Archive for the ‘N. T. Wright’ Tag

Images of Gods   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

Image in the Public Domain

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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 life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26

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The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-29-year-c-humes/

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What Kind of King?   4 comments

Above: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 1

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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 and Everlasting God, who hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross,

that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;

mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 157

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Zechariah 9:9-14

Psalm 24

Galatians 2:16-21 or 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 19:29-44

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The readings for Palm Sunday, taken together, present a contrast between expectations and immediate reality.

The prophecy in Zechariah 9:9-14 is of the Messiah returning on the Day of the Lord.  (The text was surely in the minds of many supporters and opponents of Jesus during the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus was NOT keeping a low profile.   The week of Passover was a dangerous time not to keep a low profile in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.)

Psalm 24 is a liturgical text for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant.  The text contains parts for two alternating choirs.  Perhaps one could not get more triumphant than such a formal procession for a very long time, certainly pre-Easter 29 C.E. or so.

Yet the Romans remained in power for centuries after that day.  In that manner, they won, or seemed to win.  On the other hand, Jesus did not remain dead for long.  In that regard, the Roman Empire lost.

If one answers that all Jews of the time shared one Messianic hope, one errs.  Choose any population, O reader; you will find variation within it.  Nevertheless, if one thinks that the expectation that the Messiah would be a conquering hero was commonplace, one is correct.  This commonplace idea of Messiahship is one against which the Gospel of Mark argues.

What kind of king is Jesus?  He is not the conquering hero.  And as Bishop N. T. Wright points out, Yahweh will be the king after the end of this age.  Jesus is the king of salvation, but Yahweh is the king of the ages.  The Western Church even observes Christ the King Sunday.

I understand the appeal of Messiah as conquering hero.  I also know one finds it in certain prophecies, including Zechariah 9:9-14.  That must wait, however.  For now, we have the Prince of Peace, who laid down his life to a violent power.

Does God confuse us by defying our expectations at times or even most of the time?  If so, we stand in the company of a myriad.  We can argue with God’s choices or we can revel in them, if not understand them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND CONDUCTOR

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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Christ and the Syrophoenician Woman   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and the Woman of Canaan, by Michael Angelo Immenraet

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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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 seest the helpless misery of our fallen life;

vouchsafe unto us, we humbly beseech thee, both the outward and inward defense of thy guardian care;

that we may be shielded from the evils which assault the body,

and be kept pure from all thoughts that harm and pollute the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 148

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Isaiah 45:20-25

Psalm 32

Romans 2:1-10

Matthew 15:21-28

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Repentance is the theme of Lent, historically a time during which notorious sinners, penitent, prepared to return to the full fellowship of the church.  Changing one’s mind and turning one’s back on sins, barriers we erect between ourselves and God, is essential before one can deepen one’s relationship with God and grow into one’s potential in God.  The readings from Psalm 32 and Romans 2 cover that material more eloquently than I can paraphrase them.

Another theme in this week’s collection of pericopes is Gentiles worshiping the one true God.  We read about this in Isaiah 45 before we move along to the frequently misinterpreted story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28.

I realize that my orthodoxy resembles heresy to many in the Bible Belt of the United States.  (I live in the Bible Belt.)  I stand within the larger Christian tradition–one that embraces critical (in the highest meaning of that word) analysis of the Bible and that accepts both science and history.  My heroes include Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who said,

The Bible tells us the way to go to Heaven, not the way the heavens go.

I consider fossils, rock layers, and other scientific evidence, and understand that the universe and this planet are much older than six millennia, and that we human beings, in all our stages of evolution, are recent, in terms of geological time.  I cannot imagine a few million years.  Neither can I imagine many millions and billions of years.  I like to ask questions, especially those that prompt many fundamentalists and evangelicals to give me hard stares and become concerned about my salvation.  Nevertheless, I am fairly orthodox.

