Archive for the ‘St. Nathanael the Apostle’ Tag

Salvation and Damnation, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Saint Bartholomew, by Antonio Veneziano

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amos 5:6-15 or Proverbs 1:20-33

Psalm 115:12-18

1 Timothy 2:1-15

John 1:43-51

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Without getting lost on a side trip through cultural context in 1 Timothy 2, I focus on the core, unifying theme this week:  We reap what we sow.

Now they must eat the fruit of their own way,

and with their own devices be glutted.

For the self-will of the simple kills them,

the smugness of fools destroys them.

But he who obeys me dwells in security,

in peace, without fear of harm.

–Proverbs 1:33, The New American Bible (1991)

The crucifixion of Jesus, the blood of the martyrs, and the suffering of the righteous contradicts the last two lines.  O, well.  The Book of Proverbs is excessively optimistic sometimes.  The Book of Ecclesiastes corrects that excessive optimism.

Righteousness is no guarantee against suffering in this life.  Nevertheless, we will reap what we sow.  Some of the reaping must wait until the afterlife, though.

The New Testament readings point to Jesus, as they should.  1 Timothy gets into some cultural details that do not reflect the reality of Athens, Georgia, in December 2020.  I denounce the male chauvinism evident in 1 Timothy 1:9-15.  That sexism is of its time and place.  I focus instead on God desiring that people find salvation.  They do not, of course.  Many of them are like the disobedient people in Amos 5 and Proverbs 1.

The divine mandate of economic justice present in Amos 5 remains relevant.  It is a mandate consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the ethos of Second Temple Judaism.  That divine mandate, built into the Law of Moses, is crucial in Covenantal Nomism.  According to Covenantal Nomism, salvation is via grace–birth into the covenant.  One drops out of the covenant by consistently and willfully neglecting the ethical demands of the covenant.

In other words, damnation is via works and salvation is via grace.

The reading from John 1 requires some attempt at an explanation.  The parts of John 1:35-43 that need to be clear are clear.  But, after consulting learned commentaries, I still have no idea what amazed St. Bartholomew/Nathanael the Apostle about Jesus seeing him under a fig tree.  I recall having read very educated guesses, though.  The crucial aspect of that story is the call to follow Jesus.  Also, John 1:43 links Jacob’s Ladder/Staircase/Ramp (Genesis 28:10-17) to the crucifixion (“lifting up”) of Jesus.  The Johannine theme of the exaltation of Christ being his crucifixion occurs in Chapter 1, too.  The crucifixion of Jesus was the gate of Heaven, according to John 1:43.

That gate is sufficiently narrow to exclude those who exclude themselves.  Those who carry with them the luggage of bribery cannot enter.  Those who haul along the bags of exploitation of the poor cannot pass.  No, those who exclude themselves have done injustice to God and Jesus while exploiting “the least of these.”  Those who have excluded themselves must eat the fruit of their own way.

C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.  

Think about that, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (TRANSFERRED)

THE FEAST OF JOHN BURNETT MORRIS, SR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1170

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERRILL ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A New Beginning   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 47

Romans 12:1-5

John 1:35-51

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

The Reverend Will Campbell (1924-2013)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.

–Pope Francis, The New York Times, November 29, 2020

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Know, O reader, that I have been a serious student of the Bible for most of my life.  (And I feel much younger than my chronological age.)  Muck knowledge of the contents of the Bible has been academic and theoretical, not that there is anything wrong with that.  I have long been an academic and an intellectual, after all.  Living has added the visceral aspect of knowledge to that which has been purely academic and theoretical.  Abstract sympathy for those who grieve has given way to empathy with them, especially during holidays, when families traditionally gather.  Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made the theme of a fresh start in Isaiah 61:1-3 and Romans 12:1-5 more potent in my mind than the many previous times I read those passages.

Scripture is what it is.  How we mere mortals relate to it depends greatly on our experiences.

Some seemingly dry academic material is appropriate, however.

The speaker in Isaiah 61:1-3 was Third Isaiah.  Exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland.  They had learned that the reality on the ground fell far short of their high hopes.  Much despair set in.  Third Isaiah used language derived from Leviticus 25:10.  There would be a fresh start, a new beginning.

“To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor….”

–Isaiah 61:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Year of Jubilee was supposed to occur every 50 years.  People who had become indentured servants were supposed to go free.  Land lost since the previous Year of Jubilee was supposed to return to its proper owners.  The only actual Year of Jubilee documented in the Bible occurred in Nehemiah 5, after the return from exile.

Romans 12 brings us to the theology of bodies in the thought of St. Paul the Apostle.  We who carry assumptions born of Greek philosophy quickly assume that a body is a vessel for a soul.  To apply this assumption to Pauline theology is to err.

