Archive for the ‘St. Paul the Apostle’ Tag

To the Church in Laodicea   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING REVELATION, PART VIII

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Revelation 3:14-22

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The church in Laodicea had existed since the time of St. Paul the Apostle.  John of Patmos insisted that choosing God’s side against the Roman Empire and the worship of the Emperor of Rome was crucial.  Yet the congregation in Laodicea was lukewarm and complacent.  It had lost the ability to make moral and spiritual distinctions.

Yet that congregation had an opportunity to repent–or else.

Some of the members of that church in that commercial city relied on their wealth, not on God.  The poor members could not rely on wealth, of course.  They apparently relied on other idols.

Whenever any portion of the Church relies on God instead of God, it errs severely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF ALBAN BUTLER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HAGIOGRAPHER

THE FEAST OF HENRY STEPHEN BUTLER, EPISCOPAL ORGANIST, CHOIRMASTER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOAO BOSCO BURNER, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1976

THE FEAST OF VINCENT TAYLOR, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Posted October 13, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Revelation of John 3

Tagged with , ,

Living with Integrity, and Some Troublesome Texts   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART VIII

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1 Peter 2:1-3:17

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Whenever Christians to my right speak or write about what the Bible says about various matters, I invariably roll my eyes, at least metaphorically.  Literalists overlook a documented fact:  the Bible contradicts itself.  Reading the germane texts for what they are reveals that context is key.  If one mistakes St. Paul the Apostle for a systematic theologian, one may overlook the cultural contexts in which he ministered.

The cultural and geographical context of First Peter was northern Asia Minor, the Roman Empire, 70-90 C.E.  The culture was hostile to Christianity, a young, small, and growing religion.  Slavery, and patriarchy were cultural norms.  The author bought into these norms, although he moderated them.  The attitude of submission to civil authority (the Roman Empire, in this case) contrasted with the attitude of “John of Patmos,” who wrote Revelation.  According of Revelation, the Roman Empire was in league with Satan, so submission to the empire was submission to Satan.  Such submission was sinful, according to Revelation.  Not surprisingly, the attitude of submission to the empire (in 1 Peter) has long been more popular with governments than the contrasting attitude in Revelation.

As always, context is crucial.

I argue with much of 1 Peter 2:1-3:17.  I oppose all forms of slavery at all times and in all places.  I affirm equality within marriage.  I contend that one can belong to a powerless minority in a society and still say,

X is wrong.  The social and cultural norms are askew.

I hold that living the Golden Rule, individually and collectively, is a divine mandate, not a suggestion.  Living reverently in Christ (1 Peter 3:15) requires nothing less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL VI, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BRIGHT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN BYROM, ANGLICAN THEN QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LANCELOT ANDREWES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER THEN OF ELY THEN OF WINCHESTER

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Deeds and Creeds VII   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART III

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James 2:1-26

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Do not rob the poor because they are poor,

nor crush the needy at the gate;

For the LORD will defend their cause,

and will plunder those who plunder them.

–Proverbs 22:22-23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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If I were inclined toward theft, I would steal from the wealthy, not the poor, for the same reason Willie Sutton (1901-1980) robbed banks:

That’s where the money is.

Robbing the poor is counter-productive.  Yet many tax codes do just that; they fall more heavily on the poor than on the wealthy, in percentage of income.  The poor cannot game the system, but the wealthy can.

James 2:1-18 reminds me of Proverbs 22:22-23, which I hear read before James 2:1-18 every Proper 18, Year B, in The Episcopal Church.  Both passages speak of proper and improper attitudes toward the poor.

Do not curry favor with the rich, we read.  James 2:1-13 refers to its context.  One may envision a rich man–a Roman nobleman–clad in a toga and wearing a gold ring.  Only a member of that class had the sight to dress in that way.  Such a man was also seeking political office.  To curry favor with such a man was to seek the benefits he could bestow.