I, as an orthodox Christian, acknowledge the sinlessness of Jesus.  I also affirm that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, not God with skin on, without any humanity.  Furthermore, I read Matthew 15:21-28 not only in the context of the consensus of ancient ecumenical councils, but also in the context of the rest of Matthew 15 and of the Gospels as a whole.  He liked to dine with outcasts, notorious sinners, and other “bad company,” did he not?

Consider, O reader, that, in the narrative, Jesus had recently argued with some Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem about ritual purity functioning as a distraction from moral responsibilities to relatives.  In that context, our Lord and Savior had decreed that what comes out of one’s mouth makes one’s defiled–common, as J. B. Phillips (1906-1982) translated the germane Greek verb.  To be pure was uncommon.  Impurity was ubiquitous; rituals for becoming ritually pure were also ubiquitous.

In narrative, Jesus then voluntarily withdrew to Gentile territory.  He was not trying to avoid Gentiles.  Our Lord and Savior’s seemingly harsh words to the Syrophoenician woman were not insults, and she did not change his mind.  No, Jesus tested her verbally; he wanted her to reply as she did.  Her answer pleased him.  I understand that “little bitch” (a literal translation from the Greek text) does not sound nice.  It is certainly rude when one intends to insult.  I argue, of course, that this was not the case in the story.

In the rest of Matthew 15 Jesus healed people before conducting another feeding of the multitude–4000 men, plus women and children–for the Gentiles.

…and they glorified the God of Israel.

–Matthew 15:31d, The New American Bible (1991)

I, standing in a tradition that dates to the Church Fathers, affirm that the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus meant, among other truths, that the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did not know all that the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did.  This is an orthodox Christian position.  So is my interpretation of Matthew 15:21-28.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus was of Israel and that the proclamation of the message was first to Israel.  The Gospel of Matthew also includes the Great Commission (which includes Gentiles) in Chapter 28.

Jesus handled the Syrophoenician’s woman’s case better than his Apostles did; they wanted to send her away.  Christ commended her–a foreigner and a Gentile–for her faith and healed her daughter.

I wish that, in passages such as Matthew 15:21-28, the author had mentioned tones of voices, which can change the meaning of words.  Perhaps, if the author (“Matthew,” whoever he was; probably not the apostle) had done so, many generations of Christians would have avoided bad sermons on this pericope, as well as misinterpretations in commentaries and Sunday School lessons.

[Aside:  Today, March 24, 2020, I consulted N. T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone, Year A (2011), focused on the Gospel of Matthew.  Even he thought that Jesus was insulting the woman.  How did I, of all people, become more orthodox than N. T. Wright on a point of interpretation? (Start playing the theme to The Twilight Zone now.)]

All may come to God through Christ.  All need to repent.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance only God understands; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR, 1980-1992

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHRISTIAN MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LEDDRA, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYR IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY, 1661

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A Glorious Mystery, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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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 life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Zephaniah 3:14-20

Luke 1:67-80

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:57-66

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St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.  Perhaps one would expect the pericope from the Hebrew Bible to be a messianic prophecy, given the cluster of readings for this Sunday in Advent.  One would be mistaken.  Zephaniah wrote of a time when God would rule directly on the planet; the prophet did not write of the Messiah.  Bishop N. T. Wright picked up on God ruling directly on the planet, as in Zephaniah 3.  Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) that God (YHWH), not Jesus, is the king in Biblical eschatological prophecy, even in the New Testament.

