Archive for the ‘Mutuality’ Tag

Mutuality in God X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Beatitudes

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, you know that we cannot withstand

the dangers which surround us. 

Strengthen us in body and spirit so that, with your help,

we may be able to overcome the weakness

that our sin has brought upon us;

through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God,

you know that we are set among so many and great dangers

that by reason of the weakness of our fallen nature

we cannot always stand upright;

grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers

and carry us through all temptations;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 25

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sacred ritual is part of the Law of Moses.  So are moral mandates regarding how people ought to treat each other.  A sacred ritual is not a talisman.  To treat it as such is to make a mockery of it.

“The man” of Psalm 1:1 is a student of the Torah.  He, in the original cultural setting and in the Hebrew text, is a man.  In my cultural setting, that role is no longer gender-specific, for the better.  Certain details change, according to physical and temporal setting.  Others remain constant, though, for better or worse.  For example, “the man” of Psalm 1:1 is stable.  The language of positions in Psalm 1:1 is interesting.  “The man” contrasts with the impious, who are in motion–walking, following, and standing–before finally sitting down in the seat of scoffers.  True stability exists in God alone.

The readings from the New Testament tell us that divine values differ from dominant human values.  Conventional wisdom may get some details right.  After all, a broken clock is right twice a day.  Yet conventional wisdom tends to be foolishness.  The ethics of the Beatitudes, for example, look like folly to “the world.”

Micah 6 contrasts with what God has done with what people have done, collectively.  The Bible frequently concerns itself with collective actions and inactions.  My Western culture, with its individualistic emphasis, does not know how to comprehend collective guilt, sin, and repentance.  Yet the Bible does.  Mutuality, not individualism, is a Biblical virtue.  Remember, O reader, that in three of the four readings for this Sunday, the emphasis is on “we,” not “me.”  Furthermore, “we” and “me” coexist in Psalm 1.

The emphasis on “we” terrifies me.  I may try to follow God daily, to practice the Golden Rule, et cetera.  Yet I also belong to a community, a culture, a society, a nation-state, and a species.  The sins of others may cause me to suffer because of my group memberships–community, culture, society, nation-state, and species.  Recall, O reader, that the population in Micah 6 addressed included pious people.  Remember, O reader, that not all Christians in Corinth were querulous jerks.

Ponder, O reader, how we–the “we” of wherever you live–can improve relative to Micah 6:8.  How can “we” do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with God?

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Covenant People, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 42:1-7

Psalm 45:7-9

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan

you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. 

Make all who are baptized into Christ

faithful in their calling to be your children

and inheritors with him of everlasting life;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Father in heaven, as at the baptism in the Jordan River

you once proclaimed Jesus your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit,

grant that all who are baptized in his name may

faithfully keep the covenant into which they have been called,

boldly confess their Savior,

and with him be heirs of life eternal;

through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The people of God–Jews and Gentiles–have a divine mandate to be a light to the nations, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people.  The ethics of the Law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus value and mandate equity and justice, both collectively and individually, as a matter of conduct and policy.

The servant in Isaiah 42:1-7 is the personification of the people of Israel, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  Yet much of Christian Tradition interprets that servant as Christ.  Read Isaiah 42:6-7, O reader:

I have created you, and appointed you 

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

I have checked this text in five French translations.  “You” is singular in all of them, for it refers to the personified servant.  Yet 43:6b-7a refers to “a covenant people.”

Possible reasons for Jesus, sinless, taking St. John the Baptist’s baptism for repentance for forgiveness of sins have long filled minds and commentaries.  Maybe Jesus was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and authors of the four canonical Gospels attempted to obscure this potentially embarrassing fact.  Perhaps Jesus was identifying with sinful human beings.  (One may legitimately accept more than one rationale.)

Regardless of how one accounts for the baptism of Jesus, the baptized belong to that covenant people described in Isaiah 42:1-7.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a demanding divine mandate to serve, to live in mutuality, and to keep the Golden Rule.  To belong to the covenant people, as Gentiles, is to carry the divine mandate to love like Jesus, for Christ’s sake and glory.  To belong to the covenant people is to carry a glorious and crucial calling.

Yet a certain bumper sticker rings true too often.  It reads:

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

I hear that saying and think:

Yes, I feel like that sometimes.

