Archive for the ‘Luke Timothy Johnson’ Tag

Inclusion and Exclusion, Part IV   1 comment

Moses Prays for Miriam To Be Healed

Above:   Moses Prays for the Healing of Miriam

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The word “leprosy,” in the Bible, has a broad definition, applying to a variety of diseases of the skin.  Such conditions also fall under the heading of ritual impurity (consult Numbers 5:2a) and require a time of isolation before one returns to one’s community and to a state of ritual purity (consult Leviticus 13).

In Numbers 12 Miriam spoke negatively of Moses.  Her punishment was a bad case of snow-white scales, which usually would have caused her to go away for two weeks.  It became seven days, however, due to the intercession of her esteemed brother.  The rabbinical name for her condition was metzora, from motzi’ shem ra’, or “uttering an evil name.”  Her sin was slander, but the object of that offense pleaded to God on her behalf.  A time of removal from the community was inevitable, but the goal of the leadership of that community was always restoration.

In Luke 5 Jesus healed a man with some kind of skin disease.  It was not leprosy, in the narrow, clinical definition of that term, but it was enough to render the man ritually impure and to isolate him from his community.  Then Jesus commanded him to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14 and not to tell anyone (other than the priest, per Leviticus 14).  Perhaps the man went to the priest, but he certainly spread the word, causing crowds to deny Jesus as much solitude as he needed.

Salvation was Christ’s primary task on the Earth; healing was something he did.  Did crowds come to him mostly to hear the words of salvation or to seek healing?  Quite often they flocked to him for the latter purpose.  There was nothing wrong with seeking wholeness and restoration, of course, but there was much more to Christ’s mission than individual wholeness and restoration.  There was, for example, collective wholeness and restoration.

A community cannot be at its best when people who should be part of it are not.  Such people might be outsiders by their choice or the decisions of others.  Many people are outsiders because self-identified insiders exclude them, often wrongly.  Frequently we human beings define ourselves negatively–according to who or what we are not.  This practice harms us and those we exclude improperly.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson says, one message in the Gospel of Mark is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  And, as Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, writes, in Christ there are no outsiders.

May we who follow God (or at least attempt to do so) identify as children of God who bear the divine image and respect the image of God in our fellow human beings.  Theological and personality differences will persist, of course, but we need not seek to define ourselves negatively and, by extension, others in the same way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-23-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Forgiveness, Part II   1 comment

The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Above:  The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 5:1-13

Psalm 38

Luke 17:1-4

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O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger;

do not punish me in your wrath.

–Psalm 38:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Few details make this goy‘s eyes glaze over faster than particulars of Hebrew purification offerings from Leviticus.  Professor Luke Timothy Johnson, in his Great Courses DVD series Jesus and the Gospels (2004), states plainly that the Book of Leviticus is not among the reasons that the Bible is a bestseller.  Besides, the Law of Moses does not apply to me.  Nevertheless, I, after having read Leviticus 5:1-13 and Luke 17:1-4 together, along with Psalm 38, detect a timeless, common theme, which is forgiveness.  The author of Psalm 38 asks God for forgiveness.  Leviticus 5:1-13 prescribes culturally specific rituals for atonement and forgiveness.  And Jesus commands in Luke 17:1-4 that a person forgive someone who repents.

Forgiving might not help the forgiven party (or it might do so), but it certainly benefits the one who forgives.  Anger is a strangely appealing burden to carry around in life.  It might cause no harm to its target (or it might do so), but it definitely damages the one who nurses it.  One should forgive even if the other person does not repent, apologize, or request forgiveness, for selfish reasons alone make forgiving sensible.  Nevertheless, as I know well, letting go of resentment is frequently difficult.  That reality, I think, has more to do with one’s self-image than with anything else.

I am righteous.  I am the injured party.  That S.O.B. owes me something.

It is little or no consolation, is it?

None of us can become the person God wants us to become by holding on to grudges.  Also, forgiving feels better than the alternative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Outsiders, and Theological Humility   1 comment

Elisha and the Shunamite Woman

Above:  Elisha and the Shumanite Woman, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:8-17, 32-37 (Monday)

2 Kings 8:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 102:12-28 (Both Days)

Acts 14:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 15:36-41 (Tuesday)

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He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

–Psalm 102:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A childless woman bore shame during the time in which Elisha lived.  This was, of course, wrong, but it was her reality.  The story of one such woman, as we find it in 2 Kings 4 and 8, was one of repeated graces–a successful pregnancy, the raising of her dead son, advice to flee ahead of a seven-year-long drought, and, as a widow, restoration of property and income.  Her end, without help, would have been unfortunate.  For example, a widow was especially vulnerable in the Hebrew society of the time.

