Archive for the ‘N. T. Wright’ Tag

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

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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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Idolatry Among Us   1 comment

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Above:  Astarte (1902), by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133676

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 5:2-9 (Protestant Versification)/Micah 5:1-8 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 72

Luke 13:31-35

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-1/

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed be your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled

with your glory.  Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The reading from Luke 13 prompts me to think of the Classic Theory of the Atonement, a.k.a. the Conquest of Satan and Christus Victor.  This interpretation dates to early Christianity, for Origen, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr argued for it.  I have read more recent iterations of it in the works of Gustav Aulen and N. T. Wright.  As St. Irenaeus (died 202 C.E.) wrote:

The Word of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring men to life, for we were tied and bound in sin, we were born in sin and live under the dominion of death.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 109

Perfidious men–men, not people generically (I like to use gendered language precisely)–plotted to kill Jesus.  They succeeded in that goal.  Yet our Lord and Savior did not remain dead for long.  So those perfidious men failed ultimately.

God wins ultimately, despite our best human attempts to thwart that result.  Such is the best definition of the sovereignty of God I can muster.

Micah 5:1-8/5:2-9 (depending on the versification in the translation one reads) sounds reassuring for the Hebrew nation in the late eighth century B.C.E.-early seventh century B.C.E., the timeframe for Isaiah 1-39.  Woe be unto any Assyrian invaders, it says.  If one continues to read, however, one discovers that the Assyrians are not the only ones who should quake in fear of divine retribution, which will fall also on the homefront as well:

In anger and fury I shall wreak vengeance

on the nations who disobey me.

–Micah 5:15, The Revised English Bible

The disobedience in Micah 5 took various forms, including idolatry.

Idols range from false deities to anything which anyone lets stand between him or her and God.  I live in Athens, Georgia, a football-mad town.  Often I note the tone of reverence regarding University of Georgia athletics in the local press.  And frequently have I heard sports fans liken sports to religion.  It is one for many of them.  And, ironically, the Bible functions as an idol for many honest seekers of God.  The Scriptures are supposed to be as icons, through which people see God, but their function varies according to the user thereof.

Religion is a basic human need.  Even many militant fundamentalist Atheists possess the same irritating zeal as do many fundamentalists of theistic varieties.  I stand in the middle, rejecting both excessive skepticism and misplaced certainty, overboard materialism and rationality with the haunting fear that having sex standing up will lead to (gasp!) dancing.  So I reject idols on either side of my position while know that I need to examine my own position for the presence of idols, as abstract as they might be.

Perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge is to identify and reject all idols, which do not seem as what they are to us because the most basic assumptions people carry do not look like assumptions to us.  Thus we justify ourselves to ourselves while we stand in serious error.  Sometimes our idols and false assumptions, combined with fears, lead us commit violence–frequently in the name of God or an imagined deity, perhaps understood as being loving.

We are really messed up.  Fortunately, there is abundant grace available to us.  But can we recognize that if idolatry blinds us spiritually?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF HANNAH, MOTHER OF SAMUEL

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/devotion-for-january-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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