Archive for the ‘St. Mary of Bethany’ Tag

Selfless Love   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary of Bethany and Jesus (Nicholas Ge)

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 42:1-9

Psalm 36:5-10

Hebrews 9:11-15

John 12:1-11

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O God, your Son chose the path which led to pain

before joy and the cross before glory. 

Plant his cross in our hearts,

so that in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 19

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Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ

chose to suffer pain before going up to joy,

and crucifixion before entering into glory,

mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,

may find this path to be the way of life and peace;

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), 41

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In context, the servant in Isaiah 42:1-9 is the Jewish people personified, created and appointed to be a covenant people and a light to the nations.  In context, this group was about to emerge from the Babylonian Exile, which the Deuteronomistic theology of the Bible explained as divine punishment for persistent, collective violation of the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  To identify this servant with sinless Jesus requires theological gymnastics.

Yet here we are.

Hebrews 9:11-15 presents Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant via his sacrificial death (and his resurrection).  Do not forget the resurrection, O reader.  Without it, we have dead Jesus, who can do nothing to redeem anyone.

But I am getting ahead of the story.

Each of the canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  Scholars tell us that there were two anointings–one of Christ’s head and another one of his feet–and that the Johannine account merges elements of both.  So be it.  In the Gospel of John, the setting was the home of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany, and St. Mary of Bethany was the anointer.  We read of her, with her hair down (in the style of a harlot, not a respectable woman who could afford expensive nard ointment from India), behaving in an undignified and loving way.  We read that this anointing foreshadowed the anointing of Jesus’s corpse a few days later.

Displays of selfless love may shock one.  Ponder what Jesus did later that week, O reader.  Ponder what St. Mary of Bethany did at the beginning of the week, too.  Consider that these acts were different from each other yet had much in common.  The application of any given timeless principle varies according to who, when, and where one is.

What does the playing out of selfless love entail and look like where and when you are, O reader?

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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Adapted from this post

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Jesus, Mary, and Martha   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, by Johannes Vermeer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXVII

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Luke 10:38-42

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July 29 is the Feast of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany in The Episcopal Church.

The Gospel of Luke has already established that following Jesus outweighs all other obligations.  In this context, we read of St. Mary of Bethany, a younger sister, listening to Jesus as a male disciple would.  One may imagine the older sister, St. Martha of Bethany, mindful of her hospitable duties, muttering under her breath,

Where is Mary? 

After all, somebody had to feed the guest and provide the hospitality.  St. Martha played her role.  St. Mary of Bethany was a female disciple of Jesus; she played her role.

We need Marys and Marthas.  The contemplative life is valid; may nobody disparage it without receiving due criticism in return.  The active life is also valid; may nobody criticize it without receiving due criticism in return.  Service and contemplation are valid spiritual paths.  However, expecting a square peg to fit into a round hole–as in expecting a contemplative to serve as one God is a way incompatible with that spiritual type–is unfair.

I have noticed a disdain for the Christian contemplative tradition within liberal, moderate, and conservative Protestantism alike.  I have heard many Protestants dismiss contemplative monastics as being useless.  Such Protestants have missed at least to major points and bought into the (Calvinist) Protestant Work Ethic.  They have forgotten that the Sabbath–a time of intentional non-productivity–is a way of emulating God.  Such critics have also missed the point Jesus made explicitly:  St. Mary of Bethany had chosen the better part, and she would not lose it because for her, listening to Jesus was the better part.

I defend both sisters.  As one who enjoys knowing that he has done something, I understand St. Martha’s concern.  As one with contemplative tendencies and the desire to study the Bible and even to write weblogs about it, I identify with St. Mary, too.  Critics of monastics need to reconsider their scorn for the contemplative tradition.  If these critics really affirm the efficacy of prayer, they ought to thank God for people who devote their lives to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

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Jesus and Women   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Mary Magdalene

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XIX

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Luke 7:36-8:3

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We may blame Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” (reigned 590-604) for starting a dubious tradition in Biblical scholarship.  St. Gregory I was a great man.  He functioned as a Roman (Byzantine) imperial statesman, albeit reluctantly.  (Somebody had to do it.)  St. Gregory I launched the Roman Catholic mission to England.  Yet he conflated the unnamed prostitute in Luke 7:36-50 with St. Mary Magdalene (8:2).  This false assumption has tainted the reputation of St. Mary Magdalene since and contributed to the term “Madonna-Whore Complex.”

