Archive for the ‘St. Simon Peter’ Tag

Judgment and Mercy, Part XXIX   1 comment

Above:  Cross Out Slums, by the U.S. Office of War Information, 1943-1945

Image in the Public Domain

National Archives and Record Administration ID 513549

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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 50:4-10

Psalm 116:1-8

James 2:1-5, 8-10, 14-18

Mark 8:27-35

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O God, you declare your almighty power

chiefly in showing mercy and pity. 

Grant us the fullness of your grace,

that, pursuing what you have promised,

we may share your heavenly glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O God, without whose blessing we are not able to please you,

mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit

may in all things direct and govern our hearts;

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), 80

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Deuteronomistic theology–ubiquitous in the Hebrew Bible–teaches that the Babylonian Exile was justified punishment for centuries collective and habitual disregard of the Law of Moses.  This is the position of Second Isaiah shortly prior to the promised vindication of the exiles by God.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

Many exiles did not expect the Babylonian Exile to end; they had become accustomed to the status quo and fallen into despair.  This was psychologically predictable.

Likewise, St. Simon Peter, immediately following his confession of faith in Jesus, did not expect the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  And how many Christians have expected to suffer and perhaps to die for their faith?  Yet many have taken up their crosses and followed Jesus to humiliation and/or martyrdom.  St. (John) Mark, supposedly the author of the Gospel of Mark, died by dragging through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt.

The messages in the lection from James 2 may shock some people, too.  The category of the “deserving poor” is old, even in traditionally Christian cultures.  The opposite category, of course, is the “underserving poor.”  So, allegedly, we may help the “deserving poor” and ignore the “undeserving poor” with a clear moral conscience, right?  Wrong!  The categories of the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor,” taken together, constitute a morally invalid and false dichotomy.  God takes mistreating the poor seriously.  All of the poor are the “deserving poor.”

Whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy, but mercy triumphs over judgment.

–James 2:13, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible

James 2:13 is consistent with the Sermon on the Mount:

Judge not, that you may not be judged; For by whatever verdict you pass judgment you shall be judged, and in whatever measure you measure it will be meted out to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, David Bentley Hart, The New Testament:  A Translation (2017)

Clarence Jordan‘s Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel of Matthew puts a Southern Low Church Protestant spin on these verses:

Don’t preach just to keep from getting preached to.  For the same sermon you preach will be applied to you, and the stuff you dish out will be dished up to you.

Jordan’s rendering of James 2:13 also gets to the point:

For there is merciless judgment on a merciless man, and mercy is much more preferred than judgment.

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF EASTER

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “PASTOR OF THE REFORMATION”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND SAINTS GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHIARA BOSATTA, CO-FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT MARY OF PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN X, KING OF DENMARK AND ICELAND; AND HIS BROTHER, HAAKON VII, KING OF NORWAY

THE FEAST OF MARION MACDONALD KELLARAN, EPISCOPAL SEMINARY PROFESSOR AND LAY READER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post

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Being Subject to One Another   1 comment

Above:  Marriage Cross

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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Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18

Psalm 34:15-22

Ephesians 5:21-31

John 6:60-69

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God of all creation,

you reach out to call people of all nations to your kingdom. 

As you gather disciples from near and far,

count us also among those

who boldly confess your Son Jesus Christ as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life,

grant us without doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ

to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life

that, following his steps,

we may steadfastly walk in the say that leads to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 77

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Cultural context is crucial.  Consider that assertion, O reader, as we ponder Ephesians 5:21-31.

  1. Patriarchy was ubiquitous.  The text did not question it.  We may justly question patriarchy, though.
  2. A household was like a small fortress with bolted outer gates and inner doors.  These security measures were necessary because the society lacked domestic police forces.
  3. Wives were frequently much younger than their husbands.
  4. So, the theme of reciprocal service and protection within marriage was relatively progressive.  The husband had the duty to sacrifice himself to protect his wife, if necessary.

David Bentley Hart translates 5:21 to read:

Being stationed under one another in reverence for the Anointed, ….

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible offers a variation on the standard English-language translation:

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

J. B. Phillips‘s final translation (1972) of the New Testament provides a different and thought-provoking version of this verse:

And “fit in with” each other, because of your common reverence for Christ.

Clarence Jordan‘s version of this epistle, the Letter to the Christians in Birmingham, renders this verse as follows:

Put yourselves under one another with Christ-like respect.