Yet members of the wealthy class also dragged Christians into courts of law.  If the rich man in question was on the bad side of Emperor Domitian (reigned 81-96), the Christian congregation allied with that wealthy man suffered imperial wrath, too.

Recall James 1:27, O reader:  Care for the widows and orphans, and keep oneself uncontaminated from the world.

God has decreed the poor the most valuable people (1 Corinthians 1:27).  Jesus taught that the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God (Luke 6:20).  The Gospels teach that the first will be last, the last will be first, and those serve are the greatest.  God disregards and contradicts human social hierarchies.

The audience of the Epistle of James consisted of Jewish Christians, marginalized within their Jewish tradition.  They knew about the Law of Moses and its ethical demand to take care of the less fortunate.  Apparently, some members of that audience had not acted in accordance with those common commandments.

St. Paul the Apostle addressed Gentiles.  The author of the Epistle of James addressed Jews.  St. Paul understood faith and works to be a package deal, hence justification by faith.  The author of the Epistle of James used “faith” narrowly, to refer to intellectual assent.  Therefore, he wrote of justification by works.  These two authors arrived at the same point after departing from different origins.  They both affirmed the importance of faithful actions.

We read of two scriptural examples–the near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19) and the hospitality of Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-23).  I stand by my criticism of Abraham in Genesis 22.  I refer you, O reader, to follow the germane tags, if you are inclined to do so.

None of that detracts from the summary of the faith-works case in the Epistle of James:

So just as the body without a spirit is dead, so faith is dead without deeds.

–2:26, Helen Barrett Montgomery, Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

That theme continues, in another context, in the next chapter.

The allure of status is strong; even Christians are not necessarily immune to its appeal.  The ultimate status that really matters, though, is heir of God.  No earthly political power has any say over that status.  Another germane status is bearer of the image of God.  All people hold that status inherently.  If we really believe that, we will treat each other accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Introduction to the General Epistles   Leave a comment

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART I

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This post opens a new series, one about the General (or Catholic or Universal) Epistles.  This category dates to circa 325 C.E., from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea.

MY GERMANE OPERATIONAL BIASES AND ASSUMPTIONS

Know, O reader, that my academic background is in history.  I think historically, regardless of the topic du jour.  The past tenses constitute my usual temporal perspective.  Some people tell me that I ought not to think this way when considering the Bible or a television series that ceased production years or decades ago.  These individuals are wrong.  I defy them.

Some people tell me that the historical backgrounds of Biblical books do not matter or are of minimal importance.  The messages for today is what matters, they say.  The messages for today do matter; I agree with that much.  Yet the definition of those messages depend greatly on the historical contexts from which these texts emerged.  With regard to the General Epistles, whether one assumes relatively early or relatively late composition affects the interpretation.

I operate from the assumptions that (a) James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude are pseudonymous, and (b) they date to relatively late periods.  These two assumptions relate to each other.  The first assumption leads to the second.  In terms of logic, if x, then y.  Simultaneously, internal evidence supports the second assumption, which leads backward, to the first.

CONTEXTS

The General Epistles, composed between 70 and 140 C.E., came from particular societal and political contexts.  The Roman Empire was strong.  Religious persecutions of Christianity were mostly sporadic and regional.  Christianity was a young, marginalized, sect (of Judaism, through 135 C.E.) unable to influence society and the imperial order.  Christian doctrine was in an early phase of development.  Even the definition of the Christian canon of scripture was in flux.

I, reading, pondering, and writing in late 2021, benefit from centuries of theological development, ecumenical councils, and the definition of the New Testament.  I, as an Episcopalian, use scripture, tradition, and reason.  I interpret any one of these three factors through the lenses of the other two.  I, as a student of the past, acknowledge that scripture emerged from tradition.

The importance of theological orthodoxy was a major concern in the background of the General Epistles.  That made sense; ecclesiastical unity, threatened by heresy, was a major concern for the young, small, and growing sect.  Yet, as time passed and the Church’s fortunes improved, the definition of orthodoxy changed.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (notably Origen) were orthodox, by the standards of their time.  After 325 C.E., however, some of these men (notably Origen) became heretics postmortem and ex post facto.

