Archive for the ‘Ritualism’ Tag

The Third Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART V

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Haggai 2:10-19

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

In the third oracle (2:10-19), Haggai offered an explanation for why the situation in Jerusalem had not improved, despite the resumption of construction of the Second Temple.  Holiness was not transferrable, but ritual impurity was (Numbers 5:2; 6:6; 9:10; 19:11, 13).  Tainted and unacceptable offerings to God made the work of the people unclean, impure (verse 14).  The problem was with the altar upon which people laid the offerings.  Priests were using the altar, despite not having properly purified it ritually (Ezra 3:107; 1 Esdras 5:47-73).

Nevertheless, December 18, 520, B.C.E., marked a turning point in the people’s relationship with God:

Consider, from this day onwards,…:  will the seed still be diminished in the barn?  Will the vine and the fig, the pomegranate and the olive still bear no fruit?  Not so; from this day I shall bless you.

–Haggai 2:18-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet read Zechariah 1:18-21/2:1-4, set two months later.

I am an Episcopalian and a ritualist.  Therefore, I grasp the importance of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.

However, I am also a Gentile to whom ritual purity and impurity are foreign concepts.  These are concepts about which I have read, especially in regard to whether Jesus accepted them and how to interpret them in healing stories involving Jesus.  These are also concepts I have rethought, especially in regard to Jesus, after reading Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Studying Haggai 2:10-19, I must dig into the text and read regarding the Biblical background of the ritual purification of altars.  Jewish sources teach me much.

This is a rule binding on your descendants for all time, to make a distinction between sacred and profane, between clean and profane, and to teach the Israelites all the decrees which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.

–Leviticus 10:9b-11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

When we move from one context to another, a timeless principle remains:

What is at stake is attitude.

–W. Eugene March, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 728

Approaching God reverently and respectfully is essential.  Rules dictate how to do so.  So be it.  This is a serious matter in the Hebrew Bible.  This explains why Leviticus 12-15 describe how to dispose of ritual impurity of various types.  This is why Leviticus 16 pertains to the annual purging of the sacred precincts of impurity.  This is why Leviticus 1-7 go into great detail about types of offerings to God.  This is why Exodus 35-38 detail the construction of the Tabernacle.  This is why Exodus 39 focuses on the making of the priests’ vestments.  I respect all this, even though I enjoy eating pork.

I also notice that God changed the relationships, for the people’s benefits.  People were still supposed to use a purified altar, of course.

Grace is free, not cheap.

For the sake of completeness and intellectual honesty, however, I note that the first vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-17) contradicts the pressing of the giant reset button in Haggai 2:10-19.  I will get to Zechariah 1:8-17 in due time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part II: Divine Disappointment   1 comment

Above:  Dew (Hosea 6:4)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART V

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Hosea 5:8-6:6

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Remorse for and repentance for sins must be sincere if they are to prove effective.  Hosea 6:1-3 offers an example of insincere remorse for and repentance of sins, hence the divine rebuttal in 6:4-6.

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had erred by breaking the covenant with God.  The way to resolve the problem was to repent, to return to God.  Instead, Israel turned to the Assyrian Empire.   One historical reference was to King Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.), who paid tribute to the Assyrian monarch, Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.) in 738 B.C.E.  (See 2 Kings 15:19-20).  The once-powerful (northern) Kingdom of Israel had become a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrian king did not have Israel’s best interests in mind; God did.  Another historical reference may have been to King Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.), the a rebellious vassal of the Assyrian Empire and the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-41).  Ironically, “Hosea” and “Hoshea,” literally “rescue,” were the same name.

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations to “goodness” and “obedience to God” exist.  These include:

  1. “Loyalty” and “acknowledgment of God” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  2. “Loyalty” and “knowledge of God” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  3. “Steadfast love” and “knowledge of God” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and
  4. “Trust” and “knowledge of God” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

The Law of Moses commands certain burnt offerings, of course.  The Book of Hosea does not argue for nullifying any portion of the covenant with God, bound up with the Law of Moses.  The Book of Hosea does insist that these mandatory sacrifices are not talismans.  People must offer these mandatory sacrifices devoutly and sincerely if these sacred rituals are to have the desired, divinely-intended effects.

John Mauchline (1902-1984), of the University of Glasgow, wrote:

It is not necessary to conclude that Hosea regarded sacrifice as having no value whatsoever as an act of worship.  What is meant is that sacrifice as an expression of a living faith in the Lord may be a genuine religious act, but the Lord’s delight is in the true knowledge of the demands of his service and in the cultivation of that love which is the cultivation of that love which is the will for his people.  It should be noted in passing that whereas Samuel is reported to have called for obedience, not sacrifice, from Saul, Hosea’s demand is for love (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 628

Gale A. Yee, late of of the University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, added:

It is not the sacrificial system that Hosea condemns, but the dishonesty of its worshipers, whose conduct blatantly contradicts the demands of God’s covenant.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (1996), 252

Sister Carol J. Dempsey, O.P., of the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, wrote:

Ethical living is more important than religious rituals.  True worship is not defined solely by ritual practice; rather, it consists of an attitude and way of life characterized by justice, righteousness, and steadfast love–the hallmarks of the covenant and the necessary ingredients for right relationships with all creation (cf. Jer. 9:24).

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1495-1496

If one could be a card-carrying ritualist, I would carry that card inside my wallet.  Proper liturgy, as I understand it, sets the table for worship for me.  Low Church Protestant worship, which throws out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water, leaves me spiritually cold and uninspired.  Visiting houses of worship where such a poor excuse for liturgy is the offering is, for me, engaging in a mere perfunctory social gathering.  I feel like saying yet never say:

There, I was a sociable human being; I put in an appearance.  I did what you expected of me.  Are you happy now?  And do you call that a liturgy?

In some settings, I develop the difficult-to-resist urge to quote Presbyterian theologian and Davidson College professor Kenneth J. Foreman, Sr. (1891-1967):

One does not plead for the use of incense–Presbyterians are not likely to come to that–but at least one may protest against mistaking a general odor of mustiness for the odor of sanctity.

“Better Worship for Better Living,” Presbyterian Survey, August 1932, p. 482

Rituals occupy important places in cultures.  I admit this readily; I am not a Puritan, taking time out from whipping Baptists (see here and here) and executing Quakers (see here and here) to argue that God’s altar needs no polishing and, therefore, will get none.  Neither am I a Pietist, speaking scornfully and dismissively of “externals.”  I like externals!  Externals are important.  Yet even beautiful liturgies, entered into without devotion, are mere pageants.  Conducting splendid rituals, even in accordance with divine commandments, while shamelessly practicing human exploitation, for example, makes a mockery of the rituals.  And, on a less dramatic level, I recall having attended some Holy Eucharists when I, for reasons to do solely with myself, should have stayed home.  I remember some times that I habitually attended church on Sunday morning, but was not in the proper spiritual state.  I recall that I got nothing out of the ritual that usually feeds me spiritually because I brought nothing to it.  I remember that I merely got my attendance card punched, so to speak.

All people and societies have disappointed God.  We have all fallen short of divine high standards, possible to fulfill via a combination of human free will and divine grace.  The grace is present and sufficient.  But do we want to do what God requires?  Do we–individually and collectively–want to fulfill the ethical demands of divine law and covenant?  If we do, we become partners with God.  If we do not, we disappoint God and condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, BOHEMIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1393

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF THE SUDAN, 1983-2005

THE FEAST OF SAINT UBALDO BALDASSINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GUBBIO

THE FEAST OF SAINT VLADIMIR GHIKA, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1954

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Loving Like Jesus, Part V   Leave a comment

Above: Wheat Harvest

Image in the Public Domain

Photographer = Scott Bauer, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

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For the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people,

that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved ever more,

both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 154

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Hosea 6:1-6

Psalm 2

Hebrews 9:11-28

John 12:23-33

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Rituals have legitimate places in religion.  They are essential to civilization.  Rituals are not properly talismans, though.  They cannot protect people from the consequences of persistent disobedience to God, individually and collectively.

We are counting down to Holy Week, hence the reading from Hebrews 9 and the lesson from John 12.  Jesus is the greatest role model in how we love people–selflessly, and at the cost of one’s life, if necessary.  Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta (and my bishop), exhorts people to “love like Jesus.”  Bishop Wright understands what that means.