Luke 8:2 tells us that St. Mary Magdalene supported Jesus’s ministry financially.  That verse also tells us that Jesus had exorcised seven demons from her.  Other passages from the canonical Gospels tell of her dedication to Christ, all the way to the empty tomb.

I do not think as people did in the first century C.E did.  I understand, for example, that epilepsy, various physical conditions, and mental illnesses do not result from demonic possession.  They have organic causes.  Neither do I reject the existence of the demonic.  Nevertheless, I do not know how to interpret Luke 8:2.  I conclude, however, that, whatever Jesus did to help St. Mary Magdalene, he won a disciple when he did it.  That may suffice.

Each of the canonical Gospels contains a story of a woman anointing Jesus, usually as foreshadowing of the anointing of his corpse.  In three of the four accounts, the texts do not name the woman.  She is St. Mary of Bethany in the Gospel of John.  The traditional confusion of mistaking Sts. Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany for the same woman results from a combination of misinterpretations of germane texts.  In some stories, the woman (sometimes a penitent sinner) anointed Jesus’ feet; in others, she anointed his head.  Biblical scholarly consensus has settled on two anointings having occurred, and the story in the Johannine Gospel containing elements of both.

Limitless gratitude is common to both the woman in Luke 7:36-50 and the women in Luke 8:1-3.  Limitless gratitude does not care if its expressions seem to be or are bizarre, suspicious, and undignified.  Limitless gratitude goes as far as it needs to go, regardless of the costs.  Limitless gratitude deserves recognition, not scorn.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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Getting Off Our Values and Getting to Work   3 comments

Above:  The Importune Neighbour, by William Holman Hunt

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 19 (portions) or Jeremiah 13:1-11

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 4:13-25

Luke 10:38-11:13

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We have quite a collection of readings this Sunday!

  1. Judges 19 gives us a tale of rape, death, dismemberment, and the prelude to genocide, played out in Judges 20 and 21.
  2. Stay away from God’s bad side, as in Jeremiah 13 and Psalm 94.
  3. Romans 4 reminds us of the importance of living according to faith.
  4. The executive summary of the lesson from Luke is to learn from Jesus (even to violate social conventions to do so) and to act according to those teachings.

Judges 19, the first portion of a section spanning chapters 19-21, contains enough material for many posts, given its background, its literary contexts, and the ink many exegetes have spilled regarding the story.  However, my purpose in this post entails reading Judges 19 in the context of the other lessons.  One note from The Jewish Study Bible (2nd. ed.) offers a useful sentence:

The story depicts a unified society, sensitive to the problems of ethics and serving the LORD.

–536

The society Jeremiah critiqued was insensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  On the other hand, St. Mary of BethanySt. Paul the Apostle, and the author of Psalm 94 were sensitive to ethics and serving the LORD.  So was St. Martha of Bethany, also insistent on being a good hostess who offered proper hospitality, a Biblical virtue.

Prayer comes attached to action in Luke 11:9-13.  That is an important lesson:  pray then, as able, act to effect positive change.  Self-serving politicians who offer “thoughts and prayers” after terrible events then do nothing, even though they have the power to do so, make a mockery of the teaching in Luke 11:9-13.  One of the lessons my father taught me is that prayer should have feet whenever possible.  Be salt and light in the world, Jesus still commands us.

I recall an editorial from a Roman Catholic periodical during the middle 1990s, when many politicians beat the drum of “family values” with more words than deeds.  As I remember, the title of the editorial was,

GET OFF YOUR VALUES AND GET TO WORK.

Talk is cheap.  We need to get off our values and get to work.  After all, faith, in the theology of St. Paul the Apostle, is inherently active.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND; AND ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIA CONNELLY, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANNA BLONDIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT ANNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTS; AND SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ARCHUTOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1943

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/devotion-for-proper-14-year-c-humes/

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Dependence on God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:   Alpine Clouds

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who set thy face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem:

deliver us from timid minds that shrink from the harder paths of duty;

and prepare us to welcome thy command to take up our cross and follow thee,

who art the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Hebrews 9:11-14

John 12:20-33

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One of the ubiquitous idols in my Western culture is the illusion of self-sufficiency.  Many individuals think of themselves as self-made people and consider being a self-made man or woman a virtue, especially in politics.  Yet, as Deuteronomy reminds us, we depend on God.  No person is actually self-made, and there is no room for pride in the presence of God.

The readings from John and Hebrews reflect the temporal proximity of the Fifth Sunday in Lent to Palm Sunday–one week–and therefore to the rest of Holy Week.  In John 12 the anointing of Jesus by St. Mary of Bethany foreshadows the anointing of his corpse at the end of the week.  Likewise, the reading from Hebrews 9 would fit well on Good Friday.

