Archive for the ‘Saul of Tarsus’ Tag

Repentance, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who hast called us each by name and brought us thy salvation:

give us grace to welcome thee and, in all our affairs,

to deal justly with our brothers, in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Judges 7:1-8

Acts 9:1-8

Luke 19:1-10

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Repentance is changing one’s mind and turning one’s back on a particular sin or a set of sins.  We read of the beginning of the repentance of Saul of Tarsus (who became St. Paul the Apostle) in Acts 9:1-8 and of the repentance of Zacchaeus, a tax thief for the Roman Empire, in Luke 19:1-10.  We also read, when we compare the Lukan text to Leviticus 6:1-7, that Zacchaeus, promised to pay a restitution rate of 400%, although the standard rate of restitution for his offense was 120%.

Having too many soldiers before a battle is not usually a problem.  Yet, we read in Judges 7:1-8, of God telling Gideon to continue sending soldiers home, until the army, once 32,000 men strong, consisted of 300 troops.  We read of 10,000 soldiers “turning back” because of fear and timidity.  We also read of the victory being unmistakably the work of God.

Are we afraid to turn our backs to any particular sins?  May we repent at least as boldly as we sin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Hope II   1 comment

Above:  The Conversion of Saint Paul, by Luca Giordano

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 9:1-22

Psalm 98

2 Peter 3:1-7

Mark 12:28-34

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In Mark 12, after Jesus rebuffed two trick questions and evaded a political trap just a few days prior to his crucifixion, he heard a sincere question.  His reply was consistent, with the Hebrew Bible and Rabbi Hillel:  Love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.

Saul of Tarsus, while zealously participating in making Christians martyrs, thought he was loving God fully.  God had a different opinion.

All things have continued as they were from as far  back as documentation and memory recount.  We say that God is the king yet we read headlines and consume news stories that seem to indicate otherwise.  Doubting ans scoffing are understandable results.  Nevertheless, we must retain hope that divine justice will eventually prevail; we must never surrender to despair.  Perhaps God will work through us to improve the world as we cease to seek excuses for disobeying the Golden Rule while pretending to honor it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND SAINT MARY WARD, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA MASTERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FACE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AND JOHN MUNDY, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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Imaginary Righteousness   1 comment

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 7:48-60

Psalm 4

2 Peter 1:13-21

Mark 12:1-12

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Many of those who persecuted St. Paul the Apostle and who were complicit in the executions of Jesus and St. Stephen imagined themselves to be acting out of righteousness.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had zealously martyred Christians and been present for the stoning of St. Stephen.

To read the assigned lessons and imagine that they have nothing to do with us, who have not martyred or persecuted anyone, would be convenient, would it not?  Yet we are guilty of, at a minimum, of consenting to the inhumane treatment of others–perhaps prisoners, immigrants, employees in deathtrap factories, et cetera.  We think we own the planet, but we are merely tenants.  Many of those who peacefully oppose injustice risk martyrdom or incarceration.

The minimal extent to which we are complicit is the degree to which we are invested in socio-economic-political structures that rely on and perpetuate violence and exploitation.  Yet we imagine ourselves to be righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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New Life II   Leave a comment

Above:  Leslie Catherine Taylor (2014-2015), January 1, 2015

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Second Sunday of Advent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who didst prepare of old the minds and hearts of men for the coming of thy Son,

and whose Spirit ever worketh to illumine our darkened lives with the light of his gospel:

prepare now our minds and hearts, we beseech thee, that Christ may dwell within us,

and ever reign in our thoughts and affections as the King of love and the very Prince of peace.

Grant this, we pray thee, for his sake.  Amen.

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

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Genesis 15:1-15

Romans 9:1-8

John 3:1-17

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New life is both literal and spiritual.

  1. It was literal in the cases of the offspring of Abraham and their descendants.
  2. It is spiritual in so far as we who are Christians are, in a sense, descendants of Abraham.
  3. It was spiritual for St. Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul of Tarsus.
  4. It was eventually spiritual for Nicodemus.
  5. It is spiritual for those of us born from above, though water and the Holy Spirit.

Not all of us can identify moments of dramatic conversion, but, if we live in God, we produce spiritual fruits.  Those are tangible.  They also benefit others as well as ourselves.

Sometimes the tangible in spiritual in ways a person not familiar with circumstances would expect.  My experience confirms this truth.

In 2014, while my father, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, was dying in the opposite corner of Georgia, a stray kitten (Leslie Catherine Taylor) moved in and adopted me.  She insisted on doing so.  Leslie, who had the upper paw in the relationship, was an energetic animal who was into everything.  The fur ball of energy comforted me with her new life as my father’s life faded away.  She helped me to cope.  Eventually she disappeared and presumably died, however.  But, while she shared my life, Leslie was a great blessing to me.

Advent is about, among other things, new life–new life in daily experiences, new life in Christ, new life in the fully realized Kingdom of God, and a baby unlike any other.

