Archive for the ‘Single Predestination’ Tag

Oracles of Divine Salvation, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Bethlehem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING MICAH, PART VI

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 5:2-15 (Anglican and Protestant)

Micah 5:1-14 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Many of my fellow Christians (including some in my family) think of me as a heretic and tell me that I think too much and ask too many questions, therefore may be bound for Hell.  Some of the comments that follow may help to explain why I receive such a negative and inaccurate evaluation.  Before I make those allegedly damning comments, though, I mention that I even own a t-shirt that reads, “HERETIC.”  I am so accustomed to be the resident heretic that I claim the label and have the shirt to prove it.  Besides, theological orthodoxy is not a saving work, and salvation does not require willful ignorance of objective reality.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject that any human work is salvific, and to hold that salvation is entirely a matter of grace.  Those not predestined to Heaven can use their free will to heed the witness of the Holy Spirit, therefore to respond favorably to the call of God.  That free will exists because of grace.  Everything comes back to grace, and a passing grade of a canonical examination is not a requirement for salvation.  Human beings do not find God; no, God finds human beings.  We mortals cannot save ourselves from ourselves, but we can condemn ourselves.

Reading messianic prophecies selectively and applying them dubiously to Jesus is an ancient Christian tradition.  The Gospel of Matthew is a treasure trove of examples of this practice.  Micah 5:2-6/5:1-5 (depending on versification) may seem to apply to Jesus at first.  I do not recall, however, the episode in Christ’s life when he, as the besieged King of Judah (see 4:14/5:1, depending on versification), fought off Assyrian invaders.  Do you recall that story, O reader?

The big idea in Micah 5 is that, in the ideal future, the people of God will live in harmony with God and each other.  God will avenge the formerly oppressed people of God, who will dwell in safety.  Idolatry will cease, and God will destroy all idols.

The vision of Micah 5 remains in the future tense in 2021.  On a micro level, I, one of the more devout people, know about the allure of idols, both tangible and intangible.  Being an idol is a matter of function; if x functions as an idol for a person, x is an idol for that individual.  It may not be an idol for many other people.  I admit freely that idolatry is an especially powerful temptation.  I also admit freely that I try to be civil, at least, with other people, but I am not at peace with myself.  We are all broken, to some extent.  I envy the spiritual giants who were or are at peace with themselves and others.

Micah 5 focuses on what God will do then on what faithful people, in the context of what God has done, will and will not do.  This is a theocentric model, as it should be.  We mere mortals get into trouble when we stray from a theocentric model.  When we dethrone God and enshrine ourselves, we commit idolatry.  When we take our gaze away from God, we commit idolatry.  When we trust in ourselves, not in God, we commit idolatry.

Martin Luther’s greatest spiritual advice may have been to trust in the faithfulness of God.  Quoting and paraphrasing that counsel is easy.  Following that advice can be challenging.  Doing so successfully is possible only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARDWICKE DRUMMOND RAWNSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAMBERT PÉLOGUIN OF VENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP NERI, THE APOSTLE OF ROME AND THE FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE ORATORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT QUADRATUS THE APOLOGIST, EARLY CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted May 26, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Micah 5

Tagged with , ,

Vocation and Spiritual Maturity, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Assumption of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Sunday After the Ascension, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, the King of glory, who through the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ,

hast opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers;

leave us not comfortless, we beseech thee, in our weary mortal state,

but send unto us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,

to guide us into the way of truth and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 178

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 2:1-15

Psalm 42

Colossians 3:1-11

Matthew 28:16-20

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There is only Christ:  he is everything and he is in everything.

–Colossians 3:11b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For most of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ’s mission was t Jews only.  Certain Gentiles expressed interest, though.  These were some of the God-fearers, who rejected the paganism of their cultures and recognized YHWH as the one true God.  At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus issued the Great Commission:  to go out into all the world, to baptize, and to make disciples in all parts of the world.

Grace is free yet not cheap.  Accepting it imposes obligations upon one.  These include maturing spiritually, as in Colossians 3:5-11.  The list there is representative, not comprehensive.  It points to how we think about and behave toward one another.

Such spiritual maturity also thrives at the high points of life and endures in the depths of despair.  Psalm 42 comes from exile.  Exile can assume many forms.  The longer the COVID-19 pandemic continues, for example, the more it feels like exile to many people, including me.  Souls feel cast down.  They feel thirsty for God.  Spiritual maturity helps one endure the wilderness of despair.

