Archive for the ‘St. John the Baptist’ Tag

Two Kingdoms III   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 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 God, we beseech thee, show thy mercy unto thy humble servants,

that we who put no trust in our own merits may not be dealt with

after the severity of thy judgment, but according to thy mercy;

through 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), 231

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Isaiah 35:4-10

Psalm 119:129-144

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Luke 19:11-26

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God, who vanquishes the wicked and redeems the oppressed, balances judgment and mercy.  The redemption of the oppressed is mercy for the oppressed and judgment of the oppressors.  In a real sense, oppressors doom themselves.  They do not have to be oppressors, after all.  The redemption of the oppressed may come in this life or the next one, but it will come.  God is faithful.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

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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Two Kingdoms II   1 comment

Above:  Archelaus

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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1 Samuel 31:1-9 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 14-33

Psalm 114

Romans 15:14-33

Luke 19:11-27

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As I have written many times, the judgment and mercy of God exist in a balance of justice/righteousness.  (As I have also written ad infinitum, justice and righteousness are the same word in the Bible.  I keep repeating myself.)  Mercy for the persecuted and oppressed may be judgment on the persecutors and oppressors.  Actions and inaction have consequences.  Not serving God has negative consequences.  Serving God may have some negative consequences in this life, but God rewards the faithful in the afterlife.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

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-28-year-c-humes/

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God’s Surprises III   1 comment

Above:  Jael and Sisera, by Jacopo Amigoni

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Psalm 84

Romans 1:1-15

Luke 7:18-35

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Four of the five assigned readings contain surprises.

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Pointing Toward Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 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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Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy power, and come,

with great might to succor us, that by the help of thy grace

whatsoever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished,

through thy mercy and satisfaction;

who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

ever, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 111

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-12

Luke 1:59-80

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Before I get to my main point, two assigned passages call out for elucidation.

  1. The literal translation of the line from Psalm 8 is, “a little lower than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  The “gods,” or elohim, in Hebrew, are members of YHWH’s heavenly court.
  2. Isaiah 9:2-7 speaks of the ideal Davidic king.  Perhaps the original monarch was Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.).  The description fits Jesus better.

The juxtaposition of Luke 1:59-80 and Hebrews 12:1-12 may seem odd at first.  Upon reflection, however, its purpose becomes clear and plain.  This juxtaposition functions as a reminder of the purpose behind the Incarnation:  the Atonement, via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  One may recall that Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into the Christmas Oratorio.  We are correct to rejoice during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, but one must not stop there.  No, we need to follow Jesus to Calvary then to an empty tomb, too.

We read foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus in the lesson from Luke 1.  Do we not know the fat that befell St. John the Baptist?

What then will this child become?

–Luke 1:66b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

A question for each of us is,

What then will I become?

May all of us become agents of God whenever and wherever we are.  We cannot, temporally, be forerunners of Jesus.  We can, however, point to him, as St. John the Baptist did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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A Glorious Mystery, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

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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Zephaniah 3:14-20

Luke 1:67-80

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:57-66

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St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.  Perhaps one would expect the pericope from the Hebrew Bible to be a messianic prophecy, given the cluster of readings for this Sunday in Advent.  One would be mistaken.  Zephaniah wrote of a time when God would rule directly on the planet; the prophet did not write of the Messiah.  Bishop N. T. Wright picked up on God ruling directly on the planet, as in Zephaniah 3.  Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) that God (YHWH), not Jesus, is the king in Biblical eschatological prophecy, even in the New Testament.

I write and think of the Trinity with all due theological caution; I prefer not to commit any of the plethora of Trinitarian heresies.  My reading of the history of Christian theology informs me that well-meaning attempts to explain the Trinity have frequently led to or bolstered heresies.  I also know that I have been guilty of entertaining notions bordering on Sabellianism, although I did not know that term when I did so.  Yes, I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth (the human being whom Roman officials executed on false allegations in 29 or 30 C.E.) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity.  In my mind, “Jesus” runs together with “Second Person of the Trinity” after the beginning of the Incarnation.  Likewise, I refrain from calling the pre-Incarnation Second Person of the Trinity “Jesus” or “Christ,” due to my chronological manner of thinking.  And, when I write “God,” the meaning varies, according to context.  Sometimes I mean the Trinity.  On other occasions, I narrow to the focus to one of the three Persons (literally, “masks,” in Greek) of the Trinity, especially YHWH.  (That is mask, as in a mask a Greek actor used.)  Etymology is one issue.  How accurate Greek word choices are is another matter.  Sometimes language fails us; even our our descriptions cannot always do justice to reality.  I do not attempt to explain the Trinity, a glorious mystery.

How can I explain the Trinity when even orthodox Trinitarian theology makes no sense?  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, right?  Okay.  Then how can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son?  And does one accept or reject the filioque clause?  Orthodox Trinitarian theology, established by a series of Ecumenical Councils, is as close to the Trinitarian reality as one can get in this life.  Nevertheless, The confusion that results from following orthodox Trinitarian theology proves that one should accept the glorious mystery, refrain from overthinking it, and revel in that mystery.  The beautiful reading from Philippians provides some advice for this revelry:

  1. “Let your tolerance be evident to everyone.”
  2. Do not worry; trust in God.
  3. “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.”

The context for this counsel is Christian community, of course.

The translation is The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

May we, in the words of the Larger Westminster Catechism,

glorify God, and fully…enjoy Him forever.

