Archive for the ‘Martin Luther King Jr.’ Tag

The Commissioning of Jeremiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART II

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Jeremiah 1:4-19

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The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.  He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.  His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God.  Why do the two need reconciliation?  Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.

–Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), xiii

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The assurance of having a divine call and commission was a primary element in the prophetic consciousness….Jeremiah, the shy and sheltered youth, found himself thrust into the forefront of great events and clothed with an authority that terrified even himself.

Coupled with his sense of this overwhelming compulsion by the divine will and the divine choice was the prophet’s recognition that he had been set apart from other men and consecrated to a task from which there was no release.  To be sanctified was to be set apart for Yahweh’s use, like an offering in the temple.  “Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee”, Yahweh declares to Jeremiah, “I had appointed thee a prophet to the nations.”….

The call appears to have come to each prophet in a time of intellectual and emotional tension….Jeremiah and Zephaniah began to prophesy when the world empire of the Assyrians was tottering under the onslaught of barbarian hordes, which were soon to appear on the northern horizon of Palestine.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 93-94

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One motif in the Hebrew Bible has someone just called by God pleading inadequacy for the task.  God replies that these supposed disqualifying inadequacies are not problems He cannot address.  In the case of Jeremiah, the cited reasons for being inadequate are being too young and lacking public speaking skills.  But God qualifies the called; God does not call the qualified.  Compared to God, all mere mortals are inadequate and unqualified.

Jeremiah’s commission was to pronounce an unpopular message.  Judah had committed idolatry and would, therefore, face destruction and exile.  People would reject this message, but God was with Jeremiah.  In his lifetime, Jeremiah had few followers and allies; the main one was his scribe, Baruch ben Neriah.  Jeremiah received a commission for a perilous and daunting task.  He was to confront his society and its leaders, and to tell them that they had fallen short of divine standards.

A text says what it says.  A variety of contexts reveals a range of shades of meanings, though.  One may reasonably assert, for example, that the call of Jeremiah resonated with Jews before the Babylonian Exile differently than it did after that exile.  Hindsight provides crucial temporal perspective.  Also, we human beings interpret the post in the context of the present day.  The past remains constant, but the present keeps shifting as time passes.  And history, by definition, includes interpretation.

Telling the uncomfortable truth can be perilous.  The Book of Jeremiah tells us that Jeremiah and Baruch suffered greatly and died in involuntary exile for doing so.  Powerful people and angry, powerless people may find the uncomfortable truth unbearable.  They may use violence, and prophets may die.  One may recall that Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., died by assassination, for example.

Jeremiah, of all the Hebrew prophets, may have most exemplified the grave danger of answering this call of God on one’s life.  The prophet argued with God yet remained faithful to his vocation.  God was faithful to Jeremiah, who survived all attempts to kill him.  Yet Jeremiah died in exile in Egypt.

To say, “I will follow God,” is easy.  To follow through is not easy, though.  Even if one has a less challenging set of circumstances than Jeremiah did, one still has to make sacrifices.  One’s life is not one’s own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Divine Judgment on Judah, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-49864

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART XIV

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Isaiah 22:1-25; 28:1-29:24; 32:1-20

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In 701 B.C.E., during the reign (727/715-698/687 B.C.E.) of King Hezekiah of Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) besieged Jerusalem.  That invasion of the Kingdom of Judah failed, by the hand of God (2 Kings 18:13-37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-25; Isaiah 29:1-8; Isaiah 30:27-33; Isaiah 36:1-37:38).  In that context, widespread rejoicing ensued in Judah.  Isaiah ben Amoz was not impressed.

What is the matter with you now, that you have gone up,

all of you, to the housetops,

you who were full of noise,

tumultuous city,

exultant town?

–Isaiah 22:1-2a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Or maybe the rejoicing occurred because, in the failure of the Philistine-led revolt against the Assyrian Empire during the reign (722-705 B.C.E.) of Assyrian King Sargon II, Assyrian forces bypassed Jerusalem.  King Hezekiah had wisely not joined that uprising.  Yet Judah remained a vassal of the Assyrian Empire.  Either way, rejoicing was premature.  The Assyrian Empire remained a threat, and Judah was still subject to divine punishment for forsaking the covenant.  Judah still ignored the moral demands for righteousness and justice, in violation of the Law of Moses.  And Judah’s leaders bore the heavy load of responsibility for the kingdom’s predicaments.