Loving like Jesus is the mandate of every Christian person, congregation, diocese, denomination, et cetera.  It is the definition of being Christian.  When we love like Jesus, we may worthily perform sacred rituals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

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Posted January 8, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 9, Hosea 6, John 12, Psalm 2

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Deeds and Creeds IV   1 comment

Above:  The Marriage at Cana, by Paolo Veronese

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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Amos 5:18-24 or Proverbs 3:5-18

Psalm 117

1 Timothy 3:1-13

John 2:1-12

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Rituals are part of religion.  The Law of Moses specifies elements of ritualism, down to priestly vestments and certain details of sacred spaces.  May we human beings shun Puritanical and Pietistic excesses as we focus on the point of Amos 5:18-24.  That point is that sacred rituals are not talismans.  They do not shield people from the consequences of a lack of righteousness–in this case, manifested in the exploitation of the vulnerable and in corruption.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  We may praise God for having merciful love (as in Psalm 117), but divine justice is catastrophic for the habitually unrighteous (as in Amos 5).  Therefore, blessed and happy are those who find wisdom (as in Proverbs 3).

1 Timothy 3, somewhat bound by cultural context, does contain a timeless element, too.  Ecclesiastical leaders have a duty to lead by example.  They must have fine character.  Their deeds must not belie the sacred truth.

Hypocrisy offends, does it not?  I recall a news story from years ago.  A minister had preached against gambling.  Then someone caught him gambling in a casino.

Deeds reveal creeds.  Words may deceive, but deeds to not lie.  In Jewish theology, God is like what God has done and is doing.  The same principle applies to human beings.

In the Gospel of John, Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine at Cana.  This was no mere parlor trick.  Yes, Jesus saved his host from embarrassment.  Christ also pointed to his glory, that is, God’s presence in him.  Jesus pointed to God.

Divine grace is extravagant.  It saves us from sins and from ourselves.  Sometimes it may save us from embarrassment.  Do we accept that grace and point to God?  Do we accept that grace and love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Or do we reject that grace?

Our deeds will reveal our creeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ADAMS BROWN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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Preparation to Build the First Temple   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LVII

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1 Kings 5:1-18 (Protestant)

1 Kings 5:15-32 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

3 Kingdoms 5:15-32 (Eastern Orthodox)

2 Chronicles 2:1-18

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Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house,

and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

–Psalm 101:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Given that I have already covered the problems of forced labor and of the discrepancies between 1 Kings 5:13/27 (depending on versification) and 2 Chronicles 2:16, I choose to focus on another passage.

Yet who is really able to build [God] a house, since the heavens and even the highest heavens cannot contain him?

–2 Chronicles 2:5a, The New American Bible (1991)

I have stood inside magnificent, beautiful cathedrals.  I have felt spiritually at home in them, for I understand the liturgical importance of sacred space.  I admit without any reluctance that I am a ritualist.  Architecture and liturgy, hand-in-hand, set the stage properly.  They take one of ordinary life.  I also know that, in the case of many medieval cathedrals, the construction of those edifices was an expression of faith.  I eschew the Puritanical-Pietistic suspicion of “externals” that minimizes the importance of sacred spaces and proper rituals.

At the same time, I take King Solomon’s point.  Even the vault of heaven cannot contain God.  No structure, therefore, regardless of how grand it is, can contain God, either.  However, containing God is not the purpose of such buildings.  Yes, the First Temple contained the Ark of the Covenant and was the site of sacrifices.  God did not dwell solely at the First Temple, though.

I can find God in many places.  God speaks to me in my thoughts, via the Bible, by means of people, in rituals, and via nature.  God has more than one channel, so to speak.  And nothing–no building, no denomination, no intellectual category, no aspect of nature–can contain God.  God can, however, speak through them.  And we ought to listen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE MCGOVERN, U.S. SENATOR AND STATESMAN; AND HIS WIFE, ELEANOR MCGOVERN, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF DAVID MORITZ MICHAEL, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JAMES W. C. PENNINGTON, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURA OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, FOUNDRESS OF THE WORKS OF THE INDIANS AND THE CONGREGATION OF MISSIONARY SISTERS OF IMMACULATE MARY AND OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA

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Living in Community, Part IV   4 comments

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, 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 hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Joshua 1:1-9

Psalm 91

Philippians 2:1-11

Luke 2:21-32

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George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), one of my great-grandfathers, was a Southern Methodist minister of the old school, including Pietistic condemnations of “worldly amusements” and of ritualism.  He was my opposite.  My great-grandfather also preached that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  This shocked me when I read his sermon notes, in his handwriting.  Jesus growing up in a Christian home would have surprised St. Luke, certainly.  Our Lord and Savior was Jewish, of course.  He grew up in an observant Jewish home that would have made Joshua, son of Nun, glad.

The essence of much of Judeo-Christian moral teaching is that one, by internalizing and living according to divine law, becomes one’s best possible self in this life.  This does not guarantee a life free of suffering, persecution, and economic hardship, of course.  In fact, one may have to endure much because of one’s piety.  The darkness has not conquered the light, and it has not ceased to try.

The focus in Philippians 2:1-11 is a moral and ethical living in a communal context, with Jesus as a model.  (We all know what happened to him, do we not?)  The following advice applies at all times and places, without any necessity for adjustment from cultural contexts not explicit in texts:

Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.

In other words, obey the Golden Rule and the Law of Love, the fulfillment of much of the Law of Moses.  Acting accordingly does not guarantee success in that moral and ethical endeavor, but it is a good start, at least.  Whenever I determine to build up others, I risk tearing them down if I choose the wrong strategy.  Looking to each other’s interests does not necessarily entail doing to them as they want, but it does necessarily involve doing to them as they need.  But what if I do not know what they need?  Good intentions alone are insufficient.

God requires us to be faithful, not successful.  May we heed divine guidance as we make decisions daily.  May we pursue proper goals via correct methods.  And may we succeed in these purposes, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, by grace.  May our lives be beacons of the grace of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Spiritual Journeys   2 comments

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

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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2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 8:34-9:13

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Pietism is an error-ridden system of thought.  One of its gravest mistakes is the rejection of ritualism, often due to a misinterpretation of Psalm 50.  The sacrificial system, commanded in the Law of Moses, is not the problem in Psalm 50.  No, the divorce between sacrifices and morality is the offense.  Mistaking sacrifices and other acts of public piety for a talisman is wrong.  People need to walk the walk, in other words.  Their acts of public piety will be genuine.

Speaking of sacrifices, the context of the Transfiguration in Mark 8-9 is the foretelling of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The prose poetry of the account tells us of Elijah (representing the prophets) and Moses (representing the Law) appearing with the glorified Jesus.  This is, in context, an apocalyptic scene, as anyone steeped in the culture of Palestinian Judaism would have known.  The attempt to institutionalize such a moment is always misguided, for one should keep on moving with Jesus, toward Jerusalem.  Faith is a journey, not a permanent shrine.

My journey will not be identical to yours, O reader, nor should it be.  Our journeys will properly contain many of the same landmarks, though.  The destination will also be the same–God in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-b-humes/

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Compassion and the Sabbath, Part I   1 comment

The Pool

Above:  The Pool, by Palma Giovane

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 23:1-8 (Friday)

Leviticus 24:5-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 81:1-10 (Both Days)

Romans 8:31-39 (Friday)

John 7:19-24 (Saturday)

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For this is a statute of Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob,

The charge he laid on the people of Joseph,

when they came out of the land of Egypt.

–Psalm 81:4-5, Common Worship (2000)

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The Sabbath theme continues in the pericopes from Leviticus and John.  The reading from Romans fits well with that from Johannine Gospel.  I adore a well-constructed lectionary!

The lessons from Leviticus speak of sacred time, rituals, and items.  As much as I, as a Christian, disagree with the pervasive sense of the holy as other and God as distant which one finds in the Law of Moses, I respect the efforts expended out of reverence.  God did become incarnate as Jesus (however the Trinitarian theology of that works), walk among people, and eat in homes, but excessive casualness regarding matters of ritual and spirituality is no virtue.  That understanding feeds my ritualism.

On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion.  You shall do no work; it shall be a sabbath of the LORD in all your settlements.

–Leviticus 23:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet Leviticus 12:3 commands male circumcision on the eighth day–even when that day falls on the Sabbath.  Did Jesus, therefore, sin when he healed on the Sabbath?  And was the desire of hostile of people to kill him for healing on the Sabbath sinful?  If one assumes that they understood his Sabbath day healings as constituting profaning the Sabbath, one must then, to be fair, cite Exodus 31:14-15, which calls for the death penalty.  Nevertheless, the religious laws of our Lord and Savior’s day permitted work (other than circumcision) on the Sabbath.  For example, saving a live was permissible.