We (individually and collectively) rely entirely on God–from material needs to atonement.  May we refrain from laboring under any illusion to the contrary, and respond faithfully and gratefully to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Deuteronomy 8, Hebrews 9, John 12

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Fleeing from Grace   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:15-18 (Thursday)

Exodus 30:1-10 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:2-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 (Friday)

John 12:1-11 (Saturday)

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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

–Psalm 51:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Through all generations you have made yourself known,

and in your wrath you did not forget mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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For thus said my Lord GOD,

The Holy One of Israel,

“You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;

Your victory shall come about

Through calm and confidence.”

But you refused.

“No,” you declared.

“We shall flee on our steeds”–

Therefore you shall flee!

“We shall ride on swift mounts”–

Therefore your pursuers shall prove swift!

One thousand before the shout of one–

You shall flee at the shout of five;

Till what is left of you

Is like a mast on a hilltop,

Like a pole upon a mountain.

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Truly, the LORD is waiting to show you grace,

Truly, He will arise to pardon you.

For the LORD is a God of justice;

Happy are all who wait for Him.

–Isaiah 30:15-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The concept of God changes between the covers of the Bible.  God is physically immediate to Abraham, for example, yet proximity to God is fatal in much of the Hebrew Scriptures.    Even touching the Ark of the Covenant accidentally proved fatal, according to the texts.  There was no fatal holiness in Jesus, however; St. Mary of Bethany anointed him in John 12:1-11, shortly before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

So we can draw near to God, who has drawn close to us and become incarnate (however that worked) as one of us.  The theological point of the full humanity anddivinity of Jesus is one of those difficult knots great minds have tried to understand.  (For details, consult a history of Christian theology.)  I will not tread in their steps here except to assert that one ought to seek a balance between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus; one should not emphasize one at the expense of the other.  My experience in congregations (especially during my formative years) has been that people have usually been more comfortable with the divinity of Christ than with his humanity.  They have committed the heresy of Apollinarianism, or acknowledging his humanity while giving short shrift to it.

If attempting to untangle the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the nature(s) and will(s) of Christ proves insufficiently challenging, what about the balance between divine judgment and mercy?  I can provide a partial answer; the rest I am content to leave as a mystery.  Some things we do to ourselves, so we suffer the consequences of our actions.  Forgiveness of sins does not remove those consequences in this realm of existence, however.  Also, sometimes good news for the oppressed is catastrophic news for oppressors who refuse to change their ways.  That is the way life works.  In addition, some divine judgment is discipline meant to prompt repentance.  In such cases the metaphor of God as parent works well.  In some circumstances (especially from the Hebrew Scriptures) I refuse to affirm the argument that God has commanded people to commit genocide and other atrocities.  Maybe those who committed those deeds thought they were fulfilling a divine mandate, but they were wrong.  Against which population would Jesus commit or condone genocide?

Often we seek to use theology to justify our sins when we ought to confess and repent of those offenses.  Frequently we seek not God–in the context of whose holiness our sinfulness becomes evident–but confirmation of our imagined righteousness.  We flee from God, so we doom ourselves to face certain consequences.  We run away from God, who waits to show us mercy.  Maybe doing that is easier than facing the reality of our spiritual lives.  If that is true, this statement is a sad one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Kindness, Love, and Gratitude   1 comment

Anointing of Jesus--Pasolini

Above:  The Anointing of Jesus, from The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 7:3-13 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 32:18-20, 28-39 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 28:14-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 18:1-3, 20-32 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 11:33-36 (Tuesday)

Matthew 26:6-13 (Wednesday)

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I love you, O Lord my strength.

The Lord is my crag, my fortress and my deliverer,

My God, the rock in whom I take refuge,

my shield, the horn of my salvation and my stronghold.

I cried to the Lord in my anguish

and I was saved from my enemies.

–Psalm 18:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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Each of the four canonical Gospels contains an account of a woman anointing Jesus–Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8.  The versions are sufficiently similar to indicate that they are variations on the same event yet different enough to disagree on certain details, such as chronology, at whose house the anointing happened, which part of his body the woman anointed, and the woman’s background.  These factors tell me that something occurred, but the divergence among the written accounts means that I have no way of knowing exactly what transpired in objective reality.  None of that changes one iota of the spiritual value of the stories, however.

