Archive for the ‘St. John the Evangelist’ Tag

Love One Another   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter Walking on Water, by Alessandro Allori

Image in the Public Domain

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

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1 Kings 19:9-18

Psalm 85:8-13 (LBW) or Psalm 28 (LW)

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

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Almighty and everlasting God,

you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and to give us more than we either desire or deserve. 

Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,

except through the merit of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Almighty and everlasting God,

always more ready to hear than we to pray

and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve,

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us the good things we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 74

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I am listening.  What is Yahweh saying?

–Psalm 85:8a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Quaker theology includes the Inner Light–the Holy Spirit within each person.  God speaks.  Quakers listen.

I assume that God is a chatterbox in search of an attentive audience.  We are busy and/or distracted.  God gives us assignments.  Like Elijah, we do not complete most of them.  Like St. Simon Peter, we look down at the chaos, not up at Jesus.  We lose faith and sink into that chaos without Jesus, without God.

St. Paul the Apostle believed that the covenant had passed to Christians.  His argument has not convinced me; the Jewish covenant has held.  God has established a separate covenant for faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, anti-Semitic misinterpretations of St. Paul’s words have fueled hatred and violence for nearly 2000 years.

What is God saying?  One may experience difficulty knowing the answer to that question even when one is listening carefully.  Assumptions and cultural programming get in the way.  Distractions mean that we miss some messages, even repeated ones.  Ego-defense mechanisms bristle against some messages.  Even when we know the words, we need to interpret them in contexts.

In the middle 1980s, at one of the United Methodist congregations of which my father was the pastor, there was a man named Don.  Don was hard of hearing.  He heard parts of what my father said in sermons.  Don frequently became incensed regarding what he did hear.  He missed contexts and misheard certain words and passages.  He heard (somewhat) and did not understand.  And he assumed that my father was in the wrong.  And Don frequently confronted my father.

Many of us are like Don; we hear partially, misunderstand greatly, and assume that we are correct.  We are, of course, correct some of the time.  A cliché says that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  But why be content to be a broken clock?

Rabbi Hillel and Jesus were correct.  The summary of the Law of Moses is to love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  Gentiles often neglect the second half of Rabbi Hillel’s statement, in full:

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We Gentiles often stop after,

The rest is commentary.

Many of us tend not to want to study the Law of Moses.  And when many of us do study it, we frequently misinterpret and misunderstand it.  Well-meaning piety may mistake culturally-specific examples for timeless principles, resulting in legalism.

The most basic Biblical commandment is to love self-sacrifically.  If we mean what we say when we affirm that all people bear the image of God, we will treat them accordingly.  We will love them.  We will seek the best for them.  We will not treat them like second-class or third-class citizens.  We will not discriminate against them.  We will not deny or minimize their humanity.  In Quaker terms, we will see the Inner Light in them.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the aged St. John the Evangelist was planning to visit a house church somewhere.  At the appointed time, the Apostle’s helpers carried him into the space where the congregation had gathered.  The helpers sat St. John down in front of the people.  The Apostle said:

My children, love one another.

Then St. John signaled for his helpers to take him away.  As they did, one member of the congregation ran after St. John.  This person asked an ancient equivalent of,

That’s it?

St. John replied:

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

The message is simple yet difficult.  Yahweh tells us to love one another.  The news tells us all we need to know about how poorly or well we are doing, based on that standard.  We are selfish bastards more often than not, sadly.  Or, like Don, we may be hard of hearing.  Or maybe we have selective memories and attention spans.

Do not imagine, O reader, that I exempt myself from these criticisms.  Rather, I know myself well enough to grasp my sinfulness.  I confess that I am a flawed human being.  I am “but dust.”  I depend on grace.

