triumph.

Where is the wise man?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

–1 Corinthians 1:20, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

How else should we explain the transformation of the cross from a symbol of Roman imperial power and of the execution of the most notorious enemies thereof into a symbol of the power of God to reverse death and nullify the power of the imperium?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 1, Hebrews 9, John 12

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Isaiah 59:14-21

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Mark 11:1-11

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

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

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

–884

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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