Archive for the ‘St. Paul the Apostle’ Tag

Our Only Hope   Leave a comment

Above: Tablets of the Ten Commandments

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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

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)

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

We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people,

that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved ever more,

both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 154

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

Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm 42

1 Corinthians 1:21-31

Luke 13:22-35

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

Themes from the previous post in this series continue in this one:

  1. Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Glorify God, not self.

The pericope from 1 Corinthians 1 (quoting Jeremiah 9:24) even offers

…therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

–1 Corinthians 15:31, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

St. Paul the Apostle used the same quote again in 2 Corinthians 10:17.

Above:  A Timeless Principle Applicable Both Individually and Collectively

Image Source = Google Earth

God has provided instructions–a combination of timeless principles and timeless and culturally-specific examples–so that people will not go astray.  Yet, as I do not need to point out, people have continued to go astray, even after learning of this law.  Giving lip service to the Law of Love/the Golden Rule, for example, is easy.  Many people who outwardly acknowledge that commandment also lie, cheat, and/or steal.  If one knows the books of the Hebrew prophets well, one knows that this is ancient and documented behavior.

Human nature is a constant factor.  Our only hope is the only one it can be–God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINES, BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NICHOLAS OWEN, THOMAS GARNET, MARK BARKWORTH, EDWARD OLDCORNE, AND RALPH ASHLEY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1601-1608

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HALL BAYNES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MADAGASCAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

THE FEAST OF STANLEY ROTHER, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN GUATEMALA, 1981

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

Judgment, Mercy, and Ego   1 comment

Above:  The Pharisee and the Publican

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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

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 God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth;

enter not into judgment with thy servants, we beseech thee, but be pleased of thy great kindness to grant,

that we who are now righteously afflicted and bowed down by the sense of our sins,

may be refreshed and lifted up with the joy of thy salvation.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 152

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

Malachi 3:1-6

Psalms 130 and 131

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 18:1-17

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

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  I do not pretend to know what that balance is, for I know I am not God.  Standards of behavior exist, however.  They include not practicing sorcery, committing adultery, swearing falsely, cheating workers of wages, and subverting the cause of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.  I wonder how many people ignore the mandate of economic justice and of protecting strangers, encoded into the Law of Moses, present in the books of the Hebrew prophets, and extant in Christian moral teaching, and consider themselves sufficiently moral.

Lists, such as the one in Malachi 3:5, are not comprehensive.  They are not supposed to be.  They do, however, prompt us to consider what, in our context, we would add to any given list, consistent with the lists from the Bible.  These lists, never intended to be comprehensive, contain timeless principles and some timeless examples, too.

Such lists condemn almost all of us, do they not?  As the author of Psalm 130 asked, if God were to count sins, who could stand?  Yet we know that divine judgment is real, as is mercy.

Recognition of total dependence on God is a principle in Judaism and Christianity, from the Law of Moses to the writings of St. Paul the Apostle.  Yes, we bear the image of God.  Yes, we are slightly lower than “the gods”–members of the divine court–usually translated into English as “the angels.”  No, we are not pond scum.  Yet we are also powerless to commit any righteousness other than what Lutheran theology categorizes as civic righteousness.  Civil righteousness is objectively good, but it cannot save us.

For many people, the main idol to surrender to God is ego.  People will go far to protect ego.  They will frequently disregard objective reality and continue to believe disproven statements to protect ego.  They will commit violence to protect ego sometimes.  Some people even slander and/or libel others to protect ego.

Yet, as St. Paul the Apostle, who knew about his ego, understood, ego was rubbish before Christ.

How much better would the world be if more people cared about glorifying God, not themselves?

I do not pretend to have reached a great spiritual height and surrendered my ego.  No, I continue to struggle with it.  I do know something, however.  I know from observation that giving power, from the church level to the national and global levels, to a person with either an inferiority complex or a raging ego is folly at best and doom at worst.  One with an inferiority complex will seek to build up oneself, not the church, country, world, et cetera.  An egomaniac will behave in the same way, with the same results.  People with balanced egos are the ones to work for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUCCOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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

Sin and Individual Responsibility   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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

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)

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

We beseech thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation,

to arm us with the same mind that was in him toward all evil and sin;

and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline,

that our minds may be always ready to resist temptation,

and obey the direction of thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 146

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

Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 1:1-20

Luke 4:1-13

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

The mythology in Genesis 3 does not identify the snake with Satan, but subsequent tradition does.  There are traditions and there are traditions.  Some are trustworthy; others are not.  Anyhow, I suppose the framers of the old lectionary I am following in this series of posts sought to encourage reading the pericopes from Genesis 3 and Luke 4 as counterpoints.

Some points are worth noticing.

  1. Eve misquoted God (from Genesis 2:17) in 3:3.  Misquoting God creates an opening evil can exploit.
  2. Adam (unlike the author of Psalm 51, as well as St. Paul the Apostle) did not accept individual responsibility he rightfully owned.  No, he blamed Eve.  Many who misinterpret Genesis 3 still blame Eve.

Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Ignoring or minimizing one of the varieties of responsibility is not a virtue.  Neither is passing the buck.

I have written about the temptations of Jesus so much that I have nothing new to contribute.  Follow the appropriate tag, O reader, and read, if you desire to do so.  I do ask you, however, some germane questions:

  1. How many of us would, in the same weakened physical state, exasperated by hunger, resist the temptation to acquire food in a way we should not?
  2. How many of us, with our egos, would resist the temptation to glorify ourselves?
  3. How many of us would (if we have not done so already) serve anyone other than God, in hope of a reward in this life?

Each of us has the responsibility to resist temptations, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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

Human Potential in God, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses and the Burning Bush

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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

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 God, who in the glorious Transfiguration of thy only begotten Son,

hast confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the fathers,

and who, in the voice that came from the bright cloud,

didst in a wonderful manner vouchsafe to make us co-heirs with the King of his glory,

and bring us to the enjoyment of the same;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 134

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

Exodus 3:1-15

Psalm 119:49-64

Romans 10:1-17

Luke 5:1-15

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

God works in more than one type of way.  Some actions are subtle.  Others, however, are spectacular and surprising.  Divine acts, however subtle or spectacular, ought to inspire us to love and serve God.

God has chosen some seemingly unlikely.  In today’s readings, for example, were a murderer and a fugitive from Egyptian justice (Moses), a persecutor of the early Church (St. Paul the Apostle), an impetuous man who often spoke before he thought (St. Simon Peter), and two hellraisers (Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee).  They, by grace, became much more than what they had been.  Moses became a great leader and lawgiver.  St. Paul became a great apostle to Gentiles.  St. Simon Peter became a rock upon which Jesus built the Church.  Sts. James and John became great evangelists.  Three of these men became martyrs.

How much more, O reader, can you become in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF ELLEN GATES STARR, U.S. EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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

A Covenant People, Part III   3 comments

Above:  John the Baptist in the Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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

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 God, the Father of all truth and grace, who has called us out of darkness

into marvelous light by the glorious gospel of Thy Son;

grant unto us power, we beseech Thee, to walk worthy of this vocation,

with all lowliness and meekness, endeavoring to keep

the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;

that we may have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 127

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

Isaiah 61:1-6

Psalm 27

Romans 12:10-21

Luke 3:1-22

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

Never pay back evil for evil.

–Romans 12:17a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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

The reading from Romans 12 offers some challenging instructions:

  1. Bless, not curse, one’s persecutors (v. 14).
  2. Refrain from repaying evil with evil (v. 17).
  3. Leave vengeance to God (v. 19).
  4. Conquer evil with goodness.  Do not let evil conquer one (vs. 20-21).

Justice is one matter and revenge is another, St. Paul the Apostle understood.  He did not counsel people to live as doormats.  In the context of faith community–a minority population, actually–St. Paul encouraged his audience to take care of each other as they consciously depended entirely on God.  He urged them to be morally superior to their enemies.

The road to evil begins with the delusion that one can and must do x because God either does not exist or care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53, as well as what I have written about them.)  This delusion opens the portal to an approach to life according to which the ends justify the means.

When we, individually and collectively, trust in God, we are free to be better people than those who seek to destroy us unjustly.  We are free to be our best selves and communities.  We are free to take care of each other, individually and collectively.  We are free to refrain from exploiting and making excuses for exploitation.  We are free to gaze upon the loveliness of YHWH and to awake each dawn in the temple of YHWH.  We are free to be a covenant people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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

Sons of God   3 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 1

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

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)

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

Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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

Isaiah 63:7-17

Psalm 2

Galatians 4:1-7

John 1:1-18

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

God is faithful, we read.  Even when reality falls short of expectations, as when Hebrew exiles moved to their ruined, ancestral homeland, God is faithful.  When divine ire flares up and consumes imprudent rulers and assemblies, God is faithful.  When the darkness of the world proves incapable of overpowering the light of God, which the darkness cannot understand anyway, God is faithful.

The reading from Galatians 4 requires a spotlight, hence the focus of this post.

Pauline literature, whether of St. Paul the Apostle or merely in his name, uses two words many modern English translations render as “children.”  One word is literally “children” or “offspring,” with no gender specified.  The other word is literally “sons.”  Translating the Greek correctly and interpreting the texts in the context of the time and place is crucial to understand the texts accurately.

I am a good, self-respecting liberal.  As such, I accept much inclusive language.  As a pedant, I reject “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” as singular pronouns, for I respect the distinction between the singular and the plural too much to do otherwise.  Besides, one can use those words as plural pronouns–the only correct way to use them.  I also prefer precision in language, so I like to know when “men” refers to males and when it is gender-non-specific, replaced easily with words such as “people,” “mortals,” and “humankind.”

In St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, sons inherited; daughters did not.  St. Paul, using big letters (6:11), wrote that through Jesus, the Son of God, we can became sons of God, that is heirs–not servants, but heirs.  The apostle wrote of God’s inclusive love and grace that reaches out for everybody, although not all people will join the household and claim the inheritance.  St. Paul wrote that divine love and grace wiped out and cut across human societal categories, including gender, ethnicity, and slavery (3:26-38).

If the Pauline language of sons of God in Galatians offends our twenty-first-century sensibilities, we need to read deeply, not superficially, and to understand what he meant.  Then we need to thank God for extravagant love and grace that, via one method or another (Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit) creates opportunities we can never make for ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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

Donatism of a Sort, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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

Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy name, increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness, and by thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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

2 Chronicles 6:12-21

Acts 13:42-52

John 17:1-11

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

No building or body of doctrine can contain God.  Yet buildings and bodies of doctrine can be useful for people.  We need to acknowledge the proper roles and the limits of buildings and doctrines, which can set the table and create the atmosphere or reverence well.

We also need to acknowledge our biases.  The word “Donatism” is much more recent (yet ancient from our perspective) than the exclusionary attitude it summarizes.  I, as a Gentile, side with Sts. Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:42-52.  I rejoice that I have (present tense) eternal life via Jesus (John 17:3).  I read the New Testament and find evidence of controversies over including Gentiles as equals in the Christian faith.  I acknowledge that Judaizers were not evil but that they clung to a religious identity.

The debates over whom to include and exclude continue.  May the love of Christ, who died for all people and rose again, and through whom salvation is available, guide our attitudes and words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

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