St. Paul, like many other Jews, believed that a person is a body, not that a person has a body.  This was a holistic understanding of the self.  This holistic view applied to the body (individually) and to the body (as a group of people in faith community, as in Romans 12:5).

I have read commentaries as I have sought to understand what amazed St. Nathanael/Bartholomew in John 1:48f.  I have read a series of educated guesses from brains better than mine.  The author of the Gospel of John (“John,” whoever he was) kept the text vague in this passage.  He made his point, though; Jesus astounded St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  Then St. Nathanael/Bartholomew followed him.

Psalm 47 reminds us that God is the king of all the Earth.  Accepting that can be difficult at times.  Nevertheless, not accepting it is not a feasible alternative for me.  I must have hope, after all.

I must have a basis of hope that a fresh start is possible.  Otherwise, I will collapse into despair.  Otherwise, I will cease to have any spiritual grounding.  In an age when “none” is the fastest growing religious affiliation, the lack of spiritual grounding is a sort of plague.

Then there is a literal plague, COVID-19.  It has laid bare the best and the worst in human nature.  Mainly, as far as I can tell, this coronavirus has confirmed that we humans are naturally selfish bastards who easily fall into delusions that kill us and each other.

Human nature is constant.  So is divine nature.  As Martin Luther advised, we need to rely on the faithfulness of God.  We need a fresh start, a new beginning.  God can provide one, fortunately.

To return to the beginning of this post, the Pope is correct.  We human beings need to emerge from this pandemic less selfish than when we went into it.  We need to allow the pain of others to touch us.  The first step of compassion is to get beyond oneself.

I know better than to expect a change in human nature.  The study of history and theology combines with experience to make me skeptical of excessive optimism.  But, with regard to God, optimism is justifiable.  God has been faithful.  God is faithful.  God will remain faithful.

May the aftermath of this pandemic be mostly positive, by grace.  May the human species have a new beginning, a fresh start.  May we accept this gracious offer from God.  May we take better care of each other and the planet.  May we awaken from our sinful slumber.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord, who commanded your apostles to go into all the world,

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

Let your name be great among the nations from the rising of the Sun

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Habakkuk 2:18-20; 3:2-4

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The assigned reading from 1 Peter is too brief.  One should, for full comprehension of 2:4-10, back up into chapter 1 and start reading.  We read that Gentile Christians are a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a temple all at once, via divine mercy.  With grace come obligations, of course.  We ought to put away

all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

–1 John 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Not putting them away is inconsistent with being a light to the nations.

1 John 2:3 affirms that God is good, in an echo of Psalm 34:8.  That segue brings me to Habakkuk.  Once again the assigned reading is unfortunately truncated.  The overall context of the Book of Habakkuk is the Babylonian Exile.  The text struggles with how to affirm the goodness of God in light of a violent and exploitative international order.  The author seems less certain than the man who wrote Psalm 52.  The central struggle of Habakkuk is timeless, for circumstances change and time passes, but certain populations experience oppression at any given moment.

I have no easy answer to this difficult question, nor do I aspire to have one.  God has some explaining to do, I conclude.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land was in full effect at the time of Christ.  A portion of the Jewish population sought a military savior who would expel the Romans.  Jesus disappointed them.  He did, however, astound St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All Jesus had to do was say he had seen the future Apostle under a fig tree.

This is an interesting section of John 1.  Every time I study 1:47-51 I consult resources as I search for more answers.  The Gospel of John is a subtle text, after all; it operates on two levels–the literal and the metaphorical–simultaneously.  St. Nathanael/Bartholomew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and follows him.  The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4 (one verse after nations end their warfare and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks) and in Zechariah 3:10 (one verse after God promises to remove the Israelites’ collective guilt in one day, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  The context of the confession of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew then, is apocalyptic; an ideal future in which God reigns fully on the Earth is the hope.  So as for Jesus seeing St. Nathanael/Bartholomew under a fig tree, that feat seems to have indicated to the future Apostle that possessed unique insights.

The apocalyptic nature of the vision of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew sitting under a fig tree is juicier material, though.  I also wonder how well the future Apostle understood the messiahship of Jesus at the time of his confession.  The answer is that he did so incompletely, I conclude.  I do not mean that as a criticism; I merely make a statement of what I perceive to have been reality.

The question of now to make sense of the divine goodness in the context of a violent and exploitative world order remains.  I offer a final thought regarding that:  Is not hope superior to hopelessness?  Deferred hope is still hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Something Old, Something New   1 comment

Josiah

Above:  Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:1-7 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 35:20-27 (Friday)

2 Chronicles 36:11-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 71:1-6 (All Days)

Acts 10:44-48 (Thursday)

Acts 19:1-10 (Friday)

John 1:43-51 (Saturday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I find my security in you, LORD,

never let me be covered with shame.