I, without justifying ancient social norms I find objectionable, do try to understand them in context.  I also recognize that a text says what it says, not what (a) I wish it ways, and (b) what it may superficially seem to say.  So, within the context of ancient Roman society, we have a text about reciprocal service and protection within marriage.  The text makes clear that there is no room for exploitation in marriage.  The model for the husband is Jesus, who laid down his life.

Speaking of Jesus, he lost some followers in John 6:66.  Yet may we say with St. Simon Peter:

Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we know that you are the Holy One of God.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible

The theme of the importance of following God exists in Joshua 24, a book edited together from various sources after the Babylonian Exile.  The Book of Joshua benefits from centuries of hindsight.  Other portions of the Hebrew Bible tell us which choice–polytheism–adherents of the Hebrew folk religion made for centuries.  Yet the authorial voice in the sources of the Hebrew Bible is that of the priestly religion.  This is appropriate.

Serve God and God alone, that authorial voice repeats.  Avoid idolatry and practical atheism, it tells us again and again.  This is a message for the community first and the individual second.  Western rugged individualism is alien to the Bible.

If we apply the advice to be subject to one another/fit in with each other/be stationed under one another/put ourselves under one another out of reverence for Christ–or God, if you, O reader, prefer–to our communities, congregations, and mature (as opposed to casual or immature) relationships, we will have stronger communities, congregations, and mature relationships.  To value other people because of who they are–not what they can do for us–is to orientate relationships in a mutually healthy direction.  Everyone benefits, regardless of the cultural context, with its societal norms.  This approach, if it becomes normative, will transform those societal norms for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF EASTER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHIPS FOR COLORED WORK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTHONY, JOHN, AND EUSTATHIUS OF VILNIUS, MARTYRS IN LITHUANIA, 1347

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIEN BOTOVASOA, MALAGASY ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1947

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENAIDA OF TARSUS AND HER SISTER, SAINT PHILONELLA OF TARSUS; AND SAINT HERMIONE OF EPHESUS; UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS

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Adapted from this post

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Psalm 34: Mutuality in God   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XXVI

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Psalm 34

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That day David continued on his flight from Saul and he came to King Achish of Gath.  The courtiers of Achish said to him, “Why, that’s David, king of the land!  That’s the one of whom they sing as they dance:

‘Saul has slain his thousands;

David, his tens of thousands.'”

These words worried David and he became very much afraid of King Achish of Gath.  So, he concealed his good sense from them; he feigned madness for their benefit.  He scratched marks on the doors of the gate and let his saliva run down his beard.  And Achish said to his courtiers, “You see the man is raving; why bring him to me?  Do I lack madmen that you have brought his fellow to rave for me?  Should this fellow enter my house?

–1 Samuel 21:11-16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999)

This is the reference in the superscription of Psalm 34:

Of David, when he feigned madness in the presence of Abimelech, who turned him out, and he left.

–Psalm 34:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999)

The discrepancies in the king’s name may be a minor matter.  I can think of more than one Biblical character with more than one name.  Examples include Saul of Tarsus/St. Paul the Apostle, St. Simon/Peter/Cephas, St. Joseph/Barnabas, and St. John/Mark.  The alternative explanation–that the author of the superscription was confused about the name of the King of Gath–is also feasible.

Anyway, I regard the superscription as a tacked-on piece of prose.  I am also dubious of Davidic authorship, given the frequent habit of composing a text and attributing it to a famous and revered dead person.

So, as a spiritual mentor of mine from decades past liked to ask when studying or discussing the Bible,

What is really going on here?

Psalm 34 extols divine rescue.  This is a theme we have encountered in previous psalms and that we will find repeated frequently before the termination of this series.

Yet divine rescue is not what is really going on here.  Walter Brueggemann classifies the Psalms into three categories in The Message of the Psalms:  A Theological Commentary (1984).  Psalms of orientation indicate trust, joy, and delight in God.  Psalms of disorientation reflect suffering, hurt, and alienation.  He classifies Psalm 34 with the psalms of new orientation, or expressions of hope.  The instruction in Psalm 34 explains how to consolidate and sustain the new orientation.  This instruction sits within the frame of divine rescue of the faithful.

This instruction is for the people.  They are to hold God in awe, keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit, swerve from evil and do good, and seek and pursue peace/amity (depending on translation).

The newly oriented Israel must engage in society building, to develop forms of behavior which sustain the gift of new social possibility.

–Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms:  A Theological Commentary (1984), 133

The newly oriented people are free in God to practice mutuality in love for each other.