An editor repurposed Isaiah 28:1-6, originally about the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, applied that passage to the Kingdom of Judah, and used 28:1-6 as the introduction to a condemnation of Judah.  Apart from one word (“Ephraim”), Isaiah 28:1-6 could be about Judah.  The oracle originally meant for Judah (28:7f) accused the ruling class of that kingdom of having made a covenant with death–not God–death.  Destruction would ensue, but it would not be complete.

The same themes repeat in the portions of scripture I grouped together for this post.  Isaiah 32 concludes with another condemnation of widespread, systemic unrighteousness and injustice, and a vision of how the people will benefit from the rule of a just and righteous government.

On April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church, New York, New York, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke without equivocation against United States participation in the Vietnam War.  He also offered a moral critique of his country.  The United States of America needed to experience a

moral revolution of values,

King argued.  It was a thing-oriented society; the society needed to value people more highly than money and property, King contended.  King was correct.  He had also read the Hebrew prophets carefully.

King was a modern-day prophet.  He was also as unpopular in his day as many Hebrew prophets were in theirs.  The vision of a society standing humbly before God, recognizing its complete dependence on God, and acknowledging mutuality has remained an unfulfilled dream.

On that depressing note, I conclude this journey through First Isaiah.  Thank you, O reader, for joining me.  My next step on my trek through Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, will be the Book of Zephaniah.  I invite you to join me there, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH HOMBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 1075

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Freedom in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Easter, Year 2

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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 given thine only Son to be unto us

both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life;

give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 168

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 30, 31

Psalm 147

1 Peter 2:11-25

John 10:11-16

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I confess without any reluctance that my personality contains a wide streak of rebellion.  I enjoy poking my fingers in the eyes of authority figures, so to speak.  Logically, then, I enjoy the portions of scripture (Hebrew prophets and apocalyptic literature, especially) that lower the boom on certain potentates–bad shepherds, figuratively–and on kingdoms and empires.  I bristle at 1 Peter 2:17.  Why should I honor “the emperor” or any modern tyrant?  After all, I recognize those Christians who, in the name of Jesus, resisted Adolf Hitler as moral giants.  And the theme of submission that runs through 1 Peter is foreign to me.

And don’t get me started on the acceptance of slavery in 1 Peter 2:18-20, O reader.

The First Letter of Peter comes from a social context quite different from mine.  Context is crucial.  I, as a student of history, affirm that principle.  One needs to consider that, in Asia Minor, in the late first century of the Common Era, Christians constituted a vulnerable minority subject to laws they had no hand in making.  And how should one translate the principles of 1 Peter into life in a republic?

The key may be that we are free in God.  We are slaves only to God.  We are not properly slaves to the state.  The Church must never be an arm of the state.  No, the Church must serve God.  To quote David L. Bartlett:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and a host of less famous stand as constant reminders that sometimes Christian freedom means freedom from society’s rules, and not merely freedom to obey willingly.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1998), 278

John 10 applies the language of the Good Shepherd from Ezekiel 34 to Jesus.  We read in Ezekiel 34 that God is the Good Shepherd who will replace bad human shepherds with better ones.  (Most of the Kings of Judah were bad shepherds.)  The use of the imagery of the Good Shepherd in John 10 takes on an apolitical approach, though.  In John 10, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  In other words, Jesus will die.

May we never forget that the Roman Empire executed Jesus on a charge of which he was innocent.

At least 1 Peter does not advise us to revere the emperor.  No, the letter tells us to revere God.  God outranks the emperor.

We are free in Christ to follow him, who died and rose again.  We are free to serve Christ in “the least of these.”  We are free to work for social justice and resist tyranny.  And we are free to take up our crosses and follow him.  We may even be free to die for our faith.  Very little seems to increase one’s likelihood of suffering more than obeying the Golden Rule consistently and applying it to institutions, governments, policies, and societies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS II OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF AQUILEIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Remaining Positive and Focused on the Morally Justifiable   3 comments

Above:  The View from the Camera Built Into a Computer on my Desk, June 14, 2020

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We live in times of rapid social and political change.  Change–even that which is morally proper–causes disorientation and disturbance.  Sometimes we ought to be disturbed.  Injustice ought to disturb us. The root word of “conservative” is “conserve.”  Whether one’s conservatism is morally defensible depends on what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes one should conserve x.  In certain times, reform is proper.  On other occasions, however, only a revolution is morally defensible.  Yet, even in those cases, nobility must extend beyond the cause and encompass the methods, also.

Call me politically correct, if you wish, O reader.  Or call me a radical or a fool.  If you call me a radical and a revolutionary for justice, I will accept the compliment.  I support what Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a moral revolution of values.