Jesus proclaimed by words and deeds that every day is an appropriate time to act with maximum compassion and that no day is a good time to become bogged down in heartless and defensive legalism.  His love for those who needed his help and know it is the love to which St. Paul the Apostle refers in Romans 8.  Nothing can separate us from that love.  Dare we scorn it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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In Defense of Ritualism   1 comment

conf_9764

Above:  The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, December 14, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 28:29-38 (Monday)

Numbers 8:5-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 115 (Both Days)

Philippians 1:3-11 (Monday)

Titus 1:1-9 (Tuesday)

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God might be present and imminent, as I concluded in the previous new post, but how we approach God still matters.  We should do so with deep reverence.  That is why the priestly vestments in Exodus 28 were so elaborate and the ritualism of preparation for service to God in Numbers 8 occurred.  Likewise important in the texts is character, for not only must one person perform the rituals dressed properly, but one must do so according to other rules.  One of those rules is not to mistake any sacred ritual for a talisman which protects insincere people from the consequences of their sins.

One of the advantages of belonging to and attending a more formal church is participating frequently in a series of sacred rituals presided over by clergy in vestments.  The air of formality sets the rituals apart from other occasions in life.  With that formality comes reverence.  Many congregations, I am convinced, are too informal, especially with regard to the professional and ritual attire of ministers and to rituals themselves.  All this helps to explain why I am a practicing ritualist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 28, Numbers 7-10, Philippians 1, Psalm 115, Titus

Tagged with , , ,

Apostasy and Idolatry   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:14-22 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 2:23-37 (Friday)

Jeremiah 6:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:7-15 (All Days)

Colossians 2:16-23 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (Friday)

John 7:40-52 (Saturday)

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading for these three days overlap nicely, focusing on the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  To commit apostasy is to fall away from grace.  (Thus grace is not irresistible.  Strict Calvinism is therefore mistaken about that fifth of the TULIP formula.  I am also dubious of the Perseverance of the Saints, which relates to Irresistible Grace.)  An idol is anything which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol might be a false deity, an activity, or even a sacred text.  Function in one’s life determines that thing’s status relative to idolatry.  Among the most popular idols is the Bible, which is supposed to function instead as an icon–through which people see God.  But, if one treats it as an idol, that is what it is for that person.

The lessons from Jeremiah condemn idolatry which has led to national apostasy, evident in ill-advised alliances with foreign, predatory empires.

What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the LORD your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the LORD GOD of hosts.

–Jeremiah 2:18-19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

From the gloom of Jeremiah 2 and 6 we turn to the Pauline tradition, which emphasizes Christ crucified and resurrected.  St. Paul the Apostle rejects, among other things, Gnostic asceticism, a form of Jewish ritualism, and the practice of worshiping angels as methods as obtaining the spiritual upper hand.  Christ is sufficient, the ever-Jewish Paul tells us through the ages.

I understand the Apostle’s objection to Gnosticism, with its reliance on secret knowledge and belief that matter is evil.  If salvation comes from having secret knowledge, as Gnostics insisted, the death and resurrection of Jesus were pointless.  In fact, in Gnostic thought, he did not die because he was not even corporeal, for, in Gnosticism, he could not have had a body, a body being material and therefore evil.  Thus Gnosticism was not Christian.  The exclusion of Gnostic texts from the Bible was not, as some “documentaries” on the History Channel claim, a conspiracy of Church leaders to suppress truth and crush dissent.  No, it was a proper course of action.

As for rituals (especially Jewish ones), I approach the text from Colossians differently than do the authors of some of the commentaries I consulted.  A high proportion of these writers were Presbyterians with little use for ritual.  Their paragraphs screamed between the lines “This is why I am not a Papist!”  I, as an Episcopalian, know the value of ritual and of approaching it properly.  It should be an icon, not an idol, although it functions as the latter for many people.  But so does the Bible, and I do not heap scorn on that sacred anthology either.

Apostasy, a theme from the Jeremiah readings, recurs in John 7.  Temple officials accuse some Temple policemen of it for refusing to arrest Jesus, who had impressed them.  These officials also accuse Nicodemus of the same offense.  I realize that much of the Gospel of John reflects late first-century C.E. Jewish Christian invective, for Jewish Christians had found themselves marginalized within Judaism.  Nevertheless, the stories in John 7:40-52 have the ring of truth, for fearful people in positions of power have attempted to retain it in many places and at numerous times.

Idols come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and ages.  As I have written in this post, function in one’s life determines status relative to idolatry in that life.  Among the more common idols is attachment to the status quo ante, especially if one benefits from it.  Thus we become upset when God does something we do not expect.  This might threaten just our sense of order (hardly a minor issue), but also our identity (also a major consideration) and socio-economic-political or socio-economic standing (of which we tend to be quite protective).  But when was religion supposed to function as a defense against God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-22-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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