I write and think of the Trinity with all due theological caution; I prefer not to commit any of the plethora of Trinitarian heresies.  My reading of the history of Christian theology informs me that well-meaning attempts to explain the Trinity have frequently led to or bolstered heresies.  I also know that I have been guilty of entertaining notions bordering on Sabellianism, although I did not know that term when I did so.  Yes, I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth (the human being whom Roman officials executed on false allegations in 29 or 30 C.E.) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity.  In my mind, “Jesus” runs together with “Second Person of the Trinity” after the beginning of the Incarnation.  Likewise, I refrain from calling the pre-Incarnation Second Person of the Trinity “Jesus” or “Christ,” due to my chronological manner of thinking.  And, when I write “God,” the meaning varies, according to context.  Sometimes I mean the Trinity.  On other occasions, I narrow to the focus to one of the three Persons (literally, “masks,” in Greek) of the Trinity, especially YHWH.  (That is mask, as in a mask a Greek actor used.)  Etymology is one issue.  How accurate Greek word choices are is another matter.  Sometimes language fails us; even our our descriptions cannot always do justice to reality.  I do not attempt to explain the Trinity, a glorious mystery.

How can I explain the Trinity when even orthodox Trinitarian theology makes no sense?  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, right?  Okay.  Then how can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son?  And does one accept or reject the filioque clause?  Orthodox Trinitarian theology, established by a series of Ecumenical Councils, is as close to the Trinitarian reality as one can get in this life.  Nevertheless, The confusion that results from following orthodox Trinitarian theology proves that one should accept the glorious mystery, refrain from overthinking it, and revel in that mystery.  The beautiful reading from Philippians provides some advice for this revelry:

  1. “Let your tolerance be evident to everyone.”
  2. Do not worry; trust in God.
  3. “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.”

The context for this counsel is Christian community, of course.

The translation is The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

May we, in the words of the Larger Westminster Catechism,

glorify God, and fully…enjoy Him forever.

The details of Trinitarian theology, Trinitarian reality, and Messianic prophecy will tend to themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Eschatological Ethics I: Living in Exile at Home   Leave a comment

Above:  The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, whose throne is set eternal in the heavens:

make ready for thy gracious rule the kingdoms of this world, and come with haste, and save us;

that violence and crying may be no more, and righteousness and peace may less thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Zechariah 10:6-12

Romans 13:8-10

Matthew 21:1-13

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Reading of our Lord and Savior’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Advent may seem odd to some, but not to many members of the Moravian Church.  That denomination has a tradition of using the same liturgy for Palm Sunday and the First Sunday of Advent.  The theme of the arrival of the Messiah unites the two occasions.

The theme of being in exile at home unites Zechariah 10:6-12 and Matthew 21:1-13.  In this matter I acknowledge the influence of N. T. Wright, author of Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) on my thinking.

Zechariah is a book in two separate sections:  First Zechariah (Chapters 1-8) and Second Zechariah (Chapters 9-14).  First Zechariah is historically related to and concurrent with Haggai (both chapters of it), and dates, in its current state, from no later than 515 B.C.E.  Second Zechariah, from the late Persian period, dates, in its current state, from the middle 400s B.C.E.

The Persian Empire of that period was hardly an onerous taskmaster of Jews living within its borders.  There were ups and downs, of course, but Persians were, overall, much better to live under than the Assyrians and the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  Nevertheless, in the context of the militarization of the western satrapies during the Greco-Persian wars and the slow economic recovery in the Jewish homeland, many Jews dwelling in their homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  Where was the promised Davidic monarch prophets had predicted?

And where was the promised Davidic monarch in the first century C.E., when the Roman Empire ruled the Jewish homeland and a Roman fortress was next door to the Second Temple?  Roman occupation must have felt like a sort of exile to many Jews living in their homeland.

And where was the promised Kingdom of God/Heaven in 85 C.E. and later, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire in 70 C.E.?  The Kingdom of God was simultaneously of the present and the future–a partially realized reign and realm of God on Earth, but the Kingdom of Heaven was the promised fully realized reign and realm of God on Earth.  (I refer you, O reader, to Jonathan Pennington‘s dismantling of the Dalman consensus, or the ubiquitous argument that, in the Gospel of Matthew, “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution.)

For that matter, where is the promised Kingdom of Heaven today?  We of 2018 live in exile while at home.  Only God can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.

