Archive for the ‘Sovereignty of God’ Tag

Images of Gods   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

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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Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26

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The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-29-year-c-humes/

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Character, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Samson

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 13:1-5, 24 or Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Psalm 92

Romans 3:1-10, 23-31

Luke 10:1-24

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All people are sinful, we read.  Societies and institutions are sinful.  The icing on the cake is the depressing reading from Jeremiah.  That is almost as somber as a movie by Vittorio De Sica.  Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), and Umberto D. (1952) are realistic and depressing works of art.

There is good news, however:  God can work through us.  God worked through the conventionally pious Psalmist, the frequently oblivious Apostles, and that idiot, Samson.  God worked through Jeremiah and St. Paul the Apostle.  God can work through corrupt institutions.  God can work through you and me, O reader.  God is sovereign.

That settles one question, but not another one.  No excuses for bad character and institutional corruption are valid.  Being an instrument of God does not exempt one from moral obligations.  Yes, God can work through scuz buckets, but being being a scuz bucket is still wrong.

May we, by grace, be the most moral instruments of God possible.  May our public and private morality be as close to the divine ideal as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-c-humes/

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A Covenant People, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  The Calling of Peter and Andrew, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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

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

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Almighty and Everliving God, mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth Thy right hand to help and defend us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 129

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Numbers 24:10-17

Psalm 33:6-22

Romans 5:1-5

Mark 1:14-28

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Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;

Let the search for Thy salvation

Be our glory evermore.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

Serving Thee whom we adore,

Serving Thee whom we adore.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), “God of Grace and God of Glory” (1930)

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God is sovereign, despite appearances to the contrary.  Innocent and faithful people suffer.  Many of them died unjustly.  Yet, ultimately, that world order will pass away and the fully-realized Kingdom of God will replace it.  The Gospel of Matthew, which uses “Kingdom of God” four times, calls the fully-realized Kingdom the Kingdom of Heaven.  (See:  Jonathan Pennington.)

Do we accept the sovereignty of God?  Doing so is difficult much of the time, after all.  “The sovereignty of God” becomes an empty platitude too easily and frequently.  I understand why.  Perhaps you, O reader, also understand this.

One challenge of faith is to move beyond what is and to hope for what can be.  This requires imagination sufficient to act positively, therefore, to improve the world, if only slightly.  This is one task of a covenant people–to cooperate with God, to leave the world better than we found it.  We have no excuse for folding up our arms in resignation and despair when we should reach them out to others.

God will save the world.  God is sovereign.  Thanks be to God!  May we not forget our duties, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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Pretenses of Knowledge   5 comments

Above:  Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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2 Chronicles 10:1-11, 19 or Joshua 2

Psalm 75

Ephesians 1:1-14

Luke 4:1-13

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The Gospel reading for today is one account of the temptation of Jesus.  I have written of those temptations and their implications for people and institutions today in other blog posts.  (Just follow the germane tags, O reader.)  I am not included to repeat myself today–at least not regarding that point.

Perhaps the main temptation I face is to pretend to know more than I do.  This is an error of King Rehoboam of Israel/Judah in 2 Chronicles 10.  We read of the disastrous consequences for his realm in that chapter.  Perhaps one would judge a prostitute harshly.  Yet Joshua praises Rahab, who saved the lives of Israelite spies and won a place in Israelite society for herself and her family (Joshua 6:22-25).  We even read of her place in the family tree of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).

In God, in Christ, our pretenses prove to be worthless.  That which we know is inadequate, and we do not know as much as we imagine.  Besides, salvation is not a matter of knowledge.  If it were, learning would constitute a saving work.  God is sovereign.  God knows much more than we do.  If we approach God with humility, we will learn more than we can imagine.  We will certainly learn how little we know.  Perhaps this humility will lead us to become more cautious about judging others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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Christ, Ascended   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION AND ASCENSION SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended

far above the heavens, that he might fill all things:

Mercifully give us faith to perceive that according to his promise

he abides with his Church on earth, even to the ends of the world;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 122

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Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 8 (Ascension Day)

Psalm 29 (Ascension Sunday)

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:6-11) is one of those events I file under “You Had to Be There.”  I read the account (not assigned for these occasions, oddly enough) of it as prose poetry.  I do not assume, after all, that Heaven (as God’s abode) is on the other side of the sky and that the cosmos has three tiers, the middle level of which is the Earth.  What I do take literally is that Jesus was physically present at the beginning of the day and gone by the end of that day.  I also notice that the importance of the departure of Jesus for the Apostles was that they had they had to assume their responsibility, with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