Orthopraxy was another concern in the General Epistles.  Orthopraxy related to orthodoxy.  The lack of orthopraxy led to needless schisms and the exploitation of the poor, for example.  As time passed and the Church became dominant in parts of the world, the Church fell short on the standard of orthopraxy, as defined by the Golden Rule.  As Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), an excommunicated modernist Roman Catholic theologian, lamented:

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

Lest anyone misunderstand me, I affirm that theological orthodoxy exists.  God defines it.  We mere mortals and our theologies are all partially heretical.  We cannot help that.  Salvation is a matter of grace, not passing a canonical examination.  Also, the Golden Rule is the finest standard according to which to measure orthopraxy.  Orthopraxy is a matter of faithful response, which grace demands.  Grace is free, not cheap.

BRIEF INTRODUCTIONS FOR EACH OF THE GENERAL EPISTLES

The Epistle of James dates to 70-110 C.E.  The analysis of Father Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) suggests that composition in the 80s or 90s was probable.  The “epistle,” actually a homily, used the genre of diatribe to address Jewish Christians who lived outside of Palestine.  James is perhaps the ultimate “shape up and fly right” Christian text.  James may also correct misconceptions regarding Pauline theology.

The First Epistle of Peter, composed in Rome between 70 and 90 C.E., is a text originally for churches in northern Asia Minor.  The majority scholarly opinion holds that First Peter is a unified text.  A minority scholarly opinion holds that 1:3-4:11 and 4:12-5:11 are distinct documents.

The Epistle of Jude, composed between 90 and 100 C.E., may have have come from Palestine.  Jude was also a source for Second Peter, mainly the second chapter thereof.

The Second Epistle of Peter is the last book of the New Testament composed.  Second Peter, probably composed between 120 and 140 C.E., addresses a general audience in eastern Asia Minor.  The second chapter expands on Jude.

The First Epistle of John is not an epistle.  No, it is a homily or a tract.  First John, composed circa 100 C.E., belongs to the Johannine tradition.  Anyone who has belonged to a congregation that has suffered a schism may relate to the context of First John.

The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John (both from circa 100 C.E.) may have written First John.  Or not.  “The Elder” (the author of Second and Third John) speaks down the corridors of time in the contexts of ecclesiastical schisms and personality conflicts.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

I invite you, O reader, to remain with me as I embark on a journey through the Epistle of James first.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARENCE ALPHONSUS WALWORTH, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER; CO-FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE (THE PAULIST FATHERS)

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE RODAT, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF VILLEFRANCHE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DALRYMPLE MACLAGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Rededication and Purification of the Temple: The First Hanukkah   1 comment

Above:  A Menorah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XIX

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1 Maccabees 4:36-61

2 Maccabees 10:1-9

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God, the pagans have invaded your heritage,

they have defiled your holy temple,

they have laid Jerusalem in ruins,

they have left the corpses of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

the bodies of your faithful for the wild beasts.

Around Jerusalem they have shed blood like water,

leaving no one to bury them.

We are the scorn of our neighbours,

the butt and laughing-stock of those around us.

How long will you be angry, Yahweh?  For ever?

Is your jealousy  to go on smouldering like a fire?

Pour out your anger on the nations who do not acknowledge you,

and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;

for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his home.

Do not count against us the guilt of forever generations,

in your tenderness come quickly to meet us,

for we are utterly weakened;

help us, God our Saviour,

for the glory of your name;

Yahweh, wipe away our sins,

rescue us for the sake of your name.

Why should the nations ask,

“Where is their God?”

Let us see the nations suffer vengeance

for shedding your servants’ blood.

May the groans of the captive reach you,

by your great strength save those who are condemned to death!

Repay our neighbours sevenfold

for the insults they have levelled at you, Lord.

And we, your people, the flock that you pasture,

will thank you for ever,

will recite your praises from age to age.