Perhaps you, O reader, feel like that sometimes, too.  Many of the members of the covenant community have behaved badly and betrayed the mandate in Isaiah 42:6b-7a.  That is sad, as well as counter-productive to the effort to aid people in their walk with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Precious to God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Tabernacle

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147:13-21 (LBW) or Psalm 147:12-20 (LW)

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

John 1:1-18

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, you have filled us with the

new light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. 

Let the light of our faith shine in all that we do;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, our Maker and Redeemer,

who wonderfully created and in the incarnation of your Son

yet more wondrously restored our human nature,

grant that we may ever be alive in him who made himself to be like us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 19

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The people of God are precious to God.  All people are precious to God, of course.  I focus on the people of God in this post because that is the axis of the through line in the assigned readings.

The readings from Isaiah and the Psalms, in the context of the Babylonian Exile, speak of the vindication of the Jewish exiles.  Reading the first portion of Psalm 147 augments this theme.

Ephesians 1:5 refers to God having predestined certain people through Jesus Christ “for adoption toward him.”  Adopted children of God receive an inheritance.  The audience in the Epistle to the Ephesians was Gentile Christians.

John 1:14, in the Greek text (not necessarily in most English translations) speaks of the Word (Logos) of God–Jesus–pitching a tent in humankind.  This tent is the Tent of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9).  John 1:14 contains echoes of Joel 3:7; Zechariah 2:10; Ezekiel 43:7; Sirach 24:8; and other passages.

When the Prologue proclaims that the Word made his dwelling among men, we are being told that the flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of the ancient Tabernacle.  The Gospel will present Jesus as the replacement of the Temple (ii.19-22), which is a variation of the same theme.

Raymond E. BrownThe Gospel According to John I-XII (1966), 33

The verb meaning “to pitch a tent” or “to dwell” occurs also in Revelation 7:15 (to refer to God’s presence in Heaven) and in Revelation 21:3:

He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.

God is present among us.  Do we notice?  God may seem thoroughly camouflaged, given the way the world is.  Yet God, who has long been present, will not depart.  People are precious to God.  Do we notice?  Do we consider others precious to God?  Do we think of ourselves as precious to God?

How we think of ourselves and others dictates how we treat others.  This underpins the Golden Rule.  This also underpins mutuality, a Biblical virtue.

So, how do we think of ourselves and others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BUNNETT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUANA MARIA CONDESA LLUCH, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HANDMAIDS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, PROTECTRESS OF WORKERS

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY RICHARD MATTHEWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ORGANIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Eschatological Ethics XIII   1 comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-75016

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-14 (15-19)

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up in our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for your only Son. 

By his coming give us strength in our conflicts

and shed light on our path through the darkness of the world; 

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son

that at his second coming we may worship him in purity;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For improved comprehension of Isaiah 11:1-10, O reader, back up to 10:32b-34.  There we read that God will destroy the Neo-Assyrian Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation.  Isaiah 10:34 likens that empire to majestic cedars of Lebanon, cut down by God.  Then Isaiah 11 opens with the image of the Messiah, depicted as a twig sprouting from a tree stump.

The Messiah–the ruler of the fully-realized Kingdom of God in Isaiah 11–has much in common with the ideal king in Psalm 72.  Both monarchs govern justly.  They come to the aid of the oppressed and punish the oppressors.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance.

The ethics of the Kingdom of God–whether partially-realized or fully-realized–contradict the conventional wisdom of “the world” and its great powers.  The Roman Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation, continues as a metaphor to apply to oppressive powers–not only governments–in our time.  Spiritual complacency remains a problem.  And how we mere mortals treat each other continues to interest God.

Real life is frequently messy and replete with shades of gray.  Sometimes one must choose the least bad option, for no good options exist.  Whatever one does, somebody may suffer or perhaps die, for example.  We live in an imperfect world.  But we can, by grace, make the best decisions possible then act accordingly.  We can, by grace, love one another selflessly and self-sacrificially.  We can, by grace, act based on mutuality and the Golden Rule.  We can, by grace, welcome those whom God welcomes.  We can, by grace, confront those whom God confronts.  We can, by grace, make the most good from an imperfect situation.

May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Eschatological Ethics XII   1 comment

Above:  Isaiah Wall, United Nations, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122 (LBW) or Psalm 50:1-15 (LW)

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44 or Matthew 21:1-11

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Protect us by your strength and

save us from the threatening dangers of our sins,

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

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, 

and come that by your protection

we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins

and be saved by your mighty deliverance;

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 10

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When I compose a post based on lectionary readings, I prefer to write about a theme or themes running through the assigned readings.  The readings for this Sunday fall on the axis of divine judgment and mercy, in balance.  Hellfire-and-damnation preachers err in one direction.  Those who focus so much on divine mercy that they downplay judgment err in the polar opposite direction.

