Archive for the ‘Mormonism’ Tag

God Heals   1 comment

Above:  Raphael the Archangel, According to Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)

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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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Tobit 3:1-11, 15c-17 (Revised English Bible):

In deep distress I groaned and wept aloud, and as I groaned I prayed:

O Lord, you are just and all your ways are merciful and true; you are the Judge of the world.  Now bear me in mind, Lord, and look upon me.  Do not punish me for the sins and errors which I and my fathers have committed.  We have sinned against you and disobeyed your commandments, and you have given us up to the despoiler, to captivity and death, until we have become a proverb and a byword; we are taunted by all the nations among whom you have scattered us.  I acknowledge the justice of your many judgements, the due penalty for our sins, for we have not carried out your commandments or lived in true obedience before you.  And now deal with me as you will.  Command that my life be taken away from me so that I may be removed from the face of the earth and turned to dust.  I would rather be dead than alive, for I have had to listen to taunts I have not deserved and my grief is great.  Lord, command that I be released from this misery; let me go to the eternal resting-place.  Do not turn your  face from me, Lord; I had rather die than live in such  misery, listening to such taunts.

On the same day it happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel who lived at Ectabana in Media, also had to listen to taunts, from one of her father’s servant-girls.  Sarah had been given in marriage to seven husbands and, before the marriage could be duly consumated, each one of them had been killed by the evil demon Asmodaeus.  The servant said to her:  “It is you who kill your husbands!  You have already been given in marriage to seven, and you have not borne the name of any of them.  Why punish us because they are dead?  Go and join your husbands.  I hope never to see son or daughter of yours!”

Deeply distressed at that, she went in tears to the roof-chamber of her father’s house, meaning to hang herself.  But she had second thoughts and said to herself:

Perhaps they will taunt my father and say, ‘You had one dear daughter and she hanged herself because of her troubles,’ and so I shall bring my aged father sorrow to his grave.  No, I will not hang myself; it would be better to beg the Lord to let me die and not live on to hear such reproaches.

Thereupon she spread out her hands towards the window in prayer saying,

Praise be to you, merciful God, praise to your name for evermore; all creation praise you for ever!…Already seven husbands of mine have died; what have to live for any longer?  But if it is not your will, Lord, to let me die, have regard to me in your mercy and spare me those taunts.

At that very moment the prayers of both were heard in the glorious presence of God, and Raphael was sent to cure the two of them:  Tobit by removing the white patches from his eyes so that he might see God’s light again, and Sarah daughter of Raguel by giving her in marriage to Tobias son of Tobit and by setting her free from the evil demon Asmodaeus, for it was the destiny of Tobias and of no other suitor to possess her.  At the moment when Tobit went back into his house from the courtyard, Sarah came down from her father’s roof-chamber.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

Mark 12:18-27 (Revised English Bible):

Next Sadducees, who maintain that there is no resurrection, came to him and asked:

Teacher, Moses laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but no child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife and died without issue.  Then the second married her, and he too died without issue; so did the third; none of the seven left any issue.  Finally the woman died.  At the resurrection, when they rise from the dead, whose wife will she be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

How far you are from the truth!  You know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; they are like angels in heaven.

As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story of the burning bush, how God spoke to him and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but the God of the living.  You are very far from the truth.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Voltaire wrote that, if God created human beings in his image, we have more than returned the favor.  Yes, we mere mortals carry inadequate God images in our imaginations, as J. B. Phillips argued in Your God is Too Small.   As Ron Popeil says, “But wait, there’s more.”  Our concepts of the afterlife are too small and limited, too.  They tend to reflect earthly conditions and circumstances.  Ancient Egyptians sought an idealized Egypt in their afterlife, and the popular image of Hell as a place of fire, smoke, and noxious fumes comes from the old Jerusalem garbage dump.  These are just two examples of a much greater possible number.

Likewise, many have hypothesized that human relationships carry over into the afterlife.  Notable among these are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with their concept of marriage continuing after death.  The Sadducees labored under no such idea, for they rejected the possibility of life after death.  So their question regarding the levirate marriage of one woman to seven brothers was insincere.  This story in Mark occurs in the context of attempts to entrap Jesus in his own words.  As in the cases of the other challenges, Jesus is the superior debater.

FYI:  Levirate marriage was a practice meant to continue the family name, keep property within the family, and protect a childless widow from homelessness and other unfortunate circumstances.  It comes from Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and features prominently in Genesis 38.  (Genesis 38 contains a theological hot potato of a story, the moral  implications of which I leave for you, O reader, to ponder.  But I must move along now.)

Had these Sadducees asked a sincere question, they would have received a constructive answer from Jesus.  In the Bible, God says to those ask sincere questions than to those who presume to know the answers or to those who make insincere queries.  (Read the book for confirmation of this assertion.)  Speaking of sincerity, let us turn to Tobit and Sarah.