We all do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LIES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1598 AND 1600

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Adapted from this post

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Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of Christians   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXVI

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Acts 12:1-25

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Herod Agrippa I was a Roman client king from 37 to 44 C.E.  We have another, more precise, dated detail–the martyrdom of St. James Bar-Zebedee (the brother of Saint John the Evangelist and a first cousin of Jesus–circa 44 C.E,

Herod Agrippa (10 B.C.E.-44 C.E.) was a grandson of Herod the Great, the brother of Herodias, the uncle of Salome, and a brother-in-law of Herod Antipas.  Herod Agrippa I, who lived extravagantly and in debt, found refuge courtesy of Herod Antipas, who appointed him the inspector of markets in Antipas’s new capital, Tiberias, circa 27 C.E.  Herod Agrippa I, a friend of Gaius Caligula, made a pro-Caligula remark in the presence of Emperor Tiberius in Rome six months prior to the death of Tiberius (d. 37 C.E.)  Therefore, Herod Agrippa I spent the last six months of Tiberius’s reign as a prisoner.  Caligula (reigned 37-41 C.E.) released Herod Agrippa I and appointed him a king in 37 C.E.  After Caligula died, Emperor Claudis (I) expanded Herod Agrippa I’s territory to include Judea and Samaria.  Herod Agrippa I, a supporter of Pharisaic Judaism, persecuted Christianity (Acts 2 and 12).  His death in Caesarea (Acts 12:22-23) was sudden.  The Biblical text wrote of his death so as to portray him as evil and unrepentant, in the infamous footsteps of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Judas Iscariot.

Regardless of martyrdoms and persecution, the Christian movement remained unhindered.

Meanwhile, Sts. (Joseph) Barnabas and Paul the Apostle returned to Antioch from Jerusalem.  This relief mission complete, they brought St. (John) Mark to Antioch.

I feel sorry for the guards Herod Agrippa I ordered executed.  They did their job guarding St. Simon Peter.  On the other hand, I am glad St. Simon Peter escaped.

The rest of the story:  A series of Roman procurators succeeded Herod Agrippa I until 66 C.E.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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The Healing of a Crippled Beggar, with Its Aftermath   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVI

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Acts 3:1-4:31

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A cliché tells us that no good deed goes unpunished.  If the world were not so!

Jesus had clashed with religious authorities.  The time for some of his Apostles–Sts. Simon Peter and John, in this case–to do so had arrived.  St. Simon Peter, who had often spoken before thinking, had eaten his spiritual Wheaties.

Two major themes stand out in my mind as I ponder Acts 3:1-4:31:

  1. Acts 3:17 includes the Lucan motif that those who had rejected and crucified Jesus had done so in ignorance.  See Luke 23:34, also, O reader.
  2. Acts 4:18f, in which the commandments of God override human orders to the contrary, belies strict law-and-order arguments that quote the Bible.  Acts 4:18f is not the only such passage in the Bible, but it is the one in the section of scripture for this post.  We will return to this matter in Acts 5.

My politics regarding the strict law-and-order, my-country-right-or-wrong argument are plain.  Neither anarchy nor totalitarianism allow freedom.  Disobeying some governments is a moral obligation.  Yet, on many other occasions, obeying governments is moral.  Everything depends on the circumstances.  The timeless principle at work is the Golden Rule.

We all know less than we imagine we do.  For example, we may think we know what we are doing when do not.  Or we may know partially.  Luke 23:34 has the crucified Jesus intercede for those who had put him on the cross and for those who had consented to this action:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I have recorded my mixed thoughts regarding the extent of this ignorance in Luke 23:34.  I have not arrived at a consistent position yet.

Sometimes we do not know what we are doing.  However, sometimes we do.  And sometimes we know somewhat.  I cannot always tell which situation is which.

Nevertheless, I know something, however, slight, regarding sins of ignorance:  We all commit them, individually and collectively.  And we all–individually and collectively–stand before God in need of forgiveness.  May we–collectively and individually–forgive each other, as we–individually and collectively–need forgiveness.  And may God forgive us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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Sincere, Selfless Faith   1 comment

Above:  Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Hosea 5:15-6:2

Psalm 43 (LBW) or Psalm 138 (LW)

Romans 8:1-10

Matthew 20:17-28

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

graciously cleanse us from all sin and make us strong;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 18

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Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

your mercies are new every morning,

and though we have in no way deserved your goodness,

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

Give us, we pray, your Holy Spirit

that we may heartily acknowledge your merciful goodness toward us,

give thanks for all your benefits,

and serve you in willing obedience;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 37

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

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Adapted from this post

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XXIV   1 comment

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Isaiah 9:1b-5 (LBW) or Isaiah 9:1-4 (LW) or Amos 3:1-8 (LBWLW)

Psalm 27:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Matthew 4:12-23

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Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom

and to teach with authority. 

Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too,

may bring good news to the afflicted,

bind up the brokenhearted,

and proclaim liberty to the captive;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O Lord God Almighty, because you have always supplied your servants

with the special gifts which come from your Holy Spirit alone,

leave also us not destitute of your manifold gifts nor of grace

to use them always to your honor and glory and the good of others;

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

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 24

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Isaiah 9 opens on a note of mercy.  The verb tenses in Hebrew throughout Isaiah 9:1-6 are vague.  My historical methodology makes me biased toward interpreting this text as a reference to King Hezekiah of Judah.  Yet millennia of Christian interpretation bypasses Hezekiah and makes the text about Jesus.  Anyhow, Isaiah 9:1-6 is about the divine deliverance of the Kingdom of Judah from the perils of the Syro-Ephraimite War.

Divine judgment of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel opens Amos 3.  Or divine judgment of the Jewish people (in general) opens Amos 3.  References to Israel in the Book of Amos are vague sometimes.  The status of being God’s chosen people–grace, if ever I heard of it–means that the people (collectively) should have known better than they do or seem to know, we read.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Psalm 27 is a pious Jew’s expression of confidence in God.  This text fits well with Isaiah 9 and stands as a counterpoint to Amos 3.

The Corinthian Christians should have known better than they did.  That church, still a group of problematic house churches long after the time of St. Paul the Apostle (see 1 Clement, circa 100), compromised its witness by being, among other things, petty and fractious.  They brought judgment upon themselves.

Matthew 4:12-23, quoting Isaiah 9:1-2, tells of Christ’s first cousins, Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, leaving the family fishing business and following him, after two other brothers, Sts. Andrew and Simon Peter, had done the same.

God sends nobody to Hell.  God seeks everyone to follow Him.  All those in Hell sent themselves.  C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

Judgment need not necessarily lead to damnation, though.  It may function instead as a catalyst for repentance.  Some of the Hebrew prophetic books, with their layers of authorship over generations, contradict themselves regarding the time for repentance has passed.  That time seems to have passed, according to an earlier stratum.  Yet according to a subsequent layer, there is still time to repent.

Anyway, while the time to repent remains, may we–collectively and individually–do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SANTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCTISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Calling the Fishermen   Leave a comment

Above:  The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XI

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Luke 5:1-11

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Comparing the Gospels of Mark and Luke reveals a difference in chronology germane to this story.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus healed St. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law after St. Simon Peter had become a disciple.  St. Luke reversed the order, thereby giving St. Simon Peter another reason to follow Jesus.  St. Luke also provided another reason to become a disciple of Jesus–the miraculous catch of fish.

For the sake of clarity, I note that “miracle,” in the time of Jesus, did not mean a violation of a law of nature.  The category “laws of nature” did not exist yet.  No, in this story, “miracle” indicates an extraordinary event–in this case, a sign of Jesus’s power.  Therefore, St. Simon Peter’s awestruck reaction to Jesus, similar to the prophets’ reactions at their commissioning, fits.

Genders in Biblical languages interest me.  The modern practice of neutering everything or almost everything obscures when neutering a translation is faithful or unfaithful to the original language.  In the Greek version of Luke 5:10, for example, a literal translation reads, “taking human beings alive.”  That is different from “fishers of men.”  To neuter the English translation of Luke 5:10, then, is to be faithful to the Greek text.  Anyway, we read of St. Simon Peter’s new mission, to hunt or gather in human beings for the Kingdom of God.

St. Simon Peter may have known Jesus by reputation already.  St. Simon Peter’s business partners were Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee.  Sts. James and John were first cousins of Jesus via their mother, St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth.

Why not start building a following with family?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR C

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Waiting Together for God   2 comments

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART VI

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James 5:1-20

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The apocalyptic element held the theological imaginations and the psyches of many in the early Church.