God loves all people and beckons them.  God even predestines some percentage of them to Heaven yet none to Hell.  The extravagant love of God functions as a model for we mere mortals.  Do we love people unconditionally?  Do we love those who are very different from us?  I confess that, at my best, my love falls far short of divine love.  Yet I trust in God, whose grace suffices.  And I strive to do better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Donatism of a Sort, Part III   Leave a comment

Above: St. Augustine Arguing with Donatists, by Charles-André van Loo

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 32

Ephesians 2:13-22

Mark 15:1-39

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The imagery in Lamentations 3 (usually about going into the Babylonian Exile) and Psalm 32 (really about confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and returning to God) fits with the suffering of Jesus in Mark 15:1-39.  One result of that suffering, we read in Ephesians 2:13-22, is the breaking down of hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus is the peace, we read.  He is the means of reconciliation, we read.

I got the memo; I read Ephesians 2:13-22.  I also marked, learned, and inwardly digested the text.  However, many people, including a plethora of my fellow Christians, have not read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested Ephesians 2:13-22.  Anti-Semitism has been a sin within the Church since the founding of the Church.

Likewise, among Gentiles, erecting and maintaining walls of hostility has been a long-standing practice.  Donatism (in the broad sense of that word) has been around for a very long time.

As Edmond Browning, a previous Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, insisted, there are 

no outsiders

in Christ.  Many professing Christians have yet to receive that menu.  According to doctrinal purity tests from my right, I am impure–a heretic, probably one damned to Hell.  My alleged offenses, according to some who have spoken to me in person and/or sent emails, include thinking too much and asking too many questions.

Salvation is not a matter of winning Theological Twenty Questions.  Salvation is not a matter of knowledge, as in Gnosticism.  Orthodoxy in theology is not a saving work.  Salvation is a matter of grace.  This grace is at work in Single Predestination and in free will.  We have free will because of grace, after all.

And Donatism is not a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sons of God   3 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 1

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 63:7-17

Psalm 2

Galatians 4:1-7

John 1:1-18

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God is faithful, we read.  Even when reality falls short of expectations, as when Hebrew exiles moved to their ruined, ancestral homeland, God is faithful.  When divine ire flares up and consumes imprudent rulers and assemblies, God is faithful.  When the darkness of the world proves incapable of overpowering the light of God, which the darkness cannot understand anyway, God is faithful.

The reading from Galatians 4 requires a spotlight, hence the focus of this post.

Pauline literature, whether of St. Paul the Apostle or merely in his name, uses two words many modern English translations render as “children.”  One word is literally “children” or “offspring,” with no gender specified.  The other word is literally “sons.”  Translating the Greek correctly and interpreting the texts in the context of the time and place is crucial to understand the texts accurately.

I am a good, self-respecting liberal.  As such, I accept much inclusive language.  As a pedant, I reject “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” as singular pronouns, for I respect the distinction between the singular and the plural too much to do otherwise.  Besides, one can use those words as plural pronouns–the only correct way to use them.  I also prefer precision in language, so I like to know when “men” refers to males and when it is gender-non-specific, replaced easily with words such as “people,” “mortals,” and “humankind.”

In St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, sons inherited; daughters did not.  St. Paul, using big letters (6:11), wrote that through Jesus, the Son of God, we can became sons of God, that is heirs–not servants, but heirs.  The apostle wrote of God’s inclusive love and grace that reaches out for everybody, although not all people will join the household and claim the inheritance.  St. Paul wrote that divine love and grace wiped out and cut across human societal categories, including gender, ethnicity, and slavery (3:26-38).

If the Pauline language of sons of God in Galatians offends our twenty-first-century sensibilities, we need to read deeply, not superficially, and to understand what he meant.  Then we need to thank God for extravagant love and grace that, via one method or another (Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit) creates opportunities we can never make for ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judgment and Mercy, Part XI   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy name, increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness, and by thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Joshua 24:14-24

Colossians 1:24-29

John 17:20-26

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Due to thematic similarity between the readings for this post and the previous one, I could slip into excessive repetitiveness easily.  Nevertheless, I have tried not to do so.

Different Biblical authors had divergent opinions about how forgiving God is.  God was unforgiving of apostasy and apostates in Deuteronomy 29 and Hebrews 10:26-31, for example.  In Luke 9:62, Jesus, after listening to excuses for not following him, said,

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet God was forgiving in Deuteronomy 30.  This forgiving attitude did not indicate the absence of negative consequences of sins, though.