The assigned readings, taken together, emphasize the sovereignty of God.  The lesson from Daniel 7 is part of a longer passage.  In a dream are four mighty beasts, representing, in order, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the empire of Alexander the Great.  From the latter arise ten horns, representing Seleucid successors of Alexander.  One of these horns is the arrogant and violent Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  “One like a Son of Man,” a heavenly being often identified in Jewish tradition as Michael the Archangel, crushes Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

We know from the passage of time that events did not unfold that way; history did not culminate in the Hasmonean period.  We can, however, affirm the sovereignty of God, a theme prevalent in Psalms 8 and 29 also.  The sovereignty of God is also evident in the resurrection of Jesus.

Various Christian traditions emphasize different aspects of the life of Christ.  Anglicanism, with its incarnational theology, is the church of Christmas.  Roman Catholicism, with its ubiquitous crucifixes, fixates on Good Friday.  The Jesus of Eastern Orthodoxy is the ascended and glorified Jesus in Heaven, as their iconography indicates.  Each emphasis has its virtues, but the ascended and glorified Christ is the version of Jesus to ponder on the Feast of the Ascension.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Scapegoating, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son has made

the instrument of shameful death to be to us the means of life and peace:

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss;

for the sake of the same your Son our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 98

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Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13

Psalm 6

Hebrews 9:11-14

John 11:47-53

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The old Methodist lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965) has two sets of readings for the same Sunday–Palm/Passion Sunday.  The older tradition is to treat the Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week as a synopsis of that week.  That is what we have here.  Tailoring the observance of this Sunday is to be Palm Sunday–simply starting Holy Week–is what we will have in the next post.

We have sad and blood-soaked readings, as we should for Passion Sunday.  Genesis 22 offers the horrible story of Abraham nearly killing Isaac, his son.  We read previously in Genesis of Abraham negotiating with God for the lives of strangers (18:22-33), but we do not read of him doing the same for the life of his son.  The author of Psalm 6 is a severely ill person pleading for continued life.  Hebrews 9:11-14 reminds us of the power of the blood of Christ.  We read of the plot to scapegoat Jesus in John 11:47-53.  This is consistent with Luke  23, which emphasizes the innocence of Jesus and therefore the injustice of his crucifixion.

A scapegoat saves Isaac in Genesis 22 yet another scapegoat dies at Calvary.  I recall reading about the ultimate failure of the plot of Caiaphas to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple, for I remember reading about the First Jewish War a few decades later.  Scapegoating is a generally nasty practice, one that usually seeks to pervert justice.  One lesson of the scapegoating and crucifixion of Jesus is that we ought to abandon the practice of seeking scapegoats.

Another lesson is that God can work through human perfidy to fulfill divine purposes.  In the Gospel of John the crucifixion of Jesus is his glorification.  The insidious plot of Caiaphas, therefore, works for a higher purpose, despite the intentions of the high priest.  That is a fine example of the sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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The Sovereignty of God V   1 comment

Above:   Paying the Tax with a Coin from the Fish

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 27:1-10, 18-19, 26-33, 38-40

Psalm 12

Acts 4:23-31

Matthew 17:24-27

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O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

The wicked prowl on every side,

and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.

–Psalm 12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the primary challenges understanding the Bible is the fact that we moderns come from different cultural and intellectual backgrounds than the ancients did.  The Biblical texts leave much unwritten because members of the original audiences did not require the explanation of every germane assumption.  Consider, O reader, blessings and curses.  By curses I refer not to profane and coarse language, but to the opposite of blessings.  One assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that spoken blessings and curses have power.  Oral blessings and curses are motifs in the Old Testament.  In this case the second son steals the blessing (due to the first son) by fooling an aging and blind father.  The stolen blessing, however, still has power.  Furthermore, God works through the blessing and the act of stealing it.

The theme of the sovereignty of God continues in the readings.  The promises of God are sure in Psalm 12, even though people exalt vileness.  In Acts 4 religious persecution becomes an opportunity certain early Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the faith boldly.

The Gospel reading requires much explanation.  A standard exegesis is that the tax in question was the Temple tax.  However, Father Raymond E. Brown questions this conclusion in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  He proposes that, since Matthew 17:24-27 does not identify the tax as the Temple tax, it might have been a different tax–perhaps the census tax mentioned in Matthew 22:15-22.  Or, if one assumes that the tax in Matthew 17:24-27 was the Temple tax, one might surmise that post-70 C.E. realities inform the telling of the story.  With the destruction of the Temple and the continuation of the Temple tax, the purpose of said tax had shifted to support the temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

The real issue is the sovereignty of God.  The Roman destruction of the Temple could not overcome the sovereignty of God.  Imperial power might extend even to fish, but God could place the coin to pay the tax inside a fish.  For the sake of avoiding public scandal Jesus pays the tax with money God has provided, but God is still more powerful than the Roman Empire.

We who follow God should acknowledge divine sovereignty.  Our relations to the state might be strained.  I acknowledge the moral legitimacy of political revolution sometimes, especially when the system oppresses those who seek to change it peaceably.  In all circumstances, we ought to, in the words of Jesus,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and God what belongs to God.

–Matthew 22:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God, who is sovereign over empires and republics, wants us.  That is fair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-5-ackerman/

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Showing Proper Reverence for God   1 comment

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

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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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Malachi 1:1-14

Psalm 8

Luke 1:1-25

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

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O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

–Psalm 8:1a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In Malachi 1 YHWH complains (via the prophet) that many people are taking their sacrifices lightly, offering unfit food and creatures in violations provided in the Torah.  (Consult Exodus 12:5 and 29:1 as well as Leviticus 1:3 and 10; 3:1; and 22:17-30 plus Deuteronomy 15:21 regarding animal sacrifices).  People in many lands honored God, but, in Persian-dominated Judea, where, of all places, that reverence should have been concentrated, many people were slacking off.

St. Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, certainly revered God.  The old man was a priest at the Temple at Jerusalem.  He and his wife, St. Elizabeth, the Gospel of Luke tells us,

were upright ad devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

–1:6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In an echo of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22 and 18:1-15, each account coming from a different source), the elderly priest learned that he and his wife would become parents against all odds.  He was predictably dubious.  The prediction of a miracle and a marvel, to borrow language from Hebrews 2:4, came true.

Hebrews 2:3 provides a timeless warning against neglecting

such a great salvation

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

That salvation is the offer of God, who made the aged Abraham and Sarah parents and did the same for the elderly Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth.  It is the offer of God, who chose St. Mary of Nazareth to become an instrument of the Incarnation.  It is the offer of God, the name of when many people all over the world honor.  May we revere God and strive, by grace, to offer our best, not our leftovers and spares in sacrifice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HAMMOND, ENGLISH MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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The Extravagance of God and the Irrepressible Kingdom of God   1 comment

Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Above:  Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Photographer = Steve Hillebrand, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 13:17-27

Psalm 39

Luke 13:18-21

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Numbers 13:17-27 and Luke 13:18-21 speak of the extravagant generosity of God.

Canaan, the Promised Land, is the bountiful territory overflowing with milk and honey in Numbers 13.  One finds similarly wonderful descriptions of the promise of the Jewish homeland after God has ended the Babylonian Exile later in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Those were dashed hopes, as the narrative of the Old Testament indicates, but the hope for a better future free from deprivation and foreign occupation continues to inspire people living in difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous slave mentality and unreasoning fear of the Canaanites led many Israelites to oppose entering Canaan.  Many, according to Numbers 14:3, regretted ever having left Egypt, where they were slaves but at least the leftovers were nice.  God punished the generation which had left Egypt, the Book of Numbers tells us, by granting them their wish not to enter Canaan.  At least God was merciful enough to refrain from striking them dead or sending them back to Egypt.

The generosity–grace–of God–demands a faithful response.  What will we do with grace?  Will we even accept it and its accompanying responsibilities?  Human life is transient, as the author of Psalm 39 understood well, but it does offer many opportunities to function as an agent of God to others.

Cedar of Lebanon

Above:  A Cedar of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06183

Luke 13:18-21 provides two brief parables illustrating the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.  In the first parable (verses 18 and 19) the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, the small beginning of a large, if not noble, mustard plant–a large shrub, really.  A mustard plant, which can grow to be as large as twelve feet tall, offers shelter to a variety of birds.  Implicit in the Lukan version of the parable is that Gentiles are welcome in the Kingdom of God.  The parable shocks by not invoking the image of a mighty, impressive cedar of Lebanon.  Such imagery would indicate a mature plant.  The imagery of a mustard plant, however, promises continued growth.  The Kingdom of God is present among us, but not fully; there is more to come.

Then again [Jesus] said,

“What can I say the kingdom of God is like?  It is like the yeast which a woman took and covered up in three measures of flour until the whole had risen.”

–Luke 13:20-21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

The second parable is that of yeast which a woman hides in three measures (fifty pounds) of flour.  Most contemporary translations I consulted render a certain Greek word as “mixed,” but the proper meaning is “hid.”  The Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952, and 1971), the Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965), the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), and the New American Standard Bible (1971 and 1995) render that word properly as “hid.”  The 1958 and 1972 editions of The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips) use “covered up,” which makes the same point.  The woman in the parable seeks to conceal the yeast by hiding it in flour, but the yeast permeates the flour instead.  The parable contains the element of hyperbole, for baking 50 pounds of flour, enough to feed 150 people, at one time, is perhaps improbable.  The hyperbole points to the extravagance of God and the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.

Nobody among mortals can conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God.  That lesson comforts me.  Secularization of society and religious persecution are powerless to conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God, which is like yeast pervading the whole.  The blood of the martyrs waters the church, which has, in certain times and at certain places, gone underground yet remained alive.  The lesson here is about what God does, often despite what certain people do.  God is sovereign.  We can accept or reject that reality, but we can never change it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting and Obeying God (Or Not)   1 comment

Draw the Circle Wider

Above:  The Cover of a Small Book the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Publishes

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:13-26 (Monday)

Exodus 16:27-36 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-72 (Both Days)

Romans 9:19-29 (Monday)

Acts 15:1-5, 22-35 (Tuesday)

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Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will pour forth mysteries from of old,

Such as we have heard and known,

which our forebears have told us.

We will not hide from their children,

but will recount to generations to come,

the praises of the Lord and his power

and the wonderful works he has done.

–Psalm 78:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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One reads of the sovereignty, mercy, and judgment of God in Psalm 78.  Other assigned passages for these two days pick up these elements.  We read of God’s mercy (in the form of manna) in Exodus 16 and of divine sovereignty and judgment in Romans 9.  We read also of human fickleness and faithlessness in Exodus 16 and of human faithfulness in Acts 15.

Exodus 16’s place in the narrative is within recent memory of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  One might think, therefore, that more people would trust God, who was demonstrably faithful to divine promises.  But, no!  Bad mentalities many people had remained, unfortunately.

The Council of Jerusalem addressed the major question of how much the Law of Moses Gentile Christians had to keep.  Did one have to become a Jew in order to be a Christian?  This was a major question of identity for many observant Jewish Christians.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was, according to Jewish scriptures, negative and had led to the downfall of kingdoms.  The final position of the Council of Jerusalem was to require only that Gentile Christians obey Leviticus 17:8-18:30, which applied to resident aliens.  Gentile Christians were to abstain from three categories of behavior which offended Jewish sensibilities:

  1. Eating food sacrificed to idols,
  2. Drinking blood and eating meat from animals not quite drained of blood, and
  3. Engaging in fornication, most rules of which related to sexual relations with near relatives.

Underlying these rules is a sense of respect:

  1. Acting respectfully toward God is a virtue which requires no explanation here.
  2. Blood, according to the assumptions regarding food laws, carries life.  To abstain from consuming blood, therefore, is to respect the life of the source animal.  (Hence the Christian theology of Transubstantiation, foreshadowed in the Gospel of John, is scandalous from a certain point of view.
  3. And, as for sexual relations, one must, to be moral, respect one’s body and the body of any actual or prospective sexual partner.

As generous as the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem was, it proved insufficient to satisfy the pro-Law of Moses hardliners.  Generosity of spirit, which sets some boundaries while abolishing stumbling blocks, tends not to satisfy hardliners of either the left wing or the right wing.  Yet, as the French say, C’est la vie.  In my Christian tradition hardliners exist, and I am at odds with many of them.  I try to ignore the rest.

Nevertheless, I ask myself if I have become a hardliner of a sort.  If the answer is affirmative, the proper spiritual response is to ask myself whom I am excluding improperly and, by grace, to pursue corrective action–repentance–changing my mind, turning around.

Trusting God can prove difficult, given our negative mentalities.  Seeking to hoard material necessities leads to excess and is one expression of faithlessness.  Another is comforting oneself with false notions of who is “in” and who is “out,” with oneself being part of the “in” crowd, of course.  But what if God’s definition of the “in” crowd is broader than ours.  How does that affect our identity?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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