That element continues to grasp many psyches and theological imaginations.  I confess, however, that the apocalyptic element grasps neither my psyche nor my theological imagination.  I am a detail-oriented student of the Bible and religious history.  I know too much to believe some doctrines.  I know that the end of the world, according to some canonical Hebrew prophets, was supposed to end centuries prior to the advent of Jesus.  I know that the Second Coming of Jesus, according to certain books of the New Testament, was supposed to happen nearly 2000 years ago.  I know that, according to many people over nearly 2000 years, until the recent past, the Second Coming of Christ was supposed to have have happened already.  The list of alleged Antichrists, the vast majority of them deceased by now, is long.  I leave all details of eschatology to God and place no stock in any human predictions thereof.

Nevertheless, the author of the Epistle of James believed that he lived during the End Times.  How long were the End Times supposed to last?

The function of the apocalyptic element that is of moral usefulness is the confrontation of evil and other forms of injustice.  In so doing, one confronts that which one should confront and tells the enablers there that they fell short of God’s standard.  That is part of what we read in James 5.  Divine judgment of the oppressors is inseparable from divine deliverance of the oppressed.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

In the meantime (however long that will be), members of Christian faith community must model mutuality.  The swearing mentioned in 5:12, in the context of oppression, expressed bitterness and impatience.  Yet, in the meantime, patience is essential.  People ought to pray for themselves and each other.  And members of Christian faith community ought to bring each other to repentance and restoration.

The necessity of writing this advice in James 5 indicates spiritual failings in some early congregations.

A perhaps-apocryphal story fits this post thematically.

St. John the Evangelist, elderly and frail, visited a house church.  The members, excited, gathered.  Men carried the apostle in on a chair and set him down in front of the congregation.  St. John said:

My children, love one another.

Then the apostle motioned to his helpers, who carried him out.  One member of the congregation chased after St. John and asked the equivalent of

That’s it?

St. John replied:

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

If more members of the original audience of the Epistle of James had loved one another, that text would be much shorter or would not exist.

Sadly, loving one another remains challenging for many Christians.

In 2000 or so, Dr. Donald S. Armentrout (1939-2013), a Lutheran minister, spoke at a Lay Ministries Conference in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.  I was present.  Armentrout, at one point, said that if the Epistle of James was one’s favorite book of the Bible, one was

easily pleased.

Contrary to that typically-Lutheran evaluation, I count James as one of my favorite books of the Bible.  This epistle lives where the spiritual rubber meets the road.  Due to the failings of human nature, the Epistle of James remains relevant.  Circumstances change, but timeless principles remain fixed.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Epistle of James.  I invite you to remain by my side as I set my course for the First Epistle of Peter.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNA ELLISON BUTLER ALEXANDER, AFRICAN-AMERICAN DEACONESS IN GEORGIA, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY HART MILMAN, ANGLICAN DEAN, TRANSLATOR, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUVENAL OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR IN ALASKA, AND FIRST ORTHODOX MARTYR IN THE AMERICAS, 1796

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER THE ALEUT, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR IN SAN FRANCISCO, 1815

THE FEAST OF SAINT SILOUAN OF MOUNT ATHOS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK AND POET

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Failures to Communicate   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul and Barnabas in Lystra, by Johann Heiss

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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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 Everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity;

and that we may obtain that which thou dost promise,

make us to love that which thou dost command;

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

The Book of Worship (1947), 208

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2 Samuel 12:1-10

Psalm 104

Acts 14:1-18

Matthew 20:20-28

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One may sin out of ignorance.  In some of these cases, the sinner should know better.  (I refer to St. Mary Salome, mother of Sts. James and John, especially.)  And, when the sin does not have its origin in ignorance, one should know better.  (I refer to King David.)

Cultural conditioning can restrict one’s spiritual horizons and lead one into sins of ignorance.  Consider the reading from Acts 14, O reader.  Realize that, from a certain point of view, mistaking St. Paul the Apostle for Hermes and St. (Joseph) Barnabas for Zeus made sense.  Consider, also, how Sts. Paul and Barnabas could have used that error to their temporal benefit had they been unscrupulous.

But no!  Sts. Paul and Barnabas pointed to God.  They glorified Jesus, to little effect.  Despite their best efforts, they did not communicate.

Sending a message is either just that or the first step in communicating.  X communicates with Y when X sends a message to Y, and Y understands the message as X intended it.  I, as an educator, know well the situation in which I say something plainly, yet a student misunderstands me.

So, O reader, what messages are God sending to you?  How many of them are you receiving?  How many of those are you understanding as God intends?  And why are you not receiving and correctly understanding more messages from God?