Widows and barren women were marginalized figures.  So were Gentiles, according to many Jews at the time of St. Paul the Apostle, who was always a Jew.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect.  Indeed, the separation from Judaism was incomplete until 135 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.  The parting of the ways was in progress by the late 60s and early-to-middle 70s C.E., the timeframe for the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  (Thus those religious politics influenced the telling of the stories of Jesus and the twelve Apostles.)  The inclusion of Gentiles and the terms of how that happened caused much controversy within Judaism, Christian and otherwise.  The pericope from Acts 15:36-41 glosses over a fact which St. Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14:  St. Barnabas sided with those who insisted that Gentile converts become Jews first.  Such a position, St. Paul wrote, nullified the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).

Today we read accounts of help for the marginalized.  These people were among the marginalized because other people defined them as such.  This definition labeled people as either insiders or outsiders, for the benefit of the alleged insiders.  I suspect, however, that God’s definition of “insider” is broader than many human understandings have held and do hold.  We humans continue to label others as outsiders for the benefit of the “insiders,” as they define themselves.  Grace remains scandalous, does it not?  And, as Luke Timothy Johnson has said, the Gospel of Mark suggests that many of those who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders.

I reject Universalism on the side of too-radical inclusion and a range of narrow definitions of who is pure on the opposite side.  The decision about who is inside and who is outside, of who is pure and who is impure, is one for God alone.  We mere mortals have partial answers regarding that question, for we are not totally lacking in received wisdom.  Yet we tend to use the matter as a way of making ourselves feel better about ourselves much of the time.  Often we lapse into a version of the Donatist heresy, in fact.  We ought to live more graciously and with theological humility instead, for we are all broken, weak, and inconstant.  Each of us depends entirely upon grace.  So who are we to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Leviticus and Luke, Part I: Laying Foundations   1 comment

jewish-high-priest

Above:  A Vested Jewish Priest

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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 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:

Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 9:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/week-of-proper-20-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

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With this post I leave the Book of Exodus behind and move into the Book of Leviticus.  Of that book Professor Luke Timothy Johnson of Emory University has said

There is a reason why the Bible remains the all-time best selling book, and it is not the Book of Leviticus.  It is the Gospels.  People want to understand about Jesus.

Jesus and the Gospels, Lecture One, The Teaching Company, 2004

Fortunately, we have plenty of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

The Book of Leviticus opens where the Book of Exodus ends.  The Tabernacle now functional, complete with the Presence of God, Leviticus Chapters 1-7, as summarized succinctly in 7:37-38, detail

…the rituals of the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, with which the LORD charged Moses on Mount Sinai, when He commanded that the Israelites present their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

It is not riveting reading.  Then Chapter 8 provides an account of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests.  The chapter concludes with these words:

And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD had commanded through Moses.

–Leviticus 8:36, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

It is a story about laying foundations.  But do not become too enthusiastic, O reader; bad news awaits us after this chapter.

Jesus and the Apostles (eleven of whom became bishops) laid foundations in Luke 9:17.  This was not the Church yet, but the proclamation of the Gospel was present.  And a food miracle with Eucharistic overtones occurred.  Today, of course, institutions which are heirs of Jesus and the Apostles proclaim the message and offer the Holy Eucharist.

As we–you, O reader, and I–go through our daily lives, what foundations is God laying through us and in us?  I wonder what shape that work will assume and how that work will benefit others and glorify God.  If I am fortunate, I will, in time, receive at least an inkling, so that I may rejoice over more than a vague hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Mark, Part II: To Flee Or Not To Flee; That is the Question   1 comment

passing-through-gethsemane-02

Above:  Brother Edward from Babylon 5: Passing Through Gethsemane (1995)

Image = A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD

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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 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:

Exodus 2:1-22

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Mark 14:32-52

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-1/

Babylon 5:  Passing Through Gethsemane:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/babylon-5-passing-through-gethsemane-1995/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/prayer-for-monday-in-the-fifth-week-of-lent/

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Before I get to my main point I desire to share an interesting feature of the Gospel of Mark as a literary composition.  In 14:52 a young man flees Gethsemane naked.  Yet, in 16:5, a young man wearing a white robe sits in the empty tomb.  I had not noticed the juxtaposition of these two verses until I watched Professor Luke Timothy Johnson’s Jesus and the Gospels course from The Teaching Company.  Is the young man in Chapter 14 the young man in Chapter 16?  And what the significance, if any, of two mentions of a young man in relation to the death (before it and after it) of our Lord?  The Gospel of Mark is a brilliant composition, so I wonder about this matter, which does not seem accidental to me.

Now for my main point….

Moses, by Exodus 2:11-15, had come to identify as a Hebrew.  I wonder what would have happened had he not fled.  Later in the Book of Exodus he walks into the royal palace and confronts the next Pharaoh.  He (Moses) was no less a murderer than he was in Chapter 2.  And, later, he was also a fugitive.  Exodus 4:19 not withstanding, did not the Egyptians keep records?  Was there a statute of limitations on murder?  My counter-factual wondering aside, Moses did flee.  And it was a wise decision.