I favor the building of a society in which people matter more than money and property.  I favor social and political standards that brook no discrimination and bigotry while granting violators of those standards the opportunity to repent.  I favor altering society and institutions, inculcating in them the awareness that keeping some people “in their place,” that is, subordinate, underpaid, poorly educated, et cetera, harms society as a whole.  I support building up the whole, and individuals in that context.  I oppose celebrating slavery, discrimination, racism, and hatred, whether past or present.  I stand (socially distanced and wearing a mask, of course) with all those, especially of the younger generations, who are rising up peacefully for justice.  The young will, overall, have an easier time adapting to morally necessary change than many members of the older generations will, no matter how devout and well-intentioned many older people may be.  To quote a cliché,

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless advice for confronting evil:

Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

May all who seek a more just society pursue that goal with shrewdness, courage, and goodness.  To create a better society without incorporating goodness into methodology is impossible, after all.  May all who reshape society remain positive and focused on the morally justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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The Sins of Racism, Nativism, and Xenophobia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, by Jenõ Benedek

Image in the Public Domain

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For Race Relations Sunday, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Great God and Father of us all:  destroy prejudice that turns us against our brothers.

Teach us that we are all children of your love, whether we are black or red or white or yellow.

Encourage us to live together, loving one another in peace,

so that someday a golden race of men may have the world, giving praise to Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 179

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Genesis 11:1-9

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 10:25-37

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The Second Sunday in February used to be Race Relations Day (or Sunday) in much of mainline U.S. Protestantism.  The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) included four prayers for “Social Justice and Brotherhood,” but Race Relations Day had come into being in time for The Book of Common Worship (1946), with its prayer of “Better Race Relations.”  Meanwhile, The Methodist Church (1939-1968) defined the Second Sunday in February as Race Relations Day in its Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), which included two prayers for the occasion.

The occasion still exists.  In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the Sunday preceding the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, is Race Relations Sunday.  The United Methodist Church calls that day Human Relations Day, to call the

Church to recognize the right of all God’s children to realize their potential as human beings in relationship with one another.

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), 423

The assigned passages of scripture contradict dominant ways of the world.

  1. The myth in Genesis 11:1-9 condemns human hubris and reminds we mere mortals how insignificant we are compared to God, regardless of how important we consider ourselves to be.  In verse 5, for example, we read of God having to “come down” just to see the city and the Tower of Babel.
  2. The list of sins in Colossians 3:1-11 is hardly comprehensive, but it need not be.  The main idea is not to act as to harm others and oneself, but to pursue Godly, constructive purposes instead.
  3. The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is multifaceted.  After one gets past respectable, religious people refusing to help the man, one learns that a Samaritan–a half-breed and a heretic–an outsider–helped.  The parable contains layers of meaning; one of them is that we need to look past our prejudices.

Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are examples of hubris, of failure to affirm the image of God in others, of hatred, and of mutually exclusive biases.  Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are also frequently successful political weapons.

May God have mercy on us all.  Even we who decry the sins of racism, nativism, and xenophobia are not exempt from those biases; we generally rein them in within ourselves, however.  We, as members of society, are also partially responsible for the sins of society, and we share in societal punishment.

May God have mercy on us all and lead our societies to repent of these sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Psalms 44-46   1 comment

Above:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D. C., September 2011

Photographer = Carol Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-18674

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POST XVII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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A recurring theme throughout the Hebrew Bible is that military victory comes not merely through tactics, weaponry, and alliances, but via God.  National strength entails much, including caring effectively for the vulnerable members of society and not exploiting people, themes present in Psalm 45.  If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps that is because one knows the books of the Hebrew prophets and/or has been paying attention to the Book of Psalms.  Scholarly sources suggest a variety of answers regarding the dating of Psalm 44.  Either the dating is impossible to ascertain or the text comes from the exilic period or from the Hasmonean era.  Regardless, Psalm 44 functions well in a variety of settings and periods, after a downturn in national fortunes has occurred.

Psalm 46 works nicely as a counterpart to Psalm 44.  Psalm 46 is a text soldiers recited before going into battle.  That detail is especially interesting, given the politics of the text.  The end of Psalm 46, in many traditional renderings, reads something like:

“Be still, then, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

However, as J. Clinton McCann, Jr., writing in Volume IV (1996) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, argues, this is a bad translation because:

Contemporary readers almost inevitably hear it as a call to meditation or relaxation, when it should be heard in the light of v.9 as something like “Stop!” or “Throw down your weapons! ”  In other words, “Depend on God instead of yourselves.”