In the Matthew account our Lord and Savior, about to die, is a the home of one Simon the leper in Bethany.  We know nothing about the woman’s background, not even her name.  In the Gospel of Luke she is an unnamed and repentant sinner, in the Gospel of John she is St. Mary of Bethany, and in the Gospel of Mark she is also an unnamed woman of whose background we know nothing.  The importance of her–whoever she was–act was that unselfish love and gratitude motivated it.  This was an extravagant and beautiful deed.  Yes, the poor will always be with us; that is an unfortunate reality.  May, through the creation of more opportunities for advancement, there be as little poverty as possible.  But, as we strive for that goal, may we never fail to recognize and give proper attention to lavish kindness, love, and gratitude.

The woman (whoever she was) had a good attitude and a pure motivation.  Most of the assigned readings for these days, however, speak of people who did not.  Their memorials were wastelands and periods of exile.  The woman’s legacy is an honored one, however.  Her act, as extravagant as it was, was as nothing compared to what God has done, is doing, and will do for all of us.  Even the most lavish act of gratitude–beautiful, to be sure, is inadequate, but God accepts it graciously.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-16-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part VIII: Embracing Life Instead of Fleeing Death   1 comment

church-of-lazarus-1940-1946

Above:  Church of Lazarus, Bethany, Palestine, 1940-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004000842/PP/)

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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 everlasting 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:

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

Psalm 54 (Morning)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening)

John 11:1-16

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A Related Post:

John 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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As we have read elsewhere in Ecclesiastes, everybody will die.  This has a negative connotation in that text, as if death is not a desirable life transition.  For many people it is not one, but I have a different opinion.  Yes, the manner of one’s exit can be unpleasant and fearsome.  Consider the case of Jesus, en route to Jerusalem in John 11; he was a few days away from a crucifixion.

As for Lazarus, he had died.  He was indisputably dead.  Mary and Martha, his sisters, cared very much about his fact.  Yet, as the rest of Chapter 11 tells us, it was not an irreversible state in his case.  The man would die again, but not before his raising showed Christ’s power.

It is one thing to fear being dead and other to fear dying.  I fear certain ways of dying yet have no fear of being dead.  I have approached death’s door a few times.  These experiences have liberated me from my fear of death itself and enabled me to embrace life itself.  Life is far more than the opposite of death.  To love life for what it is, not what it is not, is appropriate.  And to do this is one way to express Christ’s power in us and to testify to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PALLADIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/devotion-for-june-4-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Divine Promises   2 comments

mamre

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010007303/PP/)

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52

or 

Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15

then 

Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 11, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

Proper 11, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-confession-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Amos 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-2/

Genesis 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

Colossians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

Luke 10:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

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Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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Exodus and Luke, Part IX: Intimacy with God   1 comment

moses-jose-de-ribera

Above:  Moses, by Jose de Ribera

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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 everlasting 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:

Exodus 34:29-35:21

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 7:36-50

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34-35:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/devotion-for-the-twenty-eighth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

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Each of the four canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  She was either a anonymous or Mary of Bethany.  She was either of undefined character or of good character or a forgiven sinner.  The host was was either Mary of Bethany or Simon the Leper or Simon the Pharisee.

As I understand oral tradition, based on reading Historical Jesus books written from various points of view, oral tradition is neither ironclad nor completely unreliable with regard to details.  It is flexible, with a certain set spine.  (See N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1996, pages 135-136.)  So, as I read and read the Synoptic Gospels, I find parallel versions of the same incidents, sayings, and parables.  They are similar yet not identical.  To apply this to the anointing of Jesus, something happened at Bethany.  But who was the woman?  What was her background and character?  Who was the host?  And which part of Jesus did the woman anoint?  The Bible does not provide consistent answers.  This does not disturb me.  It did not bother the bishops who approved the canon of the New Testament either.  So I take the Lukan account as we have it, in textual context, and interpret it in relation to its paired reading from Exodus.

The woman expressed her gratitude for forgiveness.  Meanwhile, in Exodus, a distance between God and the people remained.  There was even a distance between Moses and the people.  But there was not distance between Jesus and the woman.  And there need be no distance between Jesus and any of us.

As long as I can recall, I have always had a sense of God.  My relationship with God has had its ups and downs, with the latter being my fault.  And, when times have been darkest for me, I have felt God wither drawing nearer to me or seeming to do so; I cannot be sure which was the reality.  It was, however, a distinction without a difference.  God, as the Sufis say, is closer to me (and to you) than my (and your) jugular vein.  Experience has taught me this.  Perhaps it has also taught you, O reader, the same lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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