Happy Advent!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, ABBOT, MONK, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Above:  Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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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Genesis 25:17-34 or Isaiah 1:1-20 (portions)

Psalm 11

1 Corinthians 1:1-18

Matthew 7:15-29

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Waiting on and trusting in God can be very difficult, but it is the thematic thread uniting these readings.  Nevertheless, some of the figures from certain readings for today seem like unlikely exemplars of waiting on and trusting in God.

The narrative about Jacob portrays Israel in its earthiest and most scandalous appearance in Genesis.  The narrative is not edifying in any conventional religious or moral sense.  Indeed, if one comes to the narrative with such an agenda, the narrative is offensive.  But for that very reason, the Jacob narrative is most lifelike.  It presents Jacob in the crude mixture of motives.  The grandson of the promise is a rascal compared to his faithful grandfather Abraham or his successful father Isaac.  The affirmations of faith in this narrative are especially robust.  The narrator knows that the purposes of God are tangled in a web of self-interest and self-seeking.

–Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (1982), page 204

Saul of Tarsus thought he was obeying God while oppressing Christians.  After realizing his error, he became St. Paul the Apostle, a vital figure in the mission to the Gentiles.

Each of us is imperfect.  All of us can do better.  Each of us can be a vehicle of grace, by grace.  Seeking to obey God is laudable, but how can we succeed?  The judgments of our culture are not always helpful in this matter.  Furthermore, if we think we are listening to God, we might be, but we might also be conducting on internal dialogue instead.  As much as one might try to wait on and trust in God, one might miss the channel, so to speak.

I offer no easy answers because I have none.  Besides, an easy answer to a difficult question is a wrong answer.  I suggest, however, that one is less likely to go wrong by seeking the good of other people rather than by living selfishly.  One might sin in how one seeks to build up others, but at least on is pointing in the right direction.  Yet good intentions are the pavement stones in road to Hell, so one needs grace to make wise decisions daily.  Good intentions are at least good, but they are insufficient.

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That truth is a quote from the Westminster Larger Catechism.  The sentence is a fine general statement of principle.  The particulars vary according to the circumstances of life–who, where, and when one is.  May we, by grace, bear good fruit for God, and therefore glorify him, and enjoy him fully forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-proper-8-year-a-humes/

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The First Christian Martyr   1 comment

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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The readings for the Feast of St. Stephen remind us of the grim reality that suffering for the sake of righteousness is frequently a risk.  We read of one of the many difficulties of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke truth to power when that power was dependent upon hostile foreigners.  The historical record tells us that the Pharaoh of Egypt chose both the King of Judah and his regnal name, Jehoiakim.  Matthew 23, set in the Passion Narrative, reminds us of some of the prophets and teachers, whom God had sent and authorities at Jerusalem had martyred.  Contrary to the wishes of the author of Psalm 31, God does not always deliver the faithful from enemy hands.

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, was probably a Hellenized Jew.  As a deacon, his job in the Church was, in the words of Acts 6:2,

to wait on tables.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The deacons were to provide social services while the Apostles preached and taught.  St. Stephen also debated and preached, however.  His speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) led to his execution (without a trial) by stoning.  St. Stephen, like Jesus before him, prayed for God to forgive his executioners (Acts 7:60), who, in their minds, were correct to execute him for blasphemy, a capital offense in the Law of Moses.  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, was prominent in the killing of St. Stephen.  The Apostle recalled the death of St. Stephen and his role in it in Acts 22:20.

Religion, by itself, is generally morally neutral; one can be a moral atheist just as easily as one can be a moral or immoral adherent.  Good religion and bad religion certainly exist.  The test, in moral terms, yet not theological ones, is what kind of adherents they create and nurture.  Regardless of the name of a religion or the content of its tenets, does the reality of living it make one a loving, merciful human being or a judgmental person who might be quick to execute dissenters or consent to that?  This question is always a relevant one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen,

who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ,

who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 31 or 31:1-15

Acts 6:8-7:2a; 51c-60

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 139

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/second-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

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The Scandal of Grace II: Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O Lord, we ask you mercifully to hear us;

and grant that we, to whom you have given a hearty desire to pray,

may by your mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 28:10-22

Psalm 3

Acts 9:22, 26-31

John 3:4-17

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One might have enemies for various reasons.  If one is like Jacob, a schemer and a trickster, one antagonizes others easily.  However, if one is like St. Paul the Apostle, one might antagonize via one’s occasional brusqueness as well as one’s obedience to God.

The scandal of grace is also evident.  Why else would Jacob become an agent of the divine covenant?  Why else would God choose Saul of Tarsus?  And why else would the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate, live, die, and resurrect, for the benefit of the human race?

We humans seem to like the scandal of grace when it benefits us and those similar to us yet to resent it when it works to the benefit of those we do not like.  That is sinful.  Should we not rejoice that God is so generous?  One might think of the satirical character of Jonah, from the book that bears his name.  One of the points of the Book of Jonah is not to be like Jonah, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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