Jesus did not have to remain at Gethsemane.  Authorities would have apprehended then killed him eventually, but it did not have to be at that place and time.  But he stayed voluntarily.

Babylon 5 (1994-1998) is one of my favorite science fiction series.  In one episode, Passing Through Gethsemane (1995),  Brother Edward, a Roman Catholic monk on the space station, explains (when asked) the core of his faith to two aliens.  He explains that Christ did not have remain at Gethsemane.  Edward wondered if he would have had the same courage.

There is a time to remain in a difficult situation for the sake of others.  And there is a time to leave and live to fight another day, so to speak.  In military terms, there is no shame in a tactical retreat.  But may we know when to remain, when to advance, and when to retreat.  May we listen then obey when God tells us the proper course of action.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part XIX: Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy   2 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

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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 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:

Job 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

John 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (at http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/).  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Actual and Imagined Purity   1 comment

Above: A Sink

Image Source = Mets501

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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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Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

These are the records of the skies and the earth when they were created:  In the sky that YHWH made earth and skies–when all produce of the field had not yet been in the earth, and all vegetation of the field had not yet grown, for YHWH God had not rained on the earth, and there had been no human to work the ground, and a river had come up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground–

YHWH God fashioned a human, dust from the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being.

And YHWH God planted a garden in Eden at the east, and He set the human whom He had fashioned there.  And YHWH God caused every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for eating to grow from the ground, and the tree of life within the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad.

And YHWH God took the human and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to watch over it.  And YHWH God commanded the human, saying,

You may eat from every tree of the garden.  But from the tree of knowledge of good and bad:  you shall not eat from it, because in the day you eat from it:  you’ll die!

Psalm 104:25, 28-31 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

28 All of them look to you

to give them their food in due season.

29 You give it to them; they gather it;

you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.

30 You hide your face, and they are terrified;

you take away their breath,

and they die and return to their dust.

31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;

and so you renew the face of the earth.

Mark 7:14-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he called the crowd close to him again, and spoke to them,

Listen to me now, all of you, and understand this.  There is nothing outside a man which can enter into him and make him “common”.  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common”!

Later, when he had gone indoors away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this parable.

Oh, are you as dull as they are?

he said.

Can’t you see that anything that goes into a man from outside cannot make him ‘common’ or unclean?  You see, it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and passes out of the body altogether, so that all food is clean enough.  “But,” he went on, “whatever comes out of a man, that is what makes a man ‘common’ or unclean.  For it is from inside, from men’s hearts and minds, that evil thoughts arise–lust, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly!  All these evil things come from inside a man and make him unclean!

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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One of the advantages to reading Biblical passages, especially those familiar to one, in translations (not just one version) is finding shades of meaning emphasized in various ways.  The J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English, the second edition of which I have quoted, is wonderful in that it fulfills this function well.

Compare the Phillips translation to other versions.  Phillips says “make a man ‘common.’”  More traditional translations say “defile him.”  What is it about being “common” that is allegedly defiling?  Ritual uncleanliness–in this case, tied to the washing of one’s hands before eating–was part of a purity code.  To be pure ritually was to be separate from–excuse the double entendre–the great unwashed.  I think of a parable Jesus told elsewhere.  A Pharisee and a tax collector (a tax thief and a Roman collaborator) were praying in the same space.  The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the tax collector and listed a catalog of his good works.   But the tax collector was humble before God, and he went away justified.

I have DVDs (available from the Learning Company) of Luke Timothy Johnson teaching about the Gospels.  Professor Johnson states that one of the themes in Mark is that the seeming insiders really are not insiders.  This analysis holds up well, based on my reading of that canonical Gospel.  What is more seemingly “inside” than the religious establishment?  Many of these people liked to cling to notions of ritual purity.  But, as Jesus tells us, that misses the point.  What is inside makes us pure or impure; what we consume does not.

The first part of the second creation myth from Genesis tells us that God breathed life into Adam.  I leave the details of life and evolution to scientists, and the specifics of theology to theologians.  Each is a different way of knowing, and both are valuable.  The myth does contain truths, and among them is this one:  we are all precious in the eyes of God.  We have that in common.

Imagined purity functions to define the allegedly pure as such and the different others as impure.  It reinforces class systems and religious prejudices.  Yet God, as the prophet Samuel said, does not look at us as we look at each other; God looks at who and what we really are.  Therein lies our purity or lack thereof.

Our challenge today is to examine ourselves and check ourselves for any indication of a fixation on ritual purity, regardless of the form it takes.  Are we viewing others as God perceives them, or in a way conducive to reinforcing our egos?

Miserere mei Deus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 2, Mark 7, Psalm 104

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