–Psalm 79, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Psalm 79 is a text from the Babylonian Exile.  One can easily imagine Judas Maccabeus and company reciting it or parts of it, at least mentally, at the first Hanukkah, on Kislev 25 (December 14), 164 B.C.E.  Many of the themes fit.  

My cultural patrimony includes the Scientific Revolution and the ensuing Enlightenment.  I, therefore, have the intellectual category “laws of nature.”  My default understanding of a miracle is a violation of or an exception to at least one law of nature.  That definition does not apply to the Bible, though.  Its authors, who lived and died long prior to the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, lacked the intellectual category “laws of nature.”  We moderns need to be careful not to misread the Bible anachronistically.

In Biblical times, people did have a category I call, for lack of a better label, “We don’t see that every day.”  They recognized the extraordinary.  The traditional Hanukkah miracle (absent from 1 and 2 Maccabees yet mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud) of the oil lasting as long as it did was extraordinary.  The miracles in 1 and 2 Maccabees were that proper Temple worship resumed and that the Temple was suitable for such worship again.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had profaned the Temple about three years prior, in 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:1-27.  King Antiochus IV had died about the time of the first Hanukkah–either before (2 Maccabees 9:1-29) or after (1 Maccabees 6:17).  As Father Daniel J. Harrington, S. J.. wrote in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), news of the king’s death may have reached Jerusalem after the rededication and purification of the Temple.

The Jewish war for independence had not ended.  King Antiochus V Eupator, just seven years old, was the new Seleucid monarch, with Lysias as the regent.  And Judas Maccabeus was no fool.  He ordered Mount Zion and Beth-zur fortified.

The Hasmonean Rebellion began as a fight against the Seleucid imperial policy of forced Hellenization.  The rebellion became a war for national independence.  The Hasmonean Rebellion was always a struggle to maintain Jewish communal life, which was under a great and terrible threat.

Communal life is a relatively low priority in a culture that preaches rugged individualism.  Yet communal life is one of the moral pillars of the Law of Moses, which the Hasmoneans guarded and obeyed.  And communal life was a pillar of the moral teachings of Hebrew prophets.  Furthermore, communal life was a moral pillar of the teachings of Jesus and the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle.

Robert Doran, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), asks,

But how are we to keep a sense of community when we are not under attack?

–258

He proposes taking the answer from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.  The answer is love:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In other words, in ecclesiastical-theological terms, Donatism is not an option.  One of my favorite cartoons (probably under copyright protection) depicts a group of people holding really big pencils and drawing lines on the floor.  That single-cell cartoon also depicts Jesus standing among those line-drawers.  He is holding his really big pencil upside-down and erasing lines, though.

Love, in the context of communal life, eschews Donatism and self-aggrandizement.  Love, in the context of communal life, seeks only what is good for the community.  Love, in the context of communal life, embraces mutuality.  We are all responsible to and for each other other.  We all depend upon each other.  We all depend upon each other.  And we all depend entirely on God.  Whatever one does to harm anyone else also damages that one.  Whatever one does to or for anyone else, one does to or for oneself.

If my culture were to recognize these truths and act on them, that would be a miracle.  It would not constitute a violation of or an exception to any law of nature.  It would, however, be extraordinary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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Stoicism and Platonism in Fourth Maccabees   Leave a comment

Above:  Zeno of Citium

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IV

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4 Maccabees 1:1-3:18; 13:1-14:10; 18:20-24

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The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, composed in 20-54 C.E., perhaps in Antioch, is a treatise.  It interprets Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy–Stoicism and Platonism, to be precise.  4 Maccabees elaborates on the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother, covered relatively succinctly in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, and set prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

Fourth Maccabees, composed by an anonymous Hellenistic Jew and addressed to other Hellenistic Jews, has two purposes:

  1. To exhort them to obey the Law of Moses (18:1), and
  2. To proclaim that devout reason is the master of all emotions (1:1-2; 18:2).

Cultural assimilation was a common temptation for Hellenistic Jews.  “Keep the faith,” the author urged more verbosely than my paraphrase.  For him, devout reason was a reason informed by the Law of Moses.  Devout reason, in the author’s mind, the highest form of reason was the sole province of faithful Jews.

Vicarious suffering is also a theme in 4 Maccabees.  In this book, the suffering and death of the martyrs purifies the land (1:11; 6:29; 17:21), vindicates the Jewish nation (17:10), and atones for the sins of the people (6:29; 17:22).  The last point presages Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of several Christian theologies of the atonement via Jesus.

The blending of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy is evident also in the treatment of the afterlife.  The Second Book of the Maccabees teaches bodily resurrection (7:9, 11, 14, 23, and 29).  One can find bodily resurrection elsewhere in Jewish writings (Daniel 12:2; 1 Enoch 5:1-2; 4 Ezra/2 Esdras 7:42; 2 Baruch 50:2-3).  The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, however, similar to the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4, teaches instant immortality, with reward or punishment.  The martyrs achieve instant instant immortality with reward (4 Maccabees 9:9, 22; 10:15; 14:15; 15:7; 16:13, 25; 17:12, 18; 18:23).  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, goes to everlasting torment (9:9, 29, 32; 10:11, 15; 11:3, 23; 12:18; 18:5).

Stoicism, in the Greek philosophical sense, has a different meaning than the average layperson may assume.  It is not holding one’s feelings inside oneself.  Properly, Stoicism teaches that virtue is the only god and vice is the only evil.  The wise are indifferent to pain and pleasure, to wealth and poverty, and to success and misfortune.  A Stoic, accepting that he or she could change x, y, and z, yet not t, u, and v.  No, a Stoic works to change x, y, and z.  A Stoic, therefore, is content in the midst of difficulty.  If this sounds familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of St. Paul the Apostle being content in pleasant and in unpleasant circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Stoicism shows up elsewhere in the New Testament and in early Christianity, too.  It is in the mouth of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Stoicism is also evident in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Why would it not be in the writings of St. Ambrose?  Greek philosophy informed the development of early Christian theology.  Greek philosophy continues to exist in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and Biblical commentaries.  Greek philosophy permeates the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews.  Greek philosophy is part of the Christian patrimony.

Platonism was the favorite form of Greek philosophy in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  Platonism permeated the works of St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) and his star pupil, Origen (185-254), for example.  Eventually, though, St. Albert the Great (circa 1200-1280) and his star pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), successfully made the case for Aristotle over Plato.  Holy Mother Church changed her mind after the deaths of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The Church, having embraced Aristotle over Plato, eventually rescinded the pre-Congregation canonization of St. Clement of Alexandria.  And the Church has never canonized Origen.  I have, however, read news stories of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland trying to convince The Episcopal Church to add Origen to the calendar of saints.  (The Episcopal Church already recognizes St. Clement of Alexandria as a saint.)

Platonism and Stoicism have four cardinal virtues–rational judgment, self-control, justice, and courage.  These appear in 4 Maccabees 1:2-4.  As I read these verses, I recognize merit in them.  Some emotions do hinder self-control.  Other emotions to work for injustice and obstruct courage.  News reports provide daily documentation of this.  Other emotions further the causes of justice and courage.  News reports also provide daily documentation of this.

I also affirm that reason should govern emotions.  I cite news stories about irrationality.  Emotions need borders, and must submit to objectivity and reason, for the best results.

4 Maccabees takes the reader on a grand tour of the Hebrew Bible to support this conclusion.  One reads, for example, of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-12; 4 Maccabees 2:1-6), Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7; 4 Maccabees 2:19-20), Moses (Numbers 16:1-35; Sirach 45:18; 4 Maccabees 2:17), David (2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 4 Maccabees 3:6-18).

Reason can effect self-control, which works for higher purposes.  One of these higher purposes is

the affection of brotherhood.

–4 Maccabees 13:19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In the case of the seven martyred brothers, as the author of 4 Maccabees told their story, these holy martyrs used rational judgment and self-control to remain firm in their faith.  Those brothers did not

fear him who thinks he is killing us….

–4 Maccabees 13:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That is the same courage and conviction present in Christian martyrs, from antiquity to the present day.

One may think of another passage:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

–Matthew 10:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Not surprisingly, many persecuted Christians derived much comfort and encouragement from 4 Maccabees.  These Christians had to rely on each other, just as the seven brothers did in 4 Maccabees.

Mutuality is a virtue in the Law of Moses and in Christianity.

I have spent the first four posts in this series laying the groundwork for the First, Second, and Fourth Books of Maccabees.  I have provided introductory material for these books.

Next, I will start the narrative countdown to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Eschatological Ethics IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Thessaloniki (Formerly Thessalonica), Greece

Image Source = Google Earth

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For the Sunday Next Before Advent, 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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with

thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 236

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Isaiah 35:3-10

Psalm 148

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Luke 12:35-43

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The two primary themes of the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in Isaiah 35:3-10.  The exile is the Babylonian Exile.  The exodus is the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Placing this reading at the end of the church year makes sense, for the language transitions neatly into texts for Advent.

Psalm 148 is a beautiful hymn.  It reads like reality after God has finally vanquished evil.

Speaking of eschatology, the background of St. Paul the Apostle’s First Letter to the Thessalonians includes the realization that Jesus may not be returning as soon as many people expected.  The question in Chapter 5, then, is how to live while waiting.  The answer is to continue to live according to the Golden Rule, both collectively and individually.  Build each other up.  Repay evil with good.  Support one another.  Do not become discouraged in behaving properly.  The reading from Luke 12:35-43 agrees.

Even when dashed eschatological expectations are not a factor, many people may become discouraged.  For example, compassion fatigue is a real and labeled phenomenon in the context of serial appeals for assistance in the wake of disasters.  Having compassion and behaving compassionately can be emotionally exhausting.

The readings tell us not to give up, however.  However eschatology shakes out, may God find us living righteously, both collectively and individually, at any given moment.  We–as communities and individuals–have vocations from God.  We have work to do.  May we complete it well and faithfully, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Kudzu and the Kingdom of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Kudzu, Atlanta, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 231

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Job 14:1-5

Psalms 112 and 113

Romans 10:1-21

Luke 17:20-33

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The readings from the Hebrew Bible cohere well, speaking in Job 14:1-5, reflects on the brevity of a human lifespan, even a relatively long one.  Psalms 112 and 113, taken together, encourage people to imitate God in behaving justly toward other people, such as the poor.  Our lives are brief, but they can be meaningful and positive.  We can use our time to leave the world better than we found it.  We can live according to the Golden Rule, by grace.  To do so is to respond faithfully to God.  Obey divine laws, Covenantal Nomism teaches.  By doing so, one retains one’s place in the covenant.

St. Paul the Apostle’s critique of Second Temple Judaism, contrary to popular misconception, was not that it was a legalistic, works-based righteousness religion.  No, his critique was that Second Temple Judaism lacked Jesus.  For St. Paul, Jesus was the game changer of all game changers.

The partially realized Kingdom of God has long been present on the Earth.  Certain events have made it more obvious than it was, though.  The life of Jesus on the Earth was a series of such events.  The partially realized Kingdom of God has set the stage for the fully realized Kingdom of God, still in the future.

God remains faithful.  Many people remain faithless.  The Golden Rule continues to be a teaching more people prefer to quote than to practice.  “None” continues to be the fastest-growing religious affiliation in much of the world.  Jesus keeps facing rejection.

Yet the Kingdom of God remains like kudzu, a plant commonplace where I live.  Kudzu grows where it will.  And God will win in the end.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY MORSE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1645

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT DASWA, SOUTH AFRICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGEBERT III, KING OF AUSTRASIA

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Deeds and Creeds VI   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

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 19:1-26 or Ruth 3

Psalm 142

Revelation 20:11-15

John 14:15-31

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NSFW Alert:  “Feet” in Ruth 3 are not feet.  No, they are genitals.  The Hebrew Bible contains euphemisms.  In the case of Ruth 3, we have a scene that is unfit for inclusion in a book of Bible stories for children.

The Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust offers this analysis of the Book of Ruth:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contractions About Sex and Desire (2011), 33

Speaking or writing of interpretations you may have read or heard, O reader, I turn to Genesis 19.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look for “Sodom.”  Then read every verse listed.  You will find that the dominant criticism of the people of Sodom was that they were arrogant and inhospitable.  The willingness to commit gang rape against angels, men, and women seems inhospitable to me.

The author of Psalm 142 described the current human reality.  That author descried Christ’s reality in John 14:15-31.  Christ was about to die terribly.  Yet that same Christ was victorious in Revelation 20.

The standard of judgment in Revelation 20:14 may scandalize many Protestants allergic to any hint of works-based righteousness:

…and every one was judged according to the way in which he had lived.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is not a new standard in the Bible.  It exists in the Hebrew Bible.  Matthew 25:31-46 its people over the head, so to speak, with this standard.  The Letter of James keeps hitting people over the head with it for five chapters.  Deeds reveal creeds.  The standard of divine judgment in Revelation 20:14 makes sense to me.

So, what do I believe?  What are my creeds?  What are your creeds, really?  I refer not to theological abstractions, but to lived faith.  Theological abstractions matter, too.  (I am not a Pietist.)  Yet lived faith matters more.  Do we live according to the love of God?  God seems to approve of doing that.  Do we hate?  God seems to disapprove of doing that.

As St. Paul the Apostle insisted, faith and works are a package deal.  The definition of faith in the Letter of James differs from the Pauline definition.  Faith in James is intellectual.  Therefore, joining faith with works is essential, for faith without works is dead.  In Pauline theology, however, faith includes works.  If one understands all this, one scotches any allegation that the Letter of James contradicts Pauline epistles.

Deeds reveal creeds.  If we value one another, we will act accordingly.  If we recognize immigrants as people who bear the image of God, we will resist the temptation of xenophobia, et cetera.  Knowing how to act properly on our creeds may prove challenging sometimes.  Practical consideration may complicate matters.  Political actions may or may not be the most effective methods to pursue.

By grace, may we–collectively and individually–act properly, so that our deeds may reveal our creeds, to the glory of God and for the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/devotion-for-proper-24-year-d-humes/

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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-First 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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Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy household, the Church, in continual godliness;

that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities,

and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 223

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2 Chronicles 30:1-21

Psalms 128 and 129

Romans 1:1-17

John 4:46-54

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For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.

–Romans 1:11-12, The New American Bible (1991)

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Faith thrives in faithful company.  That theme runs through the four assigned readings this Sunday.

  1. King Hezekiah’s great Passover celebration was part of a program of national religious reform.
  2. The author of Psalm 128 knew about home as a place to nourish faith.
  3. The author of Psalm 129 celebrated divine deliverance of the people of Israel prior to the Falls of Samaria and Jerusalem.  That author also encouraged faith among the people of Israel.
  4. St. Paul the Apostle longed to spend time with Christians in Rome.  (He got his wish a few years later.)
  5. Somebody’s faith was a component in stories of Jesus healing.  In this case, it was a father’s faith.

I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The last time I attended a worship service in a building in my parish was March 2020.  I have become accustomed to a church service being a livestream on YouTube.  I have, however, maintained some sense of ecclesiastical community via Zoom; I have kept teaching my weekly lectionary class.  Nevertheless, none of this has been as good as being in person, in church.  Behaving in a socially and morally responsible manner–a virtue–has come at a high cost.

Yet the work of the parish has not come to screeching halt.  We members have continued to build each other up.  We have continued to be faces of Christ to one another.

After all, faithful Christian community is about building each other up in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDRESS OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

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