We can, however, live ethically, both collectively and individually.  Love, after all, is the fulfillment of the Law.  May we, therefore, strive to live (both collectively and individually) according to the Golden Rule, and not make a mockery of that commandment by citing doctrine and dogma to excuse violations of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Here I Stand   Leave a comment

January 19, 2016

Above:  One of My Crucifixes, Hanging in the Biblical Studies Section of My Library, January 19, 2016

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For with you is the well of life,

and in your light we see light.

–Psalm 36:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Each of us is, to some extent, a product of his or her upbringing.  I, for example, grew up in a bookish family, a fact for which I give thanks.  One should not be surprised that I have converted my living space into a library or that I prefer to consult books for information when possible.  Such tendencies are natural for me.

I grew up as a fish out of water.  My father was a United Methodist minister in rural southern Georgia, U.S.A., in the Bible Belt.  Yet I have never been an Evangelical Christian nor wanted to become one.  In fact, I came into the world predisposed to become an intellectual, ritualistic Episcopalian, which I have been for more years than I was a Methodist.  Experiences from my youth continue to affect me positively and negatively.  I give thanks for my grounding the scriptures as I bristle at every accusation of committing heresy.  Fortunately, few of those come my way these days, for I have chosen a faith community in which I am unlikely to encounter such allegations.

I have noticed that, after my experimental theological phase in the 1990s and early 2000s, I have settled into a theological position slightly to the right of that yet definitely left of the theological center and in close proximity to that center.  I am, according to the standards of traditionalists of various types, heretical.  At the same time I am, according to postmodernists, conservative.  I remain a product of the Northern Renaissance and the Enlightenment, with the former having a greater influence than the latter.  I am closer theologically to N. T. Wright than to John Dominic Crossan.   I seek to respect the image of God in my fellow human beings, a standard which straddles the left-right divide.  I support marriage equality, shun any phobia aimed at human beings, understand the Biblical mandate for economic justice, and have a cautious attitude toward abortion, which I understand to be a medical necessity in extreme cases, in which it is the least bad decision.  In other circumstances I favor alternatives to abortion.  The most effective and ethical way to make that manifest is not always via legislation.  Furthermore, I see no conflict between sound theology and good science.  In that respect I stand in the best of Roman Catholic tradition.

I stand right of the center liturgically.  I favor, for example, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), the use of modern English in liturgies and Biblical translations, and the singing of verbose, theologically dense hymns.  Praise choruses (“seven-eleven songs,” to use a common term), screens, PowerPoint, guitars, and praise bands disturb me deeply.  Worship is worship, and entertainment is entertainment.  To use language from Marva Dawn, the church should not dumb down to reach out.

There is tradition, and there is tradition.  Some are more important and flexible than others.  The fact that a practice is a tradition or an innovation does not constitute a valid reason to embrace or reject it.  The proper standard is function.  How does a practice work?  Is it the most functional practice for a particular purpose?  Some traditions hold up better over time than others.  And, as one learns by reading the history of liturgy, ancient traditions began as innovations.

Just as tradition is not infallible, neither are scripture and reason.  My careful studies of the Bible have revealed inconsistencies, such as many doublets in the Old Testament and minor details in the four Gospels.  For example, one reads two sets of instructions regarding how many animals to take on Noah’s Ark, two stories of Saul and David falling out with other, two stories of creation, two accounts of the announcement of the birth of Isaac, et cetera.  Consider also the anointing of Jesus in the four Gospels.  Did the woman have a name, and how much do we know about her?  In whose house did this happen?  And which parts of Jesus did she anoint?  The Gospels offer differing answers to those questions.  Nevertheless, the core details of those four accounts are identical.  Biblical inconsistencies do nothing to damage my faith, for I have never expected consistency in every detail of scripture.  I emphasize the forest, not the trees.  As for reason, it is a gift from God can take one far.  One ought to make the most of the best possible uses of it.  Nevertheless, since we mere mortals are fallible, so is our reason.  The balance of scripture, tradition, and reason is a virtue.

The great infallible depository knowledge of God is God, whom we can know partially yet intimately.  Regardless of how well one knows God, there remain limits, for the nature of deity is quite different from human realities.  Most of the nature of deity exceeds the human capacity to comprehend it.

In God alone I place my trust regarding matters of salvation, which I understand to be a process, not an event.  As Martin Luther said well, we who turn to God can trust in the faithfulness of God.  I, as a Christian, affirm that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the historical, incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity (whatever that means; I have learned not to try to untangle the knot of the Trinity) constituted a unique event, the breaking of God into human history as one of us.  Our Lord and Savior’s life–complete with the crucifixion and resurrection–was the means of atonement for sins.  Unfortunately, Hell remains a reality, for many people have rejected the offer of redemption and the accompanying responsibilities.

Here I stand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER, U.S. STATESMAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Being Good Soil, Part I   1 comment

landscape-with-the-parable-of-the-sower

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 2:4b-14

Psalm 130

Luke 8:4-15

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O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

there is plenteous redemption with the LORD,

who shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

–Psalm 130:7-8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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If one focuses on the sower in the Parable of the Sower, one misses the point.  Yes, God is a better gardener in Genesis 2:4b-14 than a sower in Luke 8:4-5, but broadcast sowing, which the parable describes, was commonplace, therefore useful for our Lord and Savior’s parable.  After all, parables did use details from daily life.  And, as Bishop N. T. Wright wrote,

…what Jesus was doing was not commenting on farming problems but explaining the strange way in which the kingdom of God was arriving.

Luke for Everyone (2004), page 93

The emphasis on the parable is on the soils, not the sower.  Donald G. Miller, author of the volume on Luke (1959) in The Layman’s Bible Commentary, was correct to refer to the story as the Parable of the Four Soils.  The parable challenges us to ask ourselves what kind of soil we are, not to question the agricultural method the story mentions.

Yes, I know that the explanation of the parable (verses 11-15) postdates the material preceding and succeeding it and represents a subsequent level of interpretation, but it is a useful level of interpretation.  It tells us that we, to pursue deep spiritual lives in Christ, must not only welcome him but have an excellent attention span for him in a range of circumstances.

What kind of soil are you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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This is post #1300 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-5-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 17, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 2, Luke 8

Tagged with , ,

Sufficiency in God   1 comment

Zerubbabel

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Monday)

Isaiah 44:1-8 (Tuesday)

Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 3:4-11 (Monday)

Acts 2:14-24 (Tuesday)

John 12:34-50 (Wednesday)

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How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you

let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart;

that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:9-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, did not condemn Torah piety.  No, he had harsh words for legalism and its proponents.  Religious authorities, our Lord and Savior said, were teaching the Law of Moses wrongly; he was teaching it correctly.  Thus, when I read the translated words of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, I wondered to which Law he objected and why.  Commentaries told me more about the biases of their authors than those of St. Paul, who, according to scholars of the New Testament, did not use that term consistently in his writings.  That fact does not surprise me, for I know from other sources that the Apostle was uncertain in his Trinitarian theology (aren’t most of us?), for he used the Son and the Holy Spirit interchangeably sometimes.  If one seeks consistency where it is does not exist, one sets oneself up for disappointment.

N. T. Wright wrote in Paul in Fresh Perspective (2005) that the contrast was actually between those who heard the Law of Moses and those who trusted in Jesus.  Thus, Wright continued, in Pauline theology, divine holiness was fatal to people with darkened minds and hardened hearts.  Yet those who have the Holy Spirit do not find divine holiness fatal, Wright wrote on page 123.  One might question that perspective or parts thereof, for the Apostle did write negatively of the Law of Moses or at least of a version of it in his head in epistles.