–Page 866

Mitchell J. Dahood, while maintaining that bad translation, anticipates McCann’s interpretation of the meaning of the verse.  Father Dahood’s note on that verse refers to prophetic cautions against ill-advised military alliances, as in Isaiah 30:15, and mentions that God is the master of history.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) makes these points plain in the translation of the verse:

Desist!  Realize that I am God!

I dominate the nations;

I dominate the earth.

–Verse 11

God can end all war.  The wish that God will end all military conflict and establish a kingdom of peace and justice on the planet is a natural desire for a soldier, is it not?  Yes, warmongers exist;  most seem to be civilians.  None of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines I have known have not been warmongers.  After all, military personnel pay the highest costs of warfare.

The mandate for a country and its leaders to trust in God comes bound with the command to care effectively for the vulnerable members of society and to resist militarism.  This is a lesson the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., understood well, given his anti-Vietnam War speech of April 4, 1967:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

The textual context for that statement is a call for the transformation of the United States of America from

a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-centered” society

–a call for a moral revolution–

a revolution of values

–a positive revolution, one that recognizes that

War is not the answer

and that neither are hatred and fear to the question of how to defeat Communism.

Enemies and political causes come and go.  Timeless principles, however, remain.  What can be more timeless a principle than trusting in God?  Certainly King’s call for a moral revolution of values remains relevant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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The Victory of God   1 comment

Dead Christ

Above:  St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. Mary Magdalene with the Dead Christ, by an Anonymous Painter

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 3:2-15

Psalm 20

Luke 18:31-34

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Now I know that the LORD has given deliverance to his king;

from his heavenly sanctuary he responds to him,

sending his mighty power which always saves.

Some draw attention to their chariots, some to their horses,

 but for our part we draw attention to the LORD, our God.

They crumble and fall,

but we will rise and continue on our way.

The LORD had delivered the king;

he answers us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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The book of the prophet Habakkuk wrestles with the difficult question of suffering and the seeming triumph of evil in the context of the existence and character of God.  The conclusion of that text of the evil will not evade the consequences of their wicked actions and that God will triumph in the end.  That summary applies well to the pericope from Luke 18, a prediction of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

I am old enough to remember the latter phase and the end of the Cold War.  I am not naive.  The Cold War was a dangerous time during which the human race almost faced the ravages of atomic warfare on many occasions, most of them not in the realm of common knowledge.  Although the leaders of the two blocs were not suicidal, human frailties came close on many occasions to rendering much of the planet uninhabitable.  Yet the Cold War world was stable compared to the current reality, which comes with many suicidal terrorists.

The hope to which I cling is that the wicked of the world will face justice in this life or in the next and that God will triumph in the end.  Whether God is on my side is not a question I should ask.  No, I should ask if I am on God’s side.  The standard for defining God’s side is Jesus of Nazareth, who violated social norms out of comparison, confronted corrupt religious leaders in cahoots with the occupying Roman forces, and rose from the dead.  One of the three oldest definitions of the atonement in Christian theology is Christus Victor–the Conquest of Satan.  This is, in fact, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  The Resurrection of Jesus, the Classic Theory tells us, reversed the death of Jesus, thereby demonstrating the superior power of God.  Evil continues to exist and act, but its inferior power is obvious.  As St. Paul the Apostle dictated in an epistle while partially quoting Hosea 13:14 at the beginning of the quote:

“O Death, where is your victory?  O Death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and sin gains its power from the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

–1 Corinthians 15:55-57, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Classic Theory of the Atonement has inspired Christianity-based movements for social justice.  It has been apparent in the writings of great men such as Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), who sought to defeat institutionalized evil in their societies.

The victory of God will occur in time, if not according to any of a host of human schedules.  God is never late, but we mere mortals are frequently impatient.  That lack of patience is often understandable, but that fact does nothing to change the reality that God is never late.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Godly Inclusion and Social Justice   1 comment

St. Lawrence of Rome

Above:  St. Laurence of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 22:1-21 (Monday)

Numbers 22:22-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:1-10 (Both Days)

Acts 21:17-26 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 7:32-40 (Tuesday)

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My very bones will say, “Lord, who is like you?

You deliver the poor from those who are too strong for them,

the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

–Psalm 35:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Thus he who marries his betrothed does well,

and he who does not marry does better.