The details of Trinitarian theology, Trinitarian reality, and Messianic prophecy will tend to themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Honor and Prestige   1 comment

Above:  Herod Antipas

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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Exodus 14:5-31 or 2 Samuel 18:5-33

Exodus 15:1-21

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Mark 6:14-29

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Honor and prestige are of limited value.  When we derive honor from the opinions of others, it does not reflect our character.  Furthermore, human prestige does not impress God.

Herod Antipas had honor and prestige, but he was far from noble, in the sordid tale in Mark 6 reveals.  He had incarcerated St. John the Baptist for publicly objecting to the client ruler’s marriage to his half-niece and former sister-in-law, Herodias.  Salome, the daughter of Herodias, was, therefore, his grand half-niece and his step-daughter.  In a rash moment, he chose to save face rather than spare the life of St. John the Baptist, a noble man, in the highest since of “noble.”

Honor and prestige underlie the reading from 2 Corinthians 8.  We are to follow the example of Jesus the Christ, who exemplified humility yet not timidity.  We are supposed to trust in God, not wealth, and to walk humbly before God.

Absalom, son of David, had honor and prestige, but not nobility of character.  David’s knowledge that his sin had brought about the rebellion of Absalom then the death of that errant son must have added much guilt to the monarch’s grief.

Slaves had no honor and prestige, but Hebrew slaves in Egypt had divine favor.  Unfortunately, they began to grumble before they left Egypt.  This did not bode well for the future.

God is faithful to us.  Divine favor–grace–is superior to human honor and prestige.  Will we try to be faithful to God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH 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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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/23/devotion-for-proper-13-year-b-humes/

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Paradoxes and Faith   1 comment

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Genesis 28:10-22

1 John 5:1-5

Matthew 11:2-10

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First, who is a child of God?

1 John 5:1 tells us:

Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ

is a child of God,

and whoever loves the father

loves the son.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jacob/Israel lived and died long before the Incarnation, so he was not responsible for affirming Jesus, but he was responsible for keeping a moral code he had recently violated, with the help of his mother, in Genesis 28.  Jacob/Israel was a trickster.  Yet, we read, God was with him.  Obviously, this was not due to any merit of Jacob/Israel, by grace, a child of God.

Second, do children of God overcome the world?  1 John 5:4-5, echoing Jesus in John 16:33, says they do.  One may recall the execution of St. John the Baptist on the order of Herod Antipas.  One may also recall that John 16:33 is near to the crucifixion of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.

God frequently makes little or no sense, according to human standards.  These two paradoxes point to that truth.  Grace is scandalous, as in the case of Jacob/Israel.  The world, as it is, does not conform to the divine order.  Furthermore, we mere mortals see and comprehend only in part.  We need to abandon the idol of false certainty, however psychologically satisfying it may be.  We need to walk in faith instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Repentance, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Preaching of St. John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

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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Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Mark 1:1-8

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The readings, overall, have toned down and become less daunting since the previous Sunday in the Humes lectionary.  Not everything is all puppies and kittens, though.

The readings from the Hebrew Bible flow from the theology that sin led to collective suffering–exile in Isaiah 40 and drought in Psalm 85.  Isaiah 40 announces pardon and the imminent end of the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 85 prays for both forgiveness and rain.

Apocalyptic expectations are plain in the reading from 2 Peter.  Believing in the return of Jesus Christ is no excuse to drop the ball morally, we read.

The pericope from Mark 1 contains two major themes that jump out at me.  The text, which quotes Isaiah 40 and relates it to the Incarnation, indicates the call to repentance and makes plain that St. John the Baptist modeled humility, but not timidity.

Repentance is a recurring theme throughout the Bible.  Many devout people are aware of their need to change their minds and ways.  Being aware of that necessity is relatively easy.  Then the really difficult elements follow.  Can we see past our cultural blinders and our psychological defense mechanisms?  Are we humble enough to acknowledge our sins?  And, assuming that we can and are, changing our ways is difficult.  We need not rely on our puny, inadequate power, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, ABBOT, MONK, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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Eschatological Ethics III: Passing Judgment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Matthew 3:1-11

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Until God ushers in Matthew’s Kingdom of Heaven–the fully realized rule of God on Earth, replacing corrupt systems and institutions, the question of eschatological ethics remains current and germane.

We read some of St. Paul the Apostle’s advice in 1 Corinthians 4–pass no premature judgment.  We also read St. John Baptist’s critique of many Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3–

Brood of vipers.

I propose that St. John’s judgment was not premature, but based on evidence.

One might supplement St. Paul’s counsel with that of Christ in Matthew 7:1-5 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985):

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give will be the judgements you get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?  And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

One who knows the Bible well can think of examples of various Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and St. Paul issuing judgments, usually while speaking with authority from God.  However, one must, if one is to be intellectually honest, admit that some judgments are wrong, in more than one way.

“Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true.

–Titus 1:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Whether St. Paul affirmed that nasty statement about Cretans or someone writing in his name did remains a matter of scholarly debate.  The unfortunate statement exists within the canon of the New Testament, though.

Sometimes we must make judgments–ones based on objective evidence.  To call a spade a spade, so to speak; to condemn injustice; to speak truth to power; is a moral imperative.  True statements are neither slanderous nor libelous.  Cynical people and desperate partisans in a state of denial may call true statements “fake news,” but objective truth is never fake.  As John Adams observed,

Facts are stubborn things.

James 3:1-12 offers timeless advice regarding the use of the tongue; we have a moral duty to control it.  That counsel also applies to the written word and to social media.  Condemning the unjustifiable is appropriate, but ruining reputations and lives without evidence is always wrong.  It is also commonplace, unfortunately.

“Brood of vipers” indeed!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Humility and Arrogance, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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