Archive for the ‘Saul of Tarsus’ Tag

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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Enemies and the Scandal of Grace   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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Christ, Violence, and Love   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

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:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-evening-year-d/

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The Sin of Favoritism   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

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:

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Ego and Humility   1 comment

Apostle Paul

Above:   The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 14:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 14:12-24 (Friday)

2 Samuel 14:25-33 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

Acts 22:6-21 (Thursday)

Acts 26:1-11 (Friday)

Matthew 9:2-8 (Saturday)

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To you, Yahweh, I call,

to my God I cry for mercy.

–Psalm 30:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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We read of forgiveness in the lections from the New Testament.  Saul of Tarsus receives forgiveness and a new mandate from God.  (Grace is free yet not cheap.)  Jesus forgives a man’s sins during a healing in Matthew 9.  Critics who are present think that our Lord and Savior is committing blasphemy, for their orthodoxy makes no room for Jesus.  The healed man becomes a former paralytic, but Christ’s critics suffer from spiritual paralysis.

The language of 2 Samuel 14 indicates that King David has not reconciled with his son Absalom, who had killed his (Absalom’s) half-brother, Amnon, who had raped his (Absalom’s) sister, Tamar, in the previous chapter before he (Absalom) had gone into exile.  The entire incident of pseudo-reconciliation had been for the benefit of Joab.  The false reconciliation proved to be as useless as false grace, for Absalom, back from exile, was plotting a rebellion, which he launched in the next chapter.

The juxtaposition of Saul of Tarsus/St. Paul the Apostle, the paralyzed man, and Absalom is interesting and helpful.  Both Saul/Paul and Absalom had egos, but the former struggled with his self-image as he made a pilgrimage with Jesus.  Absalom, in contrast, did not strive to contain his ego.  No, he permitted it to control him.  We know little about the paralyzed man, but we may assume safely that a runaway ego was not among his problems.

If we are to walk humbly with God, we must contextualize ourselves relative to God.  We are, in comparison, but dust, and God is the proper grounding for human identity.  Proper actions will flow from appropriate attitudes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASIMIR OF POLAND, PRINCE

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-5-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Glory of the Lord, Part III   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

I scanned the image from a Bible salesman’s sample book from the late 1800s.  The volume is falling apart, unfortunately, but it is quite nice to have nevertheless.

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The Collect:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will.

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid all changes of this world, our hearts

may be fixed where true joy is found,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 5:2-14

Psalm 29

Acts 26:19-29

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And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

–Psalm 29:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from 2 Chronicles depicts the Presence/glory of YHWH filling the new Temple at Jerusalem as a cloud, just as Exodus 40 depicts the divine Presence/glory filling the Tent of Meeting as a cloud.

King Solomon used the first Temple to bolster his monarchy.  He had also used forced labor to construct that Temple.  Furthermore, his unjust economic policies contributed greatly to the unrest which led to the division of his kingdom after his death.  YHWH’s commandments in the Law of Moses demanded economic justice, but Solomon violated those statutes.

Saul of Tarsus became St. Paul the Apostle after encountering Jesus dramatically on the road to Damascus.  He understood the demands of God on his life much better than Solomon grasped his duties to God.  St. Paul still had some blind spots (as all of us do), but he did become a major figure in nascent Christianity and suffered much for his (active) faith until the day of his martyrdom.

The Presence/glory of God was more evident in the career of St. Paul the Apostle than it was in Solomon’s Temple.  Is it evident in your life, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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