Heaven and Hell, which I understand to be realities, not places with geography and coordinates, are real.  God predestines some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  God damns no person, but people damn themselves.  God, in my theology, extends successive opportunities to repent.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  I do not pretend to know where one ends and the other begins.  Yet I understand that we ought to take faithful response to God seriously.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Light to the Nations IX   2 comments

Above:  The Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Feast of the Epiphany, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, who by the leading of a star revealed thy newborn Son to those far off:

mercifully grant that we who know thee by faith, may in this life glorify thee,

and in the life to come behold thee face to face,

through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Matthew 2:1-12

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I am an unapologetic pedant.  I wince whenever I hear or read people use “viable” in lieu of “feasible.”  I know that signs above express lanes in grocery stores should read

10 Items or Fewer,

instead of the ubiquitous

10 Items or Less.

The misuse of “impact” in lieu of verbs such as “influence” and “affect,” minus the traditional physicality (either a collision or becoming wedged in somewhere) is an assault on proper English.  Likewise, the use of “impacted” for “affected,” as well as “impactful,” are inexcusable.  Any use of “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” other than as plural words bothers me, for I respect the distinction between the plural and the singular.  And I know that Magi and shepherds never belong together in manger scenes.  If we reconcile the accounts from Matthew 2 and Luke 2 (a dubious proposition, according to many New Testament scholars), we must place about two years (Matthew 2:16) between them.

The Feast of the Epiphany is, on one level, about the Gospel of Jesus Christ going out to the goyim.  On another level, it is about the goyim coming (in the case of the magi, traveling) to Christ.  The reading from Isaiah 60, with the full reversal of exile and the goyim going to Jerusalem, fits into this theme well.  The Gospel of Christ is unveiled, plain to see, and like a light shining in the darkness, which has yet to understand and overpower it (John 1:5).

I stand within a theological tradition that affirms Single Predestination.  God predestines some people to Heaven and uses the witness of the Holy Spirit to invite the others.  The damned are those who condemn or have condemned themselves; God sends nobody to Hell, but everyone.  This theology is consistent with the Epiphany.  The Jews are the Chosen People, yes, but we Gentiles are like limbs grafted onto the tree of Judaism.

Will we, like the magi, obey God?  Or will we, like Herod the Great, pursue our own agendas instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Receive the Holy Spirit, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit,

look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit.

Kindle in us the fire of your love,

and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:21-32

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Acts 2:1-21

John 7:37-39

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Joel 2:21-32 (Protestant and Anglican versification) = Joel 2:21-3:5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dating the Book of Joel is difficult, but its message is simple:  After the judgment of God and the repentance of Israel divine mercy will be abundant and God will pour out His spirit on all people.  The assigned reading, quoted partially in Acts 2:1-21, fits well with Psalm 104.  The future age predicted in Joel 2:21-32/2:21-3:5 remains for our future, but its message of God’s universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit is timeless.  For the sake of completeness, however, one should not that Chapter 4 (if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox)/Chapter 3 (if one is Anglican or Protestant) contains both judgment and mercy.

By means of both the witness of the Holy Spirit and Single Predestination, taken together, salvation is available to all people, but many people reject it, hence divine judgment.  This is unfortunate, as well as beyond any mere mortal’s pay grade, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the extent of the boundaries of divine grace would probably shock most of us, if we knew all the details.  These are properly matters in the purview of God.

John 7:37-38, in the original Greek, is a somewhat ambiguous text, due to the question of punctuation.  Related to that issue is the matter of theological interpretation, as commentaries reveal.  I feel comfortable asserting that Jesus, not the believer, is the source of the rivers of living water.  In Christianity we must look to Jesus.  God is central; we are not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-pentecost-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To Glorify and Enjoy God I   1 comment

St. John the Baptist Preaching

Above:  St. John the Baptist Preaching, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Numbers 14:1-25

Psalm 144

John 3:22-38

Hebrews 5:11-6:20

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Happy are the people to whom such blessings falls;

happy are the people whose God is the LORD.

–Psalm 144:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in creating his proposed Year D, has grouped stories of rebellion against God and cautions against opposing God together in Advent.  It is a useful tactic, for, as much as one might know something, reminders prove helpful.

In Hebrews we read of the reality of apostasy (falling away from God) and the imperative of not doing so.  It is a passage with which those whose theology precludes the possibility of apostasy must contend.  I, as one raised a United Methodist and, as of a few years ago, converted to affirming Single Predestination, know much about the theology of free will in relation to salvation.  On a lighter note, I also recall an old joke about Methodists:  Not only do they believe in falling from grace, but they practice it often.  (If one cannot be religious and have a well-developed sense of humor, one has a major problem.)  Although I like Methodism in general (more so than certain regional variations of it), I cannot be intellectually honest and return to it, given Methodist theology regarding the denial of Single Predestination.

As Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us, the faithfulness of God is the anchor of our souls, and Jesus is a forerunner on our behalf.  In John 3:22-38 we read of his forerunner, St. John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus, not to himself.  I have no doubt that

He must grow greater; I must become less.

–John 3:30, The Revised English Bible (1989),

words attributed to St. John the Baptist, are not historical.  Neither do I doubt their theological truth.  St. John the Baptist probably said something to the effect of that sentence, I argue.  I also insist that those words apply to all of us in the human race.  Jesus must grow greater; each of us must become less.  To act according to the ethos of glorifying oneself might lead to short-term gain, but it also leads to negative consequences for oneself in the long term and for others in the short, medium, and long terms.

The call of God entails the spiritual vocation of humility, or, in simple terms, of being down to earth.  The highest and chief end of man, the Westminster Catechisms teach us correctly, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  To arrive at that point one must trust in and follow God, whom we ought not to forget or neglect at any time, but especially in December, in the immediate temporal proximity of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Apostasy and Fidelity   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Thursday)

Isaiah 42:10-18 (Friday)

Psalm 80:1-7 (Both Days)

Hebrews 10:10-18 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The motif of divine judgment and mercy continues in the readings for these days.  Exile will come to pass.  According to the theology of the Old Testament, the main cause was disobedience to the Law of Moses.  After the exile, however, divine mercy will shower upon the Hebrews.  The new covenant will be one written on human hearts, not scrolls or stone tablets.

Divine forgiveness for human sins is a blessing and an expression of grace.  It also creates an obligation to respond favorably to God, out of awe and gratitude.  Such a favorable response will affect those around the one responding accordingly.  How can it not?  Consider, O reader, the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  That one has societal implications.

The Letter to the Hebrews warns against committing apostasy, or falling away from God.  That emphasis is evident in 10:32-39.  One cannot fall away from God unless one has followed God.  As I wrote in the previous post,

Salvation…is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.

Divine love for human beings is wonderful.  It does not, however, negate free will.  I recognize a role for predestination also, for I have come to accept the doctrine of Single Predestination, which is consistent with Lutheranism and Anglicanism, as well as moderate Calvinism.  For those not predestined to Heaven the witness of the Holy Spirit is available.  By free will (itself a gift of God) one can accept or reject that witness.  The correct choice is acceptance, but many opt to reject the offer.  Some of them had accepted it.

The responsibility to make the correct choice remains constant.  The necessity of choosing to persist in the faith is a constant once one has embraced wondrous grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sin and Grace   1 comment

Crucifix II July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 24:23-34

Psalm 1

John 5:39-47

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

–Psalm 1:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Proverbs has a hit-or-miss quality when I read from it.  Sometimes passages are overly optimistic, as in the statement that children, once they learn the proper path, will not stray from it.  Other passages seem banal.  This fact might indicate more about me than the texts in question; so be it.  Today’s section, however, falls into the “hit” side of “hit-or-miss.”  I detect three main points of advice:

  1. Have a well-reasoned plan for work,
  2. Follow it, and
  3. Be honest.

The third point applies to the pericope from John 5.  Many opponents of our Lord and Savior told lies about him as part of an effort which led to his execution.  Thus they protected their own status, which Jesus, by his mere presence, threatened.  Before they lied to others, however, they deceived themselves partially and decided not to follow him.  They knew that Jesus was no charlatan, but they acted as they did.  And they did so in the name of God.

Sometimes we sin in ignorance.  We think we know what we are doing, but we really do not.  On other occasions, however, we know exactly what we are doing.  In the case of our Lord and Savior’s opponents, they were scapegoating a man and protecting their socio-economic-political status.  They were looking out for number one and defending the status quo ante by means of deception and eventually violence.

Do we know what we are doing when we sin against God and each other each time?  Of course not!  But, regardless of the status of our knowledge, grace is available to us.  Both judgment and mercy abide in the nature of God.  Also relevant are the decisions we make ultimately, for our free will plays a part in the drama of our salvation (unless, of course, we are among those God has predestined to Heaven) or damnation.  Grace precedes us, walks beside us, carries us sometimes, and succeeds us.  Dare we reject it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT SCHWEITZER, MEDICAL MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND WITNESS FOR PEACE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-25-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++