Both were in very bad situations, and both wanted to die. Tobit, blind, helpless, and living in exile, had just accused his wife of stealing livestock.  It was a false charge, and he realized this fact after Anna, his wife, denied the accusation and berated him.  But Tobit had more on his mind.  He was part of a despised and politically weak population dispersed throughout an occupying power.  He had heard the taunts for a long time.  It all seemed like too much to bear.

And Sarah had been married to seven men yet was still a virgin.  She had developed a reputation as having bad luck and perhaps being a murderer.  She lived in a patriarchal society which presumed that a woman was supposed to be a wife and a mother.  And the author of the text presumed that she was property, too.  Pay attention to the language:  The Revised English Bible says that Tobias was destined to “possess” her.  Likewise, the New Revised Standard Version says “have” and the New American Bible translates the verb as “claim.”  (Aside:  Sarah was a woman, not a piece of furniture.  But I cannot make the text fit early 21st Century gender concepts.)

Anyhow, the author of the Book of Tobit says that God heard the prayers of Tobit and Sarah, and sent the archangel Raphael to cure them both.  Raphael means “God heals.”  Much of the rest of the book is the account of how this healing took place.  Without giving away too many details, I can say that people were part of the process.

As I typed the reading from Tobit, the prayers for death struck a chord with me.  I have been in difficult situations in which I have prayed for death.   When death did not come, I cursed the mornings on which I awoke.  And God did cure me via direct action as well as by people.  Perhaps you, O reader, have been in a similar situation or know someone who has.  In my case, it did get better.

I wonder what the spiritual lives of the Sadducees could have been if they had been interested in sincerity, not in insincerity.  When one plays semantic and mind games with God, God wins.  And God wants sincerity and humility from us.  If we argue with God, fine; let us argue sincerely.  (Read the Book of Job.)  If we pray for death during difficult times, God hears us.  And I am convinced that the most merciful answer at that time is “No.”  That was the answer God gave me, and that was the answer in the narrative of the Book of Tobit.  In the cases of Tobit and Sarah, God had something wonderful in mind, and this involved them being alive.

As St. Patrick wrote:

Christ be with me,

Christ within me,

Christ behind me,

Christ before me,

Christ beside me,

Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ in quiet,

Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE, PHYSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-wednesday-year-1/

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The Original Principle   1 comment

Above:  Nablus, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1918 (Built on the Site of Shechem)

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Joshua 24:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.  He summoned Israel’s elders and commanders, magistrates and officers; and they presented themselves before God.  Then Joshua said to all the people,

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  In olden times, your forefathers–Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor–lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.  But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan and multiplied his offspring.  I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.  I gave Esau the hill country of Seir as his possession, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with [the wonders] that I wrought in their midst, after which I freed you–I freed your fathers–from Egypt, and you came to the Sea.  But the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Sea of Reeds with chariots and horsemen.  They cried out to the LORD, and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians; then He brought the Sea upon them, and it covered them.  Your own eyes saw what I did to the Egyptians.

“After you had lived a long time in the wilderness, I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan.  They gave battle to you, but I delivered them into your hands; I annihilated them for you, and you took possession of their land.  Thereupon Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, made ready to attack Israel.  He sent for Balaam son of Beor to curse you, but I refused to listen to Balaam; he had to bless you, and thus I saved you from him.

Then you crossed the Jordan and you came to Jericho.  The citizens of Jericho and the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites fought you, but I delivered them into your hands.  I sent a plague ahead of you, and it drove them out before you–[just like] the two Amorite kings–not by your sword or by your bow.  I have given you a land for which you did not labor and towns which you did not build, and you have settled in them; you are enjoying vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD….

Psalm 136:1-3, 16-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his mercy endures for ever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his mercy endures for ever.

16 Who led his people through the wilderness,

for his mercy endures for ever.

17 Who struck down great kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

18 And slew mighty kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his mercy endures for ever;

20 And Og, the king of Bashan,

for his mercy endures for ever;

21 And gave away their lands for an inheritance,

for his mercy endures for ever;

22 An inheritance for Israel his servant,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He answered,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Marriage is indeed a great gift, and not one for everybody.  I write as a never-married man who is content to remain unattached.  It is good that I am not a Mormon, for my single state would place me at a great spiritual disadvantage within that tradition.  But, as William Barclay wrote in Volume 2 of his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

…there are those who have taken upon themselves voluntarily vows of chastity, celibacy, purity, poverty, abstinence, continence.  That will not be the way for the ordinary man, but the world would be a poorer place were it not for those who accept the challenge to travel alone for the sake of the work of Christ.  (Page 208)

Here are links to other posts pertaining to divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

KRT

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Now, for my main point…

The reading from Joshua is the first part of a speech which continues with the devotion for Saturday in the week of Proper 14, Year 1.  So, to help provide a hint of what verses 1-13 build up to, I have extended the reading by one verse:

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

That is the original purpose of the many laws of the covenant.  It is possible to become lost in the details of any elaborate law code, thereby reducing morality to a check list.  But that misses the point and evades the spirit of the law.  We human beings are as we think, for actions (excluding accidents) flow from attitudes.  And both the Old and New Testaments tell us to God fully and our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  So let us avoid becoming legalistic, lost amid the trees while deluding ourselves into thinking that we are practicing righteousness.