Anyhow, St. Paul was correct in his point that our power/competence/adequacy/sufficiency (all words I found while comparing translations) comes from God alone.  And, if we accept Bishop Wright’s reading of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, we find a match with John 12:34-50, in which many people who witnesses Jesus performing signs still rejected him.  They had hardened hearts and darkened minds.

You are my witnesses,

Yahweh said in Isaiah 43 and 44 to exiles about to return to their ancestral home.  We are God’s witnesses.  Are we paying attention?  And are we plugging into the divine source of power to glorify and enjoy God forever?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Significance and Insignificance   1 comment

snapshot_20140603

Above:  One of My Favorite Books

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 4:1-7

Psalm 145:8-14

Luke 10:21-24

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The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the wise, and reveal them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.”

–Luke 10:21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Those Hebrews who returned to their ancestral homeland to rebuild their society, Jerusalem, and the Temple during the Persian period had to contend with major obstacles.  These included people who plotted, lied, and otherwise obstructed plans.  And Persian kings and/or certain underlings were not always sympathetic to the Hebrews.  Within this context First Zechariah received a message from God for Zerubbabel, the governor of Davidic descent:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Often that divine spirit falls not upon the prominent and the powerful, but upon the marginalized and other powerless people.  This segue brings me to our Lord and Savior’s prayer in Luke 10:21.  What are we to make of it?

Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the greatest and most influential theologians of the twentieth century, reflected on that prayer in the intellectual autobiography he wrote for the Library of Living Theology volume about his thought (New York:  Macmillan Company, 1961).  He wrote of two dying elderly women who were parishioners at the Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan, which he served fresh out of seminary.  (“Evangelical” here was in the German sense of word, that is Protestant, in this case, a Lutheran-Reformed hybrid.)  The first lady was filled with anxiety and resentment, not serenity, during the illness which took her life.  This woman, Niebuhr wrote,

was too preoccupied with self.

–page 6

The second woman had experienced much difficulty during her life.  She had functioned as both breadwinner and homemaker for her two daughters because her husband, prone to insanity, could not provide for the family.  At the end of the lady’s life, when she was dying of cancer, she was serene and filled with gratitude to God for mercies and her daughters, however.  This contrast, Niebuhr wrote, taught him the meaning of Christ’s prayer.

The major difference between the two women seems to have been the way each approached death and dying.  In that context Niebuhr wrote that

the ultimate problem of human existence is the peril of sin and death in the way that these two perils are so curiously compounded; for we fall into sin by trying to evade or to conquer death  or our own insignificance, of which death is the ultimate symbol.  The Christian faith holds out the hope that our fragmentary lives will be completed in a total and larger plan than any which we control or comprehend, and that a part of the completion is forgiveness of sins, that is the forgiveness of the evils into which we fall by our frantic efforts to complete our own lives or to endow them with significance.

–pages 6 and 7

Then Niebuhr wrote that

we in the churches ought to admit more humbly than is our wont that there is a mystery of grace which no one can fathom.

–page 7

That mystery was available to our Lord and Savior’s Apostles and other disciples, whom N. T. Wright described as

the diverse and motley group

Luke for Everyone (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 125

with whom he had chosen to associate.

May we recognize that our significance resides in God alone and that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Then may we, by grace, act on that reality and succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Active Love and Living Water   2 comments

stpn_6036

Above:  St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newnan, Georgia, January 26, 2014

My favorite aspect of this arrangement is the centrality of the baptismal font.

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 7:37-39

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When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:32, Common Worship (2000)

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This devotion owes much to the excellent and scholarly work of the late Father Raymond E. Brown in Volume One (1966) of his commentary on the Gospel of John for The Anchor Bible set of books. He wrote two thick volumes on that Gospel. I am glad that I walked into a certain thrift store on a certain day and purchased those two books.

