Archive for the ‘Saul of Tarsus’ Tag

The Conversion and Commissioning of Saul of Tarsus   Leave a comment

Above:  The Conversion of Saint Paul, by Luca Giordano

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXIII

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Acts 9:1-31

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These stories are well-trod ground in lectionaries, hence my oeuvre of lectionary-based posts about them.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts, available here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

One of the more frustrating aspects of human psychology is the tendency to double down on an opinion despite the existence of factual evidence that contradicts the basis of that opinion.  Simply put, for many people, objective reality is irrelevant.  Many people labor under the mistaken idea that they are entitled to their opinions, regardless of how uninformed or poorly-informed those opinions are.  They labor under the lie that they are entitled to their own facts.  As Harlan Ellison wisely asserted, people are entitled to their informed opinions.  Nevertheless, confirmation bias persists.  And, in the current age of social media and narrowly-focused news outlets where damn lies flourish, mutually-exclusive versions of reality thrive.  This phenomenon works against societal cohesion and the preservation of representative government and freedom.

Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul the Apostle, did something remarkable:  he changed his mind.  Literally, he repented.  Given the circumstances, Saul/St. Paul may have had no choice.  Nevertheless, in my cultural-political milieu, his decision seems remarkable.

It was also courageous.

To acknowledge frankly that one has been wrong–spectacularly so–requires courage.  Doubling down in error occurs because of cowardice–the desire to defend one’s ego, threatened by admitting error.

Notice something else, O reader.  Notice that Saul of Tarsus, who had persecuted and martyred Christians, became the subject of murder plots and attempts for preaching Christ.  Fortunately, Saul had Christian allies, including St. (Joseph) Barnabas, who earned his reputation as a “son of encouragement.”

May you, O reader, have someone like St. (Joseph) Barnabas in your life, to encourage you in faith.  May you be like St. (Joseph) Barnabas to at least one person, too.  And may you never fear to change your mind based on objective evidence–objective reality–not any counterfeit version thereof.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1012

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMMA OF LESUM, BENEFACTOR

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, HISTORIAN, LITURGIST, MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH LITERATURE;” AND HIS BROTHER, LAURENTIUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH HYMNODY”

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St. Stephen, the First Christian Martyr   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LX

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Acts 6:8-8:3

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…but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

–Acts 6:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons (Acts 6:1-7), had a simple job–to provide social services in the name of Christ.  Simply put, he, as a deacon, was supposed to provide the ancient equivalent of Meals on Wheels (Acts 6:2).  He died for his preaching, though.

Rather than focus on the reported contents of that fateful sermon, or on the politics of it circa 85 C.E. (when St. Luke composed the Acts of the Apostles), I choose other emphases:

  1. St. Stephen’s martyrdom resembles the crucifixion of Jesus.  The servant is not greater than the master, after all.
  2. We meet Saul of Tarsus, still a persecutor of the nascent Church.
  3. We read of sacred violence, one the most egregious oxymorons.

Those who behave violently toward the nonviolent do not impress me.  I understand that violence is sometimes the lesser evil; I am a realist.  Yet I contend that violence is usually unnecessary.  Violence in defense of another person, other human beings, and oneself is necessary at times, sadly.  yet violence against the nonviolent is never morally justifiable.

Nevertheless, violence in the name of God, especially against the nonviolent, is a repeating theme in history.  I, as a Christian, regret that violence in the name of Jesus, crucified despite being innocent of the charges against him, is a dark stain in Christian history.  And I, as a citizen of the United States of America, know that my nation-state, not exempt from human nature, has a record of incarcerating and martyring pacifists during wartime.  My Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (available at SUNDRY THOUGHTS) includes some of these martyrs.  I also know about the four Quakers the Puritan government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed for merely being Quakers.  My Ecumenical Calendar also lists these four martyrs.

The variety of theological certainty that, in one’s imagination, justifies violence against the nonviolent is morally unjustifiable.  Consider the Lucan presentation of the execution of Jesus, O reader.  Remember that the Lucan account emphasizes the innocence of Jesus, hence the injustice of his death.  We have a similar murder here, in Acts 7:54-60.

I, as a Christian, have an obligation to follow Jesus.  I do not recall the verse in which he called for smiting the heretics and evildoers.  That verse does not exist.  I do recall reading about Jesus dying for the heretics and evildoers, though.  And I remember reading about Jesus praying that God would forgive them.

As for pacifists, they are harmless at worst and beneficial at best.  If one disagrees with them, one has the right to do so.  Yet nobody has the moral right to harm them, to seek to harm them, or to consent to their harm.  Why not permit them to lead their nonviolent lives without harassment and persecution?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2022 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CHRISTIAN NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

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Sincere, Selfless Faith   1 comment

Above:  Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Hosea 5:15-6:2

Psalm 43 (LBW) or Psalm 138 (LW)

Romans 8:1-10

Matthew 20:17-28

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God of all mercy, by your power to hear and to forgive,

graciously cleanse us from all sin and make us strong;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18

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Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

your mercies are new every morning,

and though we have in no way deserved your goodness,

you still abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul. 

Give us, we pray, your Holy Spirit

that we may heartily acknowledge your merciful goodness toward us,

give thanks for all your benefits,

and serve you in willing obedience;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 37

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The selection of verses for the First Reading is odd.  These three verses, out of context, sound pious.  In textual context, however, one reads that the people in Hosea 6:1-2 were insincere, and that God knew it.  One realizes that the people in Hosea 6:1-2 were self-serving.