–1 Corinthians 7:38, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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St. Paul the Apostle thought that the Second Coming of Jesus might occur within his lifetime, so he argued that changing one’s social or marital status ought not to constitute major priorities.  Most important, he contended, was living faithfully to God.  Thus avoiding distractions to a proper spiritual life was crucial, he wrote.  The Apostle was correct in his case that certain relationships do function as such distractions on some occasions.  He also argued correctly that God should come first in our lives.  Nevertheless, he was wrong about the timing of the Second Coming and the low priority of working for social justice.

A recurring theme in recent devotions in this series has been the sovereignty of God.  I have written that to use that eternal truth as cover for hatred and related violence is sinful.  Now I expand that statement to argue that using the sovereignty of God as cover for erecting and defending barriers between people and God is also sinful.  Yahweh is the universal deity, not a tribal god.  Divine power extends to Gentiles, from Balaam (in Numbers 22) to people in New Testament times to populations today.

I understand why people erect and defend spiritual barriers to God.  Doing so establishes boundaries which comfort and include those who define or defend them.  Fortunately, God’s circles are larger than ours.  Thus our Lord and Savior ate with notorious sinners, conversed at length with women, and committed many more scandalous deeds.  As the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta tells me, we should draw the circle wider.

Drawing the circle wider can threaten an identity founded on a small circle of the pure, but is doing that really such a bad thing?  No!  We ought to think less about our alleged purity and the supposed impurity of those different from us and focus instead on the vital work of ministry.  That work entails both evangelism and social justice efforts, for both aspects are consistent with the Old and New Testaments.  If I, for example, have the opportunity to help someone who is hungry eat proper food and choose not to do so, I do not feed Jesus.  If I say “be filled” to that person, I do him or her no good.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself.  And, if I affirm the unjust socio-economic system which keeps many people hungry, I am complicit in a societal evil.

The sovereignty of God is far more than a theological abstraction.  May it be a great force for loving others as our neighbors in God and therefore for improving society.  May grace, working through us, heal divisions, draw circles wider, and engage in radical hospitality.  May we witness what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called a moral revolution of values in 1967; may we (as a society) value people more than things and wealth.  As St. Laurence of Rome understood well long ago, when he gave his life for his faith in 258, the poor are the treasures of the Church.

DECEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Reconciliation, Part I   1 comment

Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Above:  In Memory of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Who Gave His Life for Another Human Being Near Selma, Alabama, in 1965

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 19:10-14 (Monday)

Isaiah 27:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 144 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (Tuesday)

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May there be no breaching of the walls, no going into exile,

no wailing in the public squares.

Happy are the people of whom this is so!

happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

–Psalm 144:15-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Old Testament readings use the imagery of vineyards to describe the people of God.  In Ezekiel 19 this is the meaning of that metaphor, with the Kingdom of Judah as a vine therein and the ill-fated King Zedekiah as a stem.  Exile came, of course.   And we read in Isaiah 27 that the future vineyard will be a glorious and Godly one, that redemption will come.  Yet the consequences of sin will stay play out.

Redemption via Christ Jesus is the topic in the readings from 1 Peter 2 and 2 Corinthians 5.  Christ reconciles us to God.  Jesus is the innocent Lamb of God, the cornerstone of faith for Christians and a stumbling block for others.  Our spiritual tasks as the redeemed include functioning as agents of divine reconciliation.  Grace is free, but not cheap.  As I consider the honor roll of reconcilers in the name of Jesus I notice the names of many martyrs and other persecuted people.Jesus is there, of course, as is St. Paul the Apostle.  In recent decades martyred reconcilers have included Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (died in 1980) and Jonathan Myrick Daniels (died in 1965) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (died in 1968), of the United States.  Others, such asNelson Mandela (died in 2013) spent long terms in prison then did much to heal the wounds of their societies.

Judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible.  The first comes then the second follows; that is a recurring pattern in the Old and New Testaments.  Reconciling, not seeking revenge, is the way to break the cycle of violence and to start the cycle of love and peace.  Relinquishing our bloodlusts can prove difficult, but the price of not doing so is both avoidable and terrible.

May we reconcile with God and, as much as possible, with each other.  The latter will prove impossible sometimes, due to conditions such as the death, inability, or unwillingness of the other party or parties.  In such cases at least one person can surrender the grudge; that is progress, at least.  And grace enables not only that but reconciliation in other cases.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-22-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Liberating Grace   5 comments

finneran-source-card

Above:  A Germane Source Card from My Collection of Research Note Cards

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 2:15b-25 (19th Day)

Exodus 3:16-22; 4:18-20 (20th Day)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:9-12 (19th Day)

1 Peter 2:13-17 (20th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 2:

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Exodus 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/week-of-proper-10-thursday-year-1/

Exodus 4:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirty-second-and-thirty-third-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-29-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-30-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-29-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

–Psalm 23:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Names have power, or so many people believed in the time of Moses.  To know someone’s name was usually to have some power over that person, hence God provides more of a description than a name–and a vague one at that–in response to the query of Moses.  The transliterated Hebrew text reads:

Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,

which is how TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders it.  The germane footnote in the that translation says:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  ”I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

The relevant note in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins:

God’s proper name, disclosed in the next verse, is YHVH (spelled “yod-heh-vav-heh” in Heb.; in ancient times the “vav” was pronounced “w”).  But here God first tells Moses its meaning:  Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, probably best translated as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” meaning “My nature will become evident from My actions.”

–page 111

“Ehyeh,” or “I Will Be,” is not a name that says much.  It denies opportunities to attempt to have power over God and preserves mystery while indicating how to learn about God.

Volume I (1994) of The New Interpreter’s Bible informs me that the name YHVH/YHWH derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be,” so:

This God is named as the power to create, the one who causes to be.  This God is the one who will be present in faithful ways to make possible what is not otherwise possible.  This God is the very power of newness that will make available new life for Israel outside the deathliness of Egypt.

–page 714

The politics of Exodus 2 and 3 is that of liberation of the oppressed from their oppressors.  God, these texts tell us, will free the Hebrews from the tyranny of the Pharaoh.  Yet I read difficult politics–that of submission to authority, regardless of its moral nature–in 1 Peter 2:13-17.  The next pericope is more chilling, for it tells slaves to obey their masters.  There have been different forms of slavery over the course of time, of course, but I propose that this, for the point I am making today, is a distinction without a difference; no form of human slavery is morally acceptable.  1 Peter comes from a time when many Christians were attempting to prove that they did not constitute a threat to the Roman Empire, which had executed the founder of their religion via crucifixion.  And many Christians thought that Jesus might return soon, so social reform or revolution was not a priority for some.

The relationship of Christians to civil authority has long been a challenging one, especially in Lutheran theology.  And the arch-conservative (racist and reactionary, really) Presbyterian Journal, which helped to give birth to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination in December 1973, spent much of the 1940s through the 1960s lambasting civil rights efforts and activists and quoting the Bible to justify Jim Crow laws.  (I have examined original copies of the publication and possess the notes to prove the statement I just made.)  The Journal writers, who called Martin Luther King, Jr., a Communist even after he had died, did not approve of his opposition to the Vietnam War either.  They, in fact, criticized in very strong terms even conscientious objectors and all forms of civil disobedience, claiming them to be contrary to Christianity.  The beating of this drum continued into the 1970s.  In the 30 October 1974 issue, on pages 11 and 16, Editor G. Aiken Taylor commended and reprinted words by one Joan B. Finneran, whom he called

an elect lady of Simpsonville, MD.

Finneran wrote that the Bible commands us to obey earthly authority, for God establishes governments.  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.

God is in control, Finneran wrote, even if we, in our ignorance, do not understand divine plans.  And we Americans ought to vote carefully and to pray for our elected officials–and obey them, of course.  Finneran’s message, cloaked in details of Reformed theology,was one of submission to authority–even genocidal tyrants.  That fact overrides any technically correct parts of her case in my mind.

I reject Finneran’s message, for, if one cannot disobey the Third Reich righteously, which regime can one oppose properly?  Even the very conservative Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America understood the limits of obedience to human authority well in 1896, when the Synod passed a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for its massacres of Armenians and declaring that the Sultan’s regime had lost its moral right to govern.

I must, in all fairness and accuracy, point out that the Presbyterian Church in America has (subsequent to 1974) approved of civil disobedience in some cases and (in 2004) approved a pastoral letter condemning racism.

The Old Testament reveals the character of God mostly by recounting what God has done.  God has, among other things, freed people.  The central theme of the Bible is liberation to follow God.  Our patterns of behavior reveal our character.  Do we even try to follow God?  Do we even attempt to aid those who suffer?  Do we even care about the oppressed?  Good intentions are positive, of course; they are preferable to bad ones.  Yet we need grace to succeed.  That, fortunately, is plentiful from God, who makes life itself and new life free from tyranny possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/devotion-for-the-nineteenth-and-twentieth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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