Isaiah 2:2-4, nearly identical to Micah 4:1-4 (or the other way around), predicts what, in Christian terms, is the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The soaring, positive imagery of Isaiah 2:2-4 precedes divine judgment on the impious and impenitent–those who revel in the perils of their sins.  There is no place for such people in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

Psalm 50 focuses on divine judgment.  YHWH is just, keeping faith with the “devoted ones” who have kept the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  YHWH is just, prioritizing these moral mandates over ritual practices.  Rituals still matter, of course; they are part of the Law of Moses, too.  Yet these rites are never properly talismans, regardless of what people may imagine vainly.  People will still reap what they have sown.

Psalm 122 is a hymn of a devout pilgrim who had recently returned from Jerusalem.  The text fits neatly with Isaiah 2:1-4.  Psalm 122 acknowledges the faithfulness of God and the reality of “thrones of judgment.”

Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 21:1-11, and Matthew 24:37-44, like Isaiah 2:1-4, exist within the expectation of the establishment or unveiling of the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  We read of Jesus acting out Second Zechariah’s prediction of the Messiah’s arrival at Jerusalem at the fulfillment of time (Zechariah 9:9-10) in Matthew 21:1-11.  Romans 13:1-14 and Matthew 24:37-44 remind us to straighten up and fly right, so to speak.

St. Paul the Apostle identified the resurrection of Jesus as the dawn of a new historical era.  Naturally, therefore, he taught that salvation had come nearer.  St. Paul also expected Jesus to return soon–nearly 2000 years ago from our perspective, O reader.  St. Paul’s inaccurate expectation has done nothing to minimize the importance of his ethical counsel.

Forbidden fruits frequently prove alluring, perhaps because they are forbidden.  Their appeal may wear off, however.  This is my experience.  That which really matters is consistent with mutuality, the Law of Moses, and the Golden Rule.  That which really matters builds up the common good.  This standard is about as tangible as any standard can be.

Let us be careful, O reader, not to read into Romans 13:14 that which is not there.  I recall Babette’s Feast (1987), a delightful movie set in a dour, Pietistic “Sad Dane” Lutheran settlement.  Most of the characters are unwilling even to enjoy their food, literally a “provision for the flesh.”  One can live honorably as in the day while enjoying the pleasures of life.

Advent is a bifurcated season.  It begins with mostly somber readings.  By the end of Advent, however, the readings are more upbeat.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do the two halves of Advent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Growing Up to Be Jesus   2 comments

Above:  Christ Among the Doctors, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART V

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 2:41-52

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THEY SAY HE’S S’POSED TO BE THE SON OF THE LORD,

BUT HE’S KEEPING JUST AS QUIET AS A MOUSE.

HE’S WAITING FOR A CALL FROM THE MAN UPSTAIRS,

BUT HE LIVES IN A ONE-STORY HOUSE.

–Tom Key and Russell Treyz, Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), 26

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Lucan narrative skips from the infancy of Jesus to his late boyhood.  Jesus was twelve years old–not yet Bar Mitzvahed.

This story contains two major points that interest me:

  1. Jesus’s awareness of who he was in relation to God, and
  2. the depth of Christ’s knowledge and perception at that young age.

The question of why Jesus stayed behind in the Temple, instead of rejoining the caravan to Nazareth, without asking the permission of Sts. Joseph and Mary misses the point of the story.

Also, St. Mary’s lack of perception regarding Jesus seems odd, given what we have read so far in the Gospel of Luke.  Anyway, intellectual knowledge is not visceral knowledge.

The Church, via ecumenical councils, determined Christological orthodoxy.  The formula of Jesus being fully human and fully divine, with all the implications thereof, has, therefore, become part of the inheritance of Christian theology.

Both elements–human and divine–come to the fore here:

This brief account provides a window into what young Jesus must have been like.  One may reasonably wonder what the consensus regarding Jesus must have been when he was a child.  Yet one must avoid the ridiculous extremes of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, with Jesus’s bathwater healing a sick child, for example.  The Infancy Gospel of Thomas focuses on young Christ learning about responsibilities.  In superhero terms, one can apply Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter Parker to the Jesus of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas:

With great power comes great responsibility.