Sts. James and John, via their mother, St. Mary Salome, a maternal aunt of Jesus, were self-serving, too.  They sought positions of honor, not service and sacrifice.  Jesus modeled the opposite of being self-serving.  St. James and John eventually followed his example, though.

The authors of Psalms 43 and 138 offered honest faith, fortunately.  So did St. Paul the Apostle, who had a better life (by conventional standards) as Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of early Christianity.  As St. Paul, he suffered beatings, incarceration, and finally, martyrdom.

I do not pretend to have a completely selfless faith.  I know I am not a spiritual giant.  Yet I try to grow spiritually in Christ daily.  I aspire to be the best possible version of myself in Christ daily, with mixed results.  The effort is essential; God can work with it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

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Adapted from this post

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Wickedness   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

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 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

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The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-d-humes/

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Mutuality in God V   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Amos

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 3:1-8 or Proverbs 1:1-19

Psalm 115:1-11

1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-17

John 1:35-42

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The Humes lectionary provides two options for the First Reading.  I will write about both of them.

Amos 3:1-8 includes a variation on the old saying that great responsibility accompanies great privilege.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One can never purchase it, but accepting it entails taking on duties.  To tie Proverbs 1:1-19 into that principle, one has a duty to show love for God by doing love to one’s fellow human beings.  Elsewhere in Amos, we read of greedy, exploitative people, as we do in Proverbs 1:8-19.

These men lie in wait for their own blood,

they set a trap for their own lives.

This is the fate of everyone greedy of loot:

unlawful gain takes away the life of him who acquires it.

–Proverbs 1:18-19, The New American Bible (1991)

Whatever we do to others, we do also to ourselves.

The audience in Amos 3 is collective; it is the people of Israel.  To be precise, it is the people of Israel during the reigns of King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (785-733 B.C.E.) and King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 B.C.E.).  The  Deuteronomic theology of the Book of Amos teaches that actions have consequences.  Obey the Law of Moses, please God, and reap the benefits.  Alternatively, disobey the Law of Moses, displease God, and reap the negative consequences.  Many of those commandments pertain to social justice, especially economic justice.

Our Western culture, with its pervasive individualism, easily overlooks collective responsibility.  Politically, the Right Wing emphasizes individual responsibility.  Meanwhile, the Left Wing stresses collective responsibility.  Both sides err in so far as they give short shrift to or ignore either type of responsibility.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do individual and collective responsibility.  Mutuality holds them in balance.

Psalm 115 condemns idolatry.  The real idols are ideas, not objects.  A statue of a god, for example, can be a work of art to display in a museum.  Idolatry is about misplaced, disordered love, to go Augustinian on you, O reader.  In the case of the greedy people in Proverbs 1, their idol was attachment to wealth.

The reading from 1 Timothy 1 reminds us that God embraces repentance.  Remorse is an emotion that enables repentance, a series of actions.

Regardless of who wrote or dictated the First Letter to Timothy (probably not St. Paul the Apostle), St. Paul seemed unlikely to have become what he became in God.  Saul of Tarsus certainly did not expect it.  And, to turn to John 1:35-42, calling St. Simon “Peter,” or “Rock,” may have seemed ironic at first.  But Jesus recognized potential in him.  St. Simon Peter eventually grew into that potential.  St. Paul the Apostle grew into his potential, as well.

If we are to grew into our potential individually, we need the help of God and other people.  St. Paul had Ananias.  St. Simon Peter had Jesus.  Who do you have, O reader?

Likewise, if we are to grow into our potential collectively, we need the help of God and other groups of people.  We live in a web of mutuality.  We know this, do we not?  Globalization, at least, should have taught us that the communities and nation-states can affect the fates of our communities and nation-states.  

Will we work for the common good?  Or will we persist in delusions of amoral rugged individualism and isolationism?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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God’s Surprises III   1 comment

Above:  Jael and Sisera, by Jacopo Amigoni

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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Judges 4:1-9, 15-21 or Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 84

Romans 1:1-15

Luke 7:18-35

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Four of the five assigned readings contain surprises.

  1. Not only did Sisera die at the hands of a woman–a woman!–but she was Jael, not Deborah, a prophetess.
  2. Jeremiah thought he was too young for the vocation God had assigned him.  Youth and inexperience proved to be irrelevant, for God qualified the called.
  3. Much to the shock and dismay of many, St. Paul the Apostle had a mission to the Gentiles.  That vocation would have shocked Saul of Tarsus.
  4. St. John the Baptist had identified Jesus as the one to follow, as the Lamb of God.  Yet even he, languishing in one of Herod Antipas’s prison cells, had doubts.  The proof of Jesus’ pudding, so to speak, was in the surprising results he produced.  A prisoner having doubts was not surprising, though.

As our flesh and hearts cry out for God and seek evermore to dwell in the courts of the divine, may we, by grace, avoid the trap of functional fixation.  May we not be oblivious to divine surprises.  May our piety not become a spiritual obstacle.  May we avoid the erroneous assumption that God fits into our categories.  May we recognize and delight in God’s surprises.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/12/devotion-for-proper-8-year-c-humes/

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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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