John Donne (1572-1631), an Anglican priest and a poet, understood this principle.  He wrote:

No man is an island,

Entire itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

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If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were:

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were.

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Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

The absence of mutuality many practiced during the COVID-19 pandemic os a recent memory as I write this post.  I recall, for example, an incident from August 2020, when I worked on the decennial census.  I remember that I wore a mask, consistent with (a) Census Bureau policy, (b) medical and public health advice, and (c) morality.  I recall that the mask was plain–white on one side and blue on the other.  I remember knocking on one door, only to face a conservative, anti-federal government man who, with open hostility, refused to answer any questions.  I recall him telling me:

That mask you are wearing represents Satan.

I cannot achieve my potential without the support of others.  Those whose paths cross mine cannot achieve their potential without any support either.  My experience composing hagiographies at SUNDRY THOUGHTS provides me with examples of people with initiative who succeeded in achieving their potential when others helped and encouraged them.  I think, for example, of Michael Faraday (1791-1867), a driven man.  I also understand that he would not ave become a great and influential scientist unless (a) the owner of a laboratory had offered him a job, and (b) Faraday had accepted it.

The denial of anyone’s potential diminishes the whole society.  We are all responsible to and for each other.  May more of us practice mutuality, for the common good and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, CIRCA  351

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Hesed, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

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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Exodus 6:2-8

Psalm 138

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

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God of all creation,

you reach out to call people of all nations to your kingdom. 

As you gather disciples from near and far,

count us also among those

who boldly confess your Son Jesus Christ as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life,

grant us without doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ

to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life

that, following his steps,

we may steadfastly walk in the say that leads to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 77

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One day in Athens, Georgia, I visited my favorite thrift store in search of a lamp.  I saw a wooden lamp that needed polishing.  The item looked ugly in the store.  However, I recognized the lamp’s potential.  So, I purchased the lamp, took it home, and polished it.  I owned an attractive lamp.

In the assigned lessons, we read of the faithfulness of God.

  1. The Book of Exodus makes clear that God freed the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
  2. Psalm 138 extols the faithful love of God.
  3. Romans 11:33-36 needs no summary; read the passage, O reader.  No paraphrase can do justice to the text.
  4. When we turn to Matthew 16:13-20, we read one account of the Confession of St. Peter.  St. (Simon) Peter is the rock in this passage; make no mistake to the contrary, O reader.  16:19 (addressed to St. Peter) resembles 18:18 (addressed to the disciples).  Binding and loosing refer to rabbinic authoritative teaching–interpretation of the Law of Moses.  Putting 16:19 and 18:18 together, the disciples, with St. Peter as the leader, had Christ’s approval to teach authoritatively, and this role played out on the congregational level.

Consider the Twelve, O reader.  The canonical Gospels frequently portray them as being oblivious.  The Gospel of Mark goes out of its way to do this.  The other three Gospels tone down that motif.  If there was hope for the Twelve, there is hope for us.

Jesus recognized potential in the Twelve.

Jesus recognizes potential in you, O reader.  Jesus recognizes potential in me.  If that is not an example of divine faithful love, I do not know what is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND SAINT MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER 

THE FEAST VINCENT LEBBE, BELGIAN-CHINESE ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Not Getting the Memo   1 comment

Above:  World Map (1570)

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 56:1, 6-8

Psalm 67

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Matthew 15:21-28

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Almighty and ever-loving God,

you have given great and precious promises to those who believe. 

Grant us the perfect faith, which overcomes all doubts,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Merciful Father,

since you have given your only Son as the sacrifice for our sin,

also give us grace to receive with thanksgiving

the fruits of this redeeming work

and daily follow in his way;

through your Son, Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 75-76

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The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30) is a topic of which I have written repeatedly already.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts for those comments.

As Amy-Jill Levine points out correctly, Judaism has long welcomed the faith of Gentiles who follow God.  Isaiah 56:1-8 is one of the texts Levine cites in making this case.  And Psalm 67 speaks of the people of the world praising God.

Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo.  This was evident in the New Testament.  St. Simon Peter received the memo relatively late, for example.

I come not to criticize Judaism or any other religion.  No, I come to set the record straight and to criticize all who are simultaneously zealous for yet uninformed of their religious traditions.  I am a Christian.  Many non-Christians think of Christians as being judgmental.  Yet, Christianity, properly lived, is not judgmental.  Nevertheless, many judgmental Christians exist, hence the stereotype.