Let us consider the issue of divorce, for example.  The Law of Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife for almost any reason, but he had to issue a certificate of divorce.  And she had the right to remarry in such an event.  The assumed reason in the Mosaic Law was adultery, but the letter of the law did not specify this.  So, in a highly patriarchal age, a woman might find herself at great economic risk due to the whims of an uncaring man.  Jesus condemned this.

There was also a practice called Korban, by which a person gave property to the religious establishment, for the support of the professional religious.  This was often noble and well-intentioned, but not always.  Some used this as a way of depriving family members with whom they were at odds of financial support.  Jesus condemned this, too.

Many of us in the human species like to game any given system for own advantage, fulfilling the letter of a specified legal or religious system to appear good.  But we do not fool God when we act for selfish reasons.  God tells us to love each other, to care for each other, to support each other in our common life together.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  How is that for an original principle?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS AT PLOMBARIOLA

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS BAKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 1o, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

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Posted October 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Joshua 24, Matthew 19, Psalm 136

Tagged with , , ,

Regarding Faith and Reason   Leave a comment

Above:  Richard Hooker, Who Gave Us the Anglican Three Legged Stool:  Scripture, Tradition, and Reason

I have observed over the years how, particularly in Bible Belt, my geographical context, many people suspend critical thinking in matters of faith and religion.  This is an unfortunate human tendency.  We are the species Homo sapiens sapiens.  Our Latin name indicates that we think.  So, why do so many of us choose not to do this?

One reason is the power of tradition, doctrine, and dogma, which combine to induce the fear of an unpleasant afterlife in many.  A common characteristic of many religions is the injunction to believe X, Y, and Z…or else.  This, I think, is mostly a social control mechanism of human origin.

I do not say, however, that we should believe just anything.  My library contains many books that contain theology I describe charitably as “interesting” because that term is polite compared to my actual opinion.  (“B.S.” is the abbreviation for my actual opinion of certain theology.)  The Book of Mormon, for example, is “interesting.”  Also, it contradicts archeology.  I side with the archeologists.  Yet one aspect of Mormonism is the downplaying of critical thinking (and the emphasizing of having faith) in cases of conflicts between Mormon teaching with science and history.

I cannot divorce faith and reason, however.  So I reject The Book of Mormon as rubbish and a bad forgery.  So I accept the reality of the biological processes of evolution through natural selection.  So I accept the fossil record and recognize that the beginning of Genesis is not a science text.  (The first few chapters of Genesis teach me profound truths about human nature and divine nature–that God is one and possessed of a stable personality; that we bear the image of God, with some free will–and that is wonderful. )

The Episcopal Church, to which I belong, has a poster bearing an image of Jesus.  It says, “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.”  This summarizes much of what I like about my adopted denomination.  Anglican teaching rejects Sola Scriptura, or scripture alone, the standard of many Protestants.  Rather, we learn that we must use tradition and reason in addition to scripture.  I agree with this.

My intellect constitutes an essential element of my life of faith.  There I recognize part of the image of God within myself.  There I see what separates me from many other sentient species.  So I refuse to discount the importance of the intellect in relation to tradition, scripture, dogma, doctrine, or emotion, the latter of which is especially popular among many Evangelicals.

No, I prefer a cooler, more intellectual Christianity, in contrast to an ecstatic, experience-oriented variety.  This is who I am.  Here I stand.  I will do no other.   I can do no other.

Faith and reason are different ways of knowing.  Reason carries me far–to the foot the cross, in fact.  There faith takes over.  The resurrection of Jesus is an essential element of Christianity.  Without it I would have belong to another tradition.  I cannot prove that the resurrection occurred, nor can I prove that it did not occur.  It resides in the jurisdiction of faith.  Through faith I believe–I trust–that it happened.  Through faith I interpret its meaning.  The fact that the resurrection is a matter of faith, not documented history, does not bother me.

I have harbored more doubts that certain answers for years.  This does not concern me, for asking questions increases the probability of finding answers.  And even if I do not find certain answers that is fine, too, for I do not need to know everything or most things.  God knows them, and I am content with that.

Years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State College, Valdosta, Georgia, two dorm mates (of Evangelical persuasions) told me that I think too much.  I should be content to believe–just believe–they said.  One of these individuals informed me that my excessive thinking was sending me to Hell.  I restrained my tongue and did not offer to save her a seat, but I had no more substantial conversations with her.  I had nothing else to say to her.

I reject all forms of fundamentalism.  They shut down debate and ignore evidence that runs afoul of the fundamentalist’s established worldview.  Religious fundamentalism is just as bad as atheistic fundamentalism, such as that of Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, or Richard Dawkins.  All these varieties represent extremes, and truth, I have found, is seldom at the extremes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2009

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR