Archive for the ‘St. Augustine of Hippo’ Tag

God and Country–God First and Foremost   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

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Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I spun off this weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

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Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

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Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/devotion-for-independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

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The Sin of Not Loving   1 comment

st-augustine

Above:  Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

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:

Isaiah 54:1-17 or 37:14-38

Psalm 39

John 8:12-30

James 4:(1-3) 4-6 (7-8a) 8b-17 or Galatians 4:1-3 (4-7) 8-3, 5:1

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Love, and do what you will:  whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare; let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

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The more familiar version of that excerpt from a sermon is:

Love God and do as you please:  for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

One might identify a plethora of scriptural verses consistent with this nugget of wisdom from St. Augustine.  The reading from James comes to mind immediately.  In the background of St. Augustine’s counsel is the fidelity of God (evident in the readings from Isaiah).  Yes, we will not escape all the consequences of our sins, but, for the Hebrews in the Old Testament, divine mercy follows God’s judgment.  We are free in Christ to follow him.  Nevertheless, many choose the yoke of slavery to sin.  Maybe they prefer that which is familiar or seemingly easier.  After all, grace, although free, is never cheap; it costs us something.  Yet following Christ is the way of ultimate life, in this realm of existence as well as in the next one.

I like the advice from St. Augustine, for it cuts through legalism (as Jesus did, to the ire of certain religious people) and offers a concise path, one more different from legalism.  Legalism leans toward a checklist morality, which is shallow and typical, for example, of the alleged friends of Job.  Loving God (and, by extension, our fellow human beings) is about relationships.  The Holy Trinity itself is about, among other things, relationships.  We human beings are, by nature, relational.  We are, according to divine law, responsible to and for each other in a web of interdependence.

Taking up one’s cross and following Christ requires one to surrender much, including one’s selfish desires and illusions of independence.  It requires one to grow into a mindset that will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.  In so doing it liberates one to do as one pleases–as one ought to wish to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Free to Serve God, Part I   1 comment

Finding of the Silver Cup

Above:  Finding of the Silver Cup

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:16-34 (Thursday)

Genesis 44:1-17 (Friday)

Genesis 44:18-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40 (All Days)

Romans 8:1-11 (Thursday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Friday)

Luke 12:57-59 (Saturday)

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If anyone had a legitimate reason to harbor resentment, Joseph son of Jacob did.  Siblings had, out of jealousy of him and annoyance with him (he was an insufferable brat for a while), faked his death and sold him into slavery.  Joseph had also spent years in prison for a crime he had not committed.  Decades later, when he had a position in the Egyptian government, Joseph had an opportunity to take revenge.  As one reads in Genesis 45, he chose to do otherwise.

One theme in the pericope from Romans 8 is liberation by God from the power of sin (yet not the struggle with sin) to serve and obey God, to pursue spiritual purposes.  The reading from 1 John, with its warning against loving the world, fits well with that passage.  That caution is not a call for serial Christian contrariness.  No, St. Augustine of Hippo understood the passage well.  He asked,

Why should I not love what God has made?

The great theologian answered his own question this way:

God does not forbid one to love these things but to love them to the point of finding one’s beatitude in them.

–Quoted in Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (1982), pages 324-325

The quest for selfish gain, a theme extant in more than one of the readings for these days, is a journey toward harm of others and of oneself.  That which we do to others, we do also to ourselves.  There might be a delayed delivery of “what comes around, goes around,” but the proverbial cows will come home.  It is better to seek the common god and to forgo vengeance, to retire grudges and to build up one’s society, community, and congregation.  One can do that while loving the world, but not to the point of, in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, finding one’s benediction in it.  No, we should find one’s benediction in God alone.  As we read in Psalm 27:7-9 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

Be still before the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Love God and Do Whatever You Please   2 comments

Above:  Title of the Didache (in Greek)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 (An American Translation):

So since I have such a hope, I speak with great frankness, not like Moses, who used to wear a veil over his face, to keep the Israelites from gazing at the fading of the splendor from it.  Their minds were dulled.  For to this day, the same veil remains unlifted, when the read the old agreement, for only through union with Christ is it removed.  Why, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil hangs over their minds, but

whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Now the Lord here means the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And all of us, reflecting the splendor of the Lord in our unveiled faces, are being changed into likeness of him, from one degree of splendor to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

So since by the mercy of God I am engaged in this service, I never lose heart.  I disown disgraceful, underhanded ways.  I refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s message.  It is by the open statement of truth that I would commend myself to every human conscience in the sight of God.  If the meaning of my preaching of the good news is veiled at all, it is so only in the case of those who are on the way to destruction.  In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep the light of the good news of the glorious Christ, the likeness of God, from dawning upon them.  For it is not myself but Christ Jesus that I am proclaiming as Lord; I am only a slave of yours for Jesus’ sake.  For the God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

has shone in my heart, to give me the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, that is on the face of Christ.

Psalm 85:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.’  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother ‘You cursed fool!’ will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

(Thanks to http://nickbadger.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/love-god-and-do-as-you-please/ for the whole quote.)

One of my favorite books is a slim paperback volume, Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers, which Penguin Books publishes.  Among the Second Century C.E. documents in modern English translation in that book is the Didache, or Teachings.  The first section of the Didache explains the Way of Life (practicing good morals) and the Way of Death (living in an immoral way).  This part of the document does contain negative statements, or commands not to commit X, Y, and Z.  Yet the first section of the Didache focuses on the positive, on what God wants people to do.  This is a healthy approach to the topic, for merely stating what not to do does not indicate what one ought to do.

Jesus expands the Law of Moses in the reading from Matthew.  Our Lord and Savior mentions the Mosaic punishment for murder, for example.  Then he says that one must do better than that; one must not live in anger, from which many murders spring.  Furthermore, one must not defame another person, either.  Imagine how much better life would be if more people lived in love, not anger, and did not defame anyone.  The world would be a better place.  It would be a positive place.

I have known people who have nursed grudges for years, if not decades.  This has seemed to give them a purpose in life, albeit a negative one.  And I have met others who seemed to be in perpetual complaint mode.  Whenever I was around them, they kvetched about one thing or another.  None of this demonstrates living in freedom in God.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that there is freedom in God.  There is liberty to act as one should, to live according to what the Didachelabels the Way of Life.  To borrow a thought from St. Augustine of Hippo, one trained to love God will not offend God.  So one who loves God can focus on living according to the Shema and the Golden Rule, and not obsess over hundreds of Sabbath laws, for example.

The Law of God has two parts:  the letter and the spirit.  The letter of divine law varies according to historical, cultural, and economic circumstances.  Read Leviticus, if you dare.  The literal details of many of those laws do not apply to a North American in the early Twenty-First Century C.E.  Yet the spirit of the law transcends circumstances, and that is what we need to contemplate when deciding whether actions are proper or sinful.

So why do so many people find ways to turn attempts at following God into exercises in legalism and misery?  Consider honoring the Sabbath, for example.  Slaves did not get a day off, so having a day off was a sign of freedom.  Besides, we need a day off for other reasons; nobody is a perpetual motion machine.  So the Sabbath is something we ought to relish.  Yet Pharisees in Jesus’ time and many people before and since have made it an occasion not to seem happy or to commit any other deed from a long list.  New England Puritans, for example, outlawed humming or singing to oneself in public on Sunday.  And once, when “blue laws” were in effect in South Carolina, one could not buy a light bulb legally in the state.  The emphasis for many has been on the “Thou shalt not” rules, not the list of “Thou shalt” activities.  People needed an attitude more like that of the Didache.

I am convinced that these and other misguided exercises in legalism are well-intentioned efforts to live a holy life, but that they miss the point.  The point is that God liberates us to live a holy life; God does not constrain us into one.  So let us love God then do as we please, not offending our Beloved Lord and liberator.  Let us dance with God–maybe doing the tango or the lambada, rejoicing in the company of our Beloved.  I hear that God knows how to lead.

Below:  Tango Dancers

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

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May We Seek and Find a Positive Relationship With God, Who Can Transform Our Human Chaos Into Divine Order   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Hebrew View of the World; An Illustration from the St. Joseph Study Edition of the New American Bible

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 1:1-19 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth–when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the water–

God said,

Let there be light.

And there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness.  And God called the light “day” and called the darkness “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  one day.

And God said,

Let there be a space within the water, and let it separate between water and water.

And God made the space, and it separated between the water that was under the space and the water that was above the space.  And it was so.  And God called the space “skies.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a second day.

And God said,

Let the waters be concentrated under the skies into one place, and let the land appear.

And it was so.  And God called the land “earth” and called the concentration of the waters “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  And God said, “Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees, each making fruit of its own kind, which has its seed in it, on the earth.  And it was so:  The earth brought out plants, vegetation that produces seeds of its own kind, and trees that make fruit that each has seeds of its own kind in it.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a third day.

And God said,

Let there be lights in the space of the skies to distinguish between the day and the night, and they will be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years.  And they will be for lights in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth.

And it was so.  And God made two big lights–the bigger light for the regulation of the day and the smaller light for the regulation of the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth and to regulate the day and the night and to distinguish between the light and the darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a fourth day.

Psalm 104:1-12, 25 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;

O LORD my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak

and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay out the beams of your chambers in the waters above;

you make the clouds your chariot;

you ride on the wings of the wind.

You make the winds your messengers

and flames of fire your servants.

You have set the earth upon its foundations,

so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle;

the waters stood higher than the mountains.

At your rebuke they fled;

at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath,

to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass;

they shall not again cover the earth.

10 You send the springs into the valleys;

they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them,

and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests

and sing among the branches.

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might “just touch the edge of this cloak”.  And all those who touched him were healed.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The earliest chapters of Genesis are beautiful poetry (of a sort) but not science.  Neither is Psalm 104, but that fact did not stop the Medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholic Church from citing Psalm 104:5 and other texts to declare that anyone who said that the Earth revolves around the Sun was a heretic.  (As Galileo Galilei wrote, it is wrong to declare what is demonstrated to be true a heresy.)  We are reading mythology in Genesis and poetry in the Psalms, so we ought not mistake them for a technical manual.  Yet they do constitute profound theology, and therein lies their truth.

The adapted Canadian Anglican lectionary divides the first Creation Story (actually the second one written) into two segments, so some of what I am about to write entails getting ahead of the reading.  With that disclaimer, here I go.

The first Creation Story tells of God creating order from chaos, not something from nothing (ex nihilo in Latin).  The account divides the act of creating into two parts:  Days 1-3 and Days 4-6.  During days 1-3, God establishes the outlines of creation:  night, day, skies, land, and seas.  Then God spends the next three days filling out the details.  And God rests on the seventh day, of course.  Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon states in The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil (Second Edition; New York:  Winston Press, 1986), that creation results from a “Trinitarian bash.”  And creation is good.  So God delights in creation, of which we are part and the pinnacle.  It follows logically, then, that we should delight in God.

But how often do we do that?

Now I turn to the reading from Mark.

You might have noticed, O reader, that the lectionary skipped a few verses from the Saturday devotional.  To be precise, the lectionary has jumped past the feeding of five thousand men (plus an uncertain number of women and children).  The lectionary has also skipped Jesus walking on water.  This text has puzzled interpreters since before the days of St. Augustine of Hippo, who offered this understanding:  Jesus is the master of the storm, so Christians have no reason to fear.  Then we arrive at the portion of Mark prescribed for this day in the Epiphany season.

The crowds, unlike those at the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Plus), did not come to hear Jesus teach.  No, they came to Jesus seeking his healing–and his healing alone.  (The crush of people must have stressed Jesus.) There is nothing wrong with seeking healing, but we ought not stop there.  There is nothing wrong with asking God to help ourselves and those we love and for whom we care about otherwise, but prayer should not consist solely of presenting God with a “honey do” list.

We are created to be in a healthy relationship with God.  The Larger Westminster Catechism says it best in Question #1:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

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

There are varieties of prayer.  Among these are thanksgiving and intercession.  How often have you tried contemplative prayer?  How often have you undertaken merely to be conscious of the presence of God without asking anything of God?  How often have you just listened for God in silence?  These activities help deepen a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I have done some of this, with mixed results.  I need to do better, and I keep trying.  The truth is that quieting my mind is a great challenge.  Over time, however, this will become easier, by grace.  The world is filled with noise, but God, as the prophet Elijah discovered, speaks in the silence.  The gods of ancient Near Eastern pantheons manifested themselves in natural phenomena, such as storms and volcanic eruptions, but the one God expresses self in the opposite ways.

May we enter into the silence and listen to whatever God might say to us.  If God says nothing on one day, at least we were silent for a while.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Yet, if God does speak on a certain day, we will be there, alert and ready to hear.  That is good, indeed.  And divine order will supplant human chaos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HARTSHORNE, UNITARIAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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