The Spirit of God fell upon seventy Hebrew elders in Numbers 11. Meat for the masses followed. The liberated people who pined for the food they ate when they were slaves in Egypt had received freedom from the hand of God. Since that freedom was apparently insufficient for many and since God had compassion, God sent quails also. Moses had seventy people with whom to share his burdens. God had provided abundantly.

The Exodus, the central narrative of the Hebrew Bible, informs the Gospel of John also. In the scene from John 7, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles (or Booths), originally a harvest festival (in September-October on the Gregorian Calendar). The holy time also carried associations with the Exodus and with the Day of the Lord (as in later Jewish prophecy), when, as Bishop N. T. Wright fixates on in books, God would become king in Israel. Thus the festival carried messianic meanings also.

A helpful note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) reads:

As part of the celebration of the Tabernacles, the priest poured freshly drawn water on the altar as a libation to God. Just as Jesus is the means of Passover (chap. 6), he is also the life-giving water of Tabernacles (4:10-14; 6:35).

–Page 1922

That living water (yes, a baptismal metaphor in Christian theology) refers to new life in Christ, to divine wisdom (see John 1:1-18), and to the active power of God in the world. (The Church came to call the latter the Holy Spirit.) And, as Father Brown writes,

If the water is a symbol of the revelation that Jesus gives to those who believe in him, it is also a symbol of the Spirit that the resurrected Jesus will give, as v. 39 specifies.

–Page 328

One might also take interest in another detail of John 7:38, the prompt for a lively theological debate. How should one read the Greek text? From whose heart shall the streams of living water flow? Much of Western Christian theology (especially that of the Roman Catholic variety) identifies the heart in question as that of Jesus. (Father Brown argues for this in his commentary.) This position is consistent with the filoque clause of the Nicene Creed: the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Many who maintain that the heart in question is that of Jesus also cite John 14:6 and 26, John 16:17, and John 20:20, in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father or from Jesus unambiguously.

The Eastern Orthodox, however, use a form of the Creed with omits the filoque clause. The Eastern Church Fathers, consistent with their theology, interpreted the heart in quiestion as that of a believer in Christ. A note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) indicates this:

The living water (v. 38) is the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 39) and the new life that accompanies this gift.

–page 1438

I have noticed that some translations, such as the New Revised Standard Version, render John 7:38 as to support the Eastern Orthodox position.  Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, in their volume for John (2006) for the Westminster Bible Companion series (Westminster/John Knox Press) refer to this decision and refer to the linguistic ambiguity in the Greek text of that verse.  They, without dismissing the possibility of the stream of living water coming somehow through the individual believer, note that

…the ultimate source of then living water in John is always Jesus or God.

–Page 86

The ultimate textual context for interpreting a given passage of scripture is the rest of scripture, as I have read in various books about the Bible.  Given this interpretive framework, we ought never to forget that the source of the living water is divine.  The role of the individual in that in John 7:38 is a live theological issue.  Even if the heart in question is that of the individual believer, the living water still comes from God–in this case, via Jesus.

As for filoque, the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit is a recipe for mental gymnastics. How, for example, can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son if the Son also proceeded from the Father, especially if the Son has always existed? When, then, did he proceed from the Father? And how does one attempt to untangle details of Trinitarian theology without falling into serious heresy? The question of how the procession of the Holy Spirit works is also an issue irrelevant to salvation.  I am content to say that God is active among us and to leave the details of the procession of the Holy Spirit as a divine mystery.

The contents of these questions do not change a basic point: God, who liberates us (not so we can grumble and be ungrateful), also empowers us to glorify God and to support one another. If we do not love one another, whom we can see, we do not love God, whom we cannot see. This is active love, the kind which resists exploitation and other evils in our midst. This is active love, which builds up the other and thereby improves not only his or her lot in life but the society also. This is active love, by which we help each other bear burdens. This is active love, a mandate from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/devotion-for-wednesday-after-pentecost-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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