I suppose that Jesus must not have blended in well while growing up.  I imagine neighbors looking askance at and muttering about what an oddball he was.  Despite the lip service many people give to marching to the beat of a different drummer, many of these same people prefer conformity.

I know; my stubborn refusal to conform–my insistence on being myself, not any one of the persons many other people me to be–has caused me much difficulty.  It contributed to the abortion of my doctoral program at the Department of History at The University of Georgia.

In a different sense than in the case of Jesus, each of us is a child of God.  In Pauline theology, the term for an heir of God is “son of God.”  Pauline writings also include the neuter “children of God” when inheritance is not an issue.

O reader, regardless of what others may say and do, strive to be the best possible version of yourself in God daily.  Be the person God created you to be, not the person anyone would feel comfortable with you being.  You exist for the glory of God and the benefit of others, not the maximizing of others’ comfort levels.

Toward this lofty goal, I offer some advice.  Generalizations are nice, but details are better:

  1. Strive to live by the Golden Rule.
  2. Before speaking or acting, ask yourself how your words or actions will affect others.
  3. Strive to leave the world and your patch of it better than you found it.
  4. Remain open to God’s surprises.  You will get some details right, if only by accident and the law of averages.  God’s judgment and mercy surpasses you, even on your best days.

The Lucan narrative jumps ahead again after 2:52.  One need not speculate wildly about what Jesus did all those years left off the page.  (Many have.)  I suspect the truth of the matter is mundane–nothing to write home about, to quote an old saying.  This may be significant; God is present in mundane details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF KANTY, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARBEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCHWING, U.S. ORGANIST AND MUSIC EDUCATOR; “THE GRAND OLD MAN OF MARYLAND MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BALDWIN, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Walking in the Light   Leave a comment

Above:  Ben Burton Park, Athens, Georgia, November 11, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XIV

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 John 1:1-2:29

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Circa 100 C.E., a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, writing as that apostle, addressed a Johannine Christian community.   That church had recently suffered a schism; Gnostics had broken away.

Gnosticism was problematic for several reasons.

  1. It understood knowing to be a saving deed.
  2. This allegedly salvific knowledge was a secret.  Therefore, Gnostics were self-appointed spiritual elites.
  3. Gnosticism understood all that was material to be evil.  This doctrine refuted the Incarnation and all the spin-off Christological doctrines–the Resurrection and the Atonement, in particular.  In Gnostic thought, Jesus only seemed to have a body, and another man occupied the cross intended for Christ.
  4. The cosmology and God-concept of Gnosticism were convoluted.  That, however, is a topic for another time and post.

The author of First John knew the Gospel of John well.  He wrote in Johannine terms.  The opening of First John imitated John 1:1-18.  The Johannine definition of eternal life as knowing God via Jesus carried over.  So did reserving the language of divine sonship for Jesus and referring to Christians as “children of God.”  One may also recognize the Johannine motif of indwelling, present in First John.

One who has read the General Epistles and who has a good memory of them may read 1 John 1:1-2:29 and detect themes covered elsewhere in the General Epistles.  Straighten up and fly right.  Good and evil are fighting in the world.  Do not give into evil, forbidden desires.  Live in mutuality.  Cling to Jesus.  Beware of false teachers.  These false teachers are Antichrists, for they deny Christ.

Sin is a major topic in First John, a subtle text.  Some of the subtleties are so subtle that one may easily miss them.  For the sake of clarity, I choose to cover part of 1 John 3, so for as it seems to contradict 1 John 1 and 2.

If we say we have no sin in us,

we are deceiving ourselves

and refusing to admit the truth;

but if we acknowledge our sins,

then God who is faithful and just

will forgive our sins and purify us

from everything that is wrong.

To say that we have never sinned

is to call God a liar

and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,

to stop you sinning;

but if anyone should sin,

we have an advocate with the Father,

Jesus Christ, who is just;

he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,

but not only us,

but the whole world.

–1 John 1:8-2:2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Consider the following passage, too, O reader:

Surely everyone who entertains this hope

must purify himself, must try to be pure as Christ.

Anyone who sins at all

breaks the law,

because to sin is to break the law.

Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin,

and that in him there is no sin;

and anyone who sins

has never seen him or known him.

My children, do not let anyone lead you astray:

to live a holy life

is to be holy just as he is holy;

to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil,

since the devil was a sinner from the beginning.

It was to undo all that the devil has done

that the Son of God appeared.

No one who as been begotten by God sins;

because God’s seed remains in him,

he cannot sin when he has been begotten by God.

–1 John 3:3-9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

A superficial reading of the two passages leads one to conclude that they contradict each other.  Yet a close reading reveals the logical progression.  Jesus destroys sin.  Therefore, to the extent one is in Christ, one cannot sin.  To the extent one is in tune with God, one cannot sin.  In the original context of First John, the second passage does not argue for the sinlessness of Christians.  Rather, 3:9 is:

…the strongest, most principles denial that sinfulness could ever be reckoned a birth certificate of godliness.

–C. Clifton Black, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1998), 413

The author of First John was apparently arguing against false teachers who held that there was a warrant for sin in the Christian life.  This false teaching continued to cause confusion in the germane Johannine community after the schism.

Perhaps paraphrasing 1 John 3:9, outside of the original context, helps:

To the extent that one is in Christ, one is not and cannot be a slave to sin.

The light of Christ dispels the darkness of evil, in other words.  May we–individually and collectively–live our lives in the light (1 John 1:7).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETRUS HERBERT, GERMAN MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF CARL DOVING, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ALLEN, ENGLISH INGHAMITE THEN GLASITE/SANDEMANIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HIS GREAT-NEPHEW, OSWALD ALLEN, ENGLISH GLASITE/SANDEMANIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA KRATOCHWIL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MARTYR, 1942

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

False Teachers, Part III   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jude

2 Peter 2:1-22

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The second chapter of Second Peter expands on the Epistle of Jude.  Almost all of the points in Jude exist in 2 Peter 2.

One may recognize the thematic relationship of 2 Peter 1 to Jude and 2 Peter 2.  False teachers, evil desires, and spiritually undisciplined lives provide the connective tissue.

We also read another repetition of the Biblical motif that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  In other words, we will reap what we have sown.  Grace is free, not cheap; it mandates a faithful response.  Yes, God imposes mandates.  Freedom is a gift to use properly, not to abuse and misuse.

References to the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha abound in Jude and 2 Peter 2.  I choose to explain the references:

  1. Jude 5 refers to Numbers 14 and 26:64-65.  Apostasy is possible, and carries with it the loss of salvation.
  2. Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4 refer to Genesis 6:1-4.  An elaborate version of the story of the “watchers” exists in 1 Enoch 6-19 (especially chapter 10).
  3. Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-7 refer to Genesis 19:1-25, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The “unnatural vice” is rape, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and of a person or an angel.  Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-7 present the scenario opposite of Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4, in which angels lusted after human women.
  4. The combination of the preceding two points indicates the grave consequences of violating God’s intended order for creation.
  5. Jude 9, drawing on Exodus 2:11-12, indicates familiarity with the Assumption/Testament of Moses, a text from the first century C.E.  Between one-third and one-half of that text is missing.  The lost portion includes the section depicting St. Michael the Archangel disputing with Satan over the body of Moses and quoting Zechariah 3:2:  “May the Lord rebuke you!”  Even angels do not rebuke Satan in Zechariah 3:2, Jude 9, and the Assumption/Testament of Moses.  The lesson in Jude 9 is that, if we mere mortals revile angels, we sin.
  6. Jude 11 refers to Cain (Genesis 4:8-16), Balaam (Numbers 16:1-25), and Korah (Numbers 31:16).  2 Peter 2:15-16 refers to Balaam and his talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-33).  Rebellion against God leads to punishment and reproof.
  7. 2 Peter 2:5 refers to Genesis 6:17.
  8. Jude 14-15 refers to 1 Enoch 1:9.

These false teachers did more than teach falsehoods; they behaved scandalously at agape meals (Jude 12, 2 Peter 2:13-14).  These false teachers doomed themselves and disrupted faith community.

I approach Jude and 2 Peter 2 from a particular background.  I grew up feeling like the resident heretic.  My heresies were asking “too many” questions, being an intellectual, accepting science and history, harboring Roman Catholic tendencies, and not being a Biblical literalist.  Some in my family regard me as a Hell-bound heretic.  I embrace the label “heretic.”  I even own a t-shirt that reads,

HERETIC.

I approach the label “false teacher” cautiously.  One ought to make accusations with great caution, and based on evidence.  False teachers abound.  I am not shy about naming them and their heresies.  These include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Prosperity Theology, and the excesses of Evangelicalism.  The list is long.  The standards of orthodoxy and orthopraxy are as simple and difficult as the Incarnation, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus; the Atonement; and the Golden Rule.  Proper love–in mutuality–builds up.  It does not tear people down.  Proper orthodoxy maintains divine standards and is generous, not stingy.  It is loving, not hateful.  And it leads to humility before God and human beings.

I affirm that I am doctrinally correct about some matters and wrong regarding others.  I also affirm that I do not know when I am wrong and when I am right.  The life of Christian discipleship is about trust in God, not about certainty.  The quest for certainty, when faith–trust–in God is called for is an idolatrous and psychologically comforting effort.  Proper Christian confidence–grounded in Christ alone–says:

I may be wrong, but I act as if I am right.  I can neither prove nor disprove this article of faith, but I act as if I am right.

May you, O reader, and I trust in the faithfulness of God.  May we walk humbly with God and live with our fellow human beings in loving, respectful mutuality.  We can do all of the above only via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HONORIUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF JOANNA P. MOORE, U.S. BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY RAMABAI, PROPHETIC WITNESS AND EVANGELIST IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD CHALLONER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, RELIGIOUS WRITER, TRANSLATOR, CONTROVERSIALIST, PRIEST, AND TITULAR BISHOP OF DOBERUS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

False Teachers, Part II   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART XI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Peter 1:1-21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The pseudonymous author, of the second century C.E., presenting himself as St. Simon Peter, followed a practice his culture accepted.  This author, in the first chapter of Second Peter, made some timeless points.

I like the translation of verse 4 in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):

…to escape corruption in a world that is sunk in vice.

The variation of this line, in the Vulgate, translated as:

…the corruption of the vice that is in the world.

My survey of other translations yields mostly “lust” in lieu of “vice.”  However, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers:

…after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

In textual context and the cultural context of Hellenistic Judaism, the soul that escapes from this corruption participates in the divine nature and becomes incorrupt.  Christians, therefore, escape the fate of those who abuse their freedom and fall prey to corruption.

“Lust,” “vice,” or “evil desire,” depending on the translation one reads, indicates desire for the forbidden.  This desire may be sexual some or much of the time, but is not solely sexual in nature.  “Evil desire” is a fine translation, in this context.  Forbidden fruit is frequently the most popular kind of fruit.  My experience teaches me that forbidden fruits become boring relatively quickly.  The satisfying path for the long term is the road of the godly and the merely decent.  It is the road 1:5-11 explains.  Divine law does not forbid building up each other in mutuality.

The targets of 1:19-21 were false teachers.  Their class of people has existed at least since the days of the Hebrew Bible; prophets of God clashed with false prophets.  In the context of eschatology, apocalyptic expectations, “Peter” condemned false teachers who argued against the parousia.  The scriptural context of 2 Peter 1:19-21, replete with allusions to Numbers 24:17, Revelation 2:28, Revelation 22:16, Jeremiah 23:16-22, Ezekiel 13:1-7, Genesis 40:8, and 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 10:43, made the points of eschatology and the divine source of prophecy plain.

False teachers and prophets persist.  Many identify themselves as orthodox Christians.  Some of these retain audiences despite having made predictions of the Second Coming and lived long enough to witness the failure of their predictions.  I leave details of the parousia entirely to God.  Trying to live properly one day at a time can prove sufficiently challenging much of the time.  I have no time to spare to obsess about prophecy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Eschatological Ethics X   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART X

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Peter 4:7-5:14

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The author of First Peter, who wrote between 70 and 90 C.E., expected Christ’s Second Coming to occur soon.

I write in late 2021 of the Common Era.  History’s verdict on that expectation is plain.

The ethics of 1 Peter 4:7-5:14 stand the test of time, however.  So does the caution against apostasy.  Sadly, persecution has never ceased to be a reality for Christians somewhere, at any given moment.  The imagery of wrapping up in humility and serving each other (5:5) summarizes the best way to live in family and community.  Mutuality before God, upon whom all of us depend, is the superior strategy for creating and maintaining the common good and resisting evil.

Thank you, O reader, for being by my side during this journey through First Peter.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to Jude and Second Peter.  (Jude is a source for Second Peter.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEHU JONES, JR., AFRICAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD MCGLYNN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS TURNER PALGRAVE, ANGLICAN POET, ART CRITIC, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH HOSKINS, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LORENZO RUIZ AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES AND MARTYRS IN JAPAN, 1637

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 28, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 4, 1 Peter 5

Tagged with ,