Believe me, I ask the same questions of myself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 250

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH POET, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Idolatry and Tribalism   1 comment

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist, by Peter Paul Rubens

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 1:14-25

Psalm 146

1 John 2:7-12; 3:1-3

John 1:6-13

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Genesis 1 divides the first six days of creation into two groups–the creation of generalities and domains (the first three days’ work) and the creation of the specifics or the inhabitants of those domains (the work of the fourth, fifth, and sixth days).  The seventh day is the time of the creation of the sabbath.  The sovereignty of God is a theme that pervades this great myth.

God also deserves much love.  As the other three readings tell us, that love (or absence thereof) is manifest in how we behave toward other human beings.  These other human beings also bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I know I am getting ahead of the continuous readings in Genesis.  I am staying on topic, though.

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because darkness has blinded his eyes.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That text explains itself.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the elderly St. John the Evangelist was due to visit a congregation somewhere.  The members gathered in great anticipation on the appointed day.  They watched as men carried the infirmed apostle into the space and sat him down in front of the congregation.  Then St. John said, 

My children, love one another.

Immediately, he motioned for the men to carry him out.  One member of the congregation ran after St. John and asked, in so many words, 

That’s all you came here to say?

The apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another can be very difficult.  Deciding to love one another can also prove challenging, albeit easier than effectively acting on the goal.  We need grace to succeed, of course.  Yet grace requires our desire to love one another.  Free will and grace are partners.

I write this post during a period of prolonged and intensified political polarization.  Even the definition of objective reality, as in X caused Y, and Z happened, is often contentious.  More so than in the past, many disagreements start at the point of assuming that those who differ from one are bad, if not evil.  The more generous judgment that that those who disagree are probably good yet misinformed and misguided is increasingly rare.

I notice this unfortunate pattern in topics that range far beyond science, religion, and politics.  I detect this regarding science fiction (one of my favorite topics), too. 

Do you enjoy that series?  Do you not enjoy that movie?  What kind of person are you?  You certainly aren’t a real fan.  I’m a real fan! 

Many criteria can define tribalism.

Whenever we erect idols, whether tangible or intangible, we set ourselves up for this.  We do this to ourselves and each other.  We can choose never to do this.  We can also choose to cease and desist from doing this.  We can opt to repent of our idolatry and tribalism.

May we do so.  May we love God.  May we love ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Suffering for Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  The Holy Kinship of Saint Anne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday in Lent, 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, who hast been the hope and confidence of thy people in all ages;

mercifully regard, we beseech thee, the prayer with which we cry unto thee out of the depths,

and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty and defense;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 150

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Genesis 22:1-19

Psalm 57

2 Corinthians 4

Matthew 20:17-28

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Regarding the near-sacrifice of Isaac and my rejection of a traditional interpretation of that story, I choose not to repeat myself in this post.  If you wish, O reader, follow the germane tags.

One theme in this group of readings is persistence in following God.  When foes have their proverbial knives out, remain firm in faith.  Even a superficial reading of martyrology reveals that the knives, et cetera, have frequently been literal.  (Consider the case of St. James Intercisus, who won the crown of martyrdom in what is now Iran in 421.  “Intercisus” means “cut into pieces.”)

The servant is not greater than the master.  This is a lesson from Matthew Matthew 20:17-28.  Attentive readers of the Gospels may know that Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were first cousins of our Lord and Savior.  One may realize, then, that their mother (St. Mary Salome), was Christ’s aunt (sister of St. Mary of Nazareth).

Modern-day helicopter parents and snowplow/lawnmower parents have nothing on St. Mary Salome, assuming that she asked the question.  One can read in Mark 10:35-45 that Sts. James and John made the request themselves.

To imagine that following Jesus is a path to an easy life full of riches is to labor under a false impression.  (Prosperity Theology is a heresy.)  This a lesson, history tells us, that both brothers learned.  We read in hagiography that one became a martyr and the other, although he died of natural causes (old age, mainly), suffered for his faith.  Sometimes living one’s faith leads on one’s death.  If living one’s faith does not lead to one’s death, it will, nevertheless, lead to some negative consequences in this life.  The servant is not greater than the master.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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