You always do what is right,

so rescue me and set me free.

Listen attentively to me and save me.

Be my rock where I can find security,

be my fortress and save me;

indeed you are my rock and fortress.

My God, set me free from the power of the wicked,

from the grasp of unjust and cruel men.

For you alone give me hope, LORD,

I have trusted in you since my early days.

I have leaned on you since birth,

when you delivered me from my mother’s womb.

I praise you continually.

–Psalm 71:1-6, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The story of King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) exists in two versions, each with its own chronology.  The account in 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:37 is more flattering than the version in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  Both accounts agree that Josiah was a strong king, a righteous man, and a religious reformer who pleased God, who postponed the fall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The decline of the kingdom after Josiah’s death was rapid, taking only about 23 years and four kings.

Josiah’s reforms met with opposition, as did Jesus and nascent Christianity.  The thorny question of how to treat Gentiles who desired to convert was one cause of difficulty.  The decision to accept Gentiles as they were–not to require them to become Jews first–caused emotional pain for many people attached to their Jewish identity amid a population of Gentiles.  There went one more boundary separating God’s chosen people from the others.  For Roman officialdom a religion was old, so a new faith could not be a legitimate religion.  Furthermore, given the commonplace assumption that Gentiles making offerings to the gods for the health of the empire was a civic, patriotic duty, increasing numbers of Gentiles refusing to make those offerings caused great concern.  If too many people refused to honor the gods, would the gods turn their backs on the empire?

Interestingly enough, the point of view of much of the Hebrew Bible is that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell because of pervasive idolatry and related societal sinfulness.  The pagan Roman fears for their empire were similar.  How ironic!

The pericope from John 1 is interesting.  Jesus is gathering his core group of followers.  One Apostle recruits another until St. Nathanael (St. Bartholomew) puts up some opposition, expressing doubt that anything good can come out of Nazareth.  St. Philip tries to talk St. Nathanael out of that skepticism.  “Come and see,” he replies.  Jesus convinces that St. Nathanael by informing him that he (Jesus) saw him (St. Nathanael) sitting under a fig tree.  Father Raymond E. Brown spends a paragraph in the first of his two volumes on the Gospel of John listing a few suggestions (of many) about why that was so impressive and what it might have meant.  He concludes that all such suggestions are speculative.  The bottom line is, in the words of Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, is the following:

The precise meaning of Jesus’ words about the fig tree is unclear, but their function in the story is to show that Jesus has insight that no one else has…because of Jesus’ relationship with God.

John (2006), page 33

Jesus was doing a new thing which was, at its heart, a call back to original principles.  Often that which seems new is really old–from Josiah to Jesus to liturgical renewal (including the revision of The Book of Common Prayer).  Along the way actually new developments arise.  Laying aside precious old ideas and embracing greater diversity in the name of God for the purpose of drawing the proverbial circle wider can be positive as well as difficult.    Yet it is often what God calls us to do–to welcome those whom God calls insiders while maintaining proper boundaries and definitions.  Discerning what God calls good and bad from one or one’s society calls good and bad can be quite difficult.  May we succeed by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Job and John, Part III: Strife   1 comment

Above:  The Sea of Galilee, August 15, 2009

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Library, NASA

(http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=40147)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Job 3:11-26

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening)

John 1:35-51

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

John 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/twelfth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

The Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle and Martyr (August 24):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-bartholomew-apostle-and-martyr-august-24/

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and Martyrs (June 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul-apostles-and-martyrs-june-29/

The Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Son of Alpheus, Apostles and Martyrs (May 1):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-philip-and-st-james-son-of-alpheus-apostles-and-martyrs-may-1/

The Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr (November 30):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-and-martyr-november-30/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Job, early in his suffering, lamented that he had not only been born but survived the day of his birth.  This was understandable, given the circumstances.  (I grasp that the Book of Job is a drama and a work of fiction, yet I write of the scenes in their context.)

In John 1:35-51 Jesus calls his first disciples:  Andrew and Simon Peter, brothers; Philip; and Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All of them died as martyrs.  The moment they began to follow Jesus was the moment they started their journeys toward suffering and death.

I think of a hymn:

They cast their nets in Galilee,

just of the hills of brown;

such happy, simple fisherfolk,

before the Lord came down.

=====

Contented, peaceful fishermen,

before they ever knew

the peace of God that filled their hearts

brimful, and broke them too.

=====

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,

homeless in Patmos died.

Peter, who hauled the teeming net,

headdown was crucified.

=====

The peace of God, it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for but one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.

The Hymnal 1982, of The Episcopal Church, Hymn #661

I do not pretend to have answers I lack.  Yet I do know that I prefer to keep Gods’ company in times of suffering and during times without it.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/devotion-for-february-6-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++