Have you, O reader, missed any memos from God?  Is your piety misdirected, despite your best intentions?  Consequences matter more than intentions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305 

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OR REMESIANA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Adapted from this post

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Love One Another   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

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

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1 Kings 19:9-18

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

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

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Almighty and everlasting God,

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

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

Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,

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

except through the merit of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Almighty and everlasting God,

always more ready to hear than we to pray

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

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us the good things we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 74

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I am listening.  What is Yahweh saying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We Gentiles often stop after,

The rest is commentary.

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

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

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

My children, love one another.

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

That’s it?

St. John replied:

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

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

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

We all do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

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

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

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

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Adapted from this post

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Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of Christians   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXVI

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Acts 12:1-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

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

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Ministry of St. Simon Peter   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXIV

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Acts 9:32-11:18

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I refer you, O reader, to the other posts here at BLOGA THEOLOGICA in which I have written about the constituent parts of Acts 9:32-11:18.  In this post, I focus on broader themes, not narrower ones.

The power of God that flowed through Jesus through St. Simon Peter, according to Acts 9:32-42.

Jewish-Gentile relations require some attention.

As we have already established in this series, Judaism allowed for divine acceptance of righteous Gentiles.  Earlier in Luke-Acts, Jesus healed the slave of a Roman centurion who had favorable relations with the Jewish community of Capernaum (Luke 7:1-10).  Yet, obviously, in Acts 10:1-11:18, some Jews were less accepting of Gentiles than other Jews were.

We need to read Acts 10:1-11:18 on three levels:

  1. the timeframe in which 10:1-11:18 is set,
  2. the timeframe of circa 85 C.E, and
  3. the timeframe of today.

The problem of social relations between Christians converted from Judaism and Christians converted from paganism underlies the narrative, cf. 10:10-16, 28-29; 11:2-14; and Ga[latians] 2:11-21.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966), 217

The present-day lens of Acts 10:1-11:18 was circa 85 C.E.  St. Paul the Apostle had argued valiantly and vehemently on the behalf of Christians converted from paganism, that they did not have to obey the Law of Moses.  Decades after his martyrdom in Rome, the debate continued to rage.

Alas, St. Simon Peter was inconsistent regarding accepting Gentiles after Acts 10-11 (Galatians 2:11-21).

I, not content to chastise long-dead people and feel spiritually smug and self-righteous, look in the spiritual mirror instead.  In my cultural context, which people do I exclude wrongly?  And which people do I favor including yet get quiet about because of what others may think, say, or do?  You, O reader, should ask yourself the same questions.  Likewise, communities and institutions should ask themselves these questions, also.  For example, many congregations proclaim that everyone is welcome.  How accurate is that sentiment, though?

I realized then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?

–Acts 11:17, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Who am I to stand in God’s way?  Who are you, O reader, to stand in God’s way?  Who is anyone to stand in God’s way?  What is any institution or congregation to stand in God’s way?

Grace scandalizes by not discriminating.  Does that make you, O reader, comfortable or uncomfortable?  If it makes you uncomfortable, why does it do so?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN ADAME ROSALES, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT CONRAD OF PARZHAM, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE B. CAIRD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEN UNITED REFORMED MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, ETHICIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 341

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

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVI

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Acts 3:1-4:31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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

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

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

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Pentecost: The Birth of the Church   Leave a comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned from a Bulletin

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LV

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Acts 2:1-47

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Historically, Christian communities in the United States of America that have emulated the young Jerusalem church have received much scorn and suspicion from other Christians.  Cold War politics heightened this scorn and suspicion.  What kind of weirdos would live in community and share their possessions?  Were they communists?  No, they were Christians who had paid close attention to the Acts of the Apostles.

I suspect that Acts 2 includes prose poetry.  That is fine; poetry is the best method of expressing the truth sometimes.  At the Feast of Weeks, a harvest festival associated with the giving of the Law of Moses, God reversed the curse from the mythical story of the Tower of Babel.  The multiplicity of languages was not a barrier to communication.  And St. Simon Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, proclaimed him fearlessly.

Consistent with Lucan themes, Jews and Gentiles alike were welcome.

I strive to write clearly, O reader.  I do not mistake serial contrariness in the name of Jesus for Christian discipleship.  The reflexive rejection of “the world” overlooks that which “the world” gets right.  Yet Luke-Acts presents the dichotomy between the prevalent human order of the time and the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., was correct in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963):  The Church was powerful when its members rejoiced to suffer for what they believed.  The Church was powerful when it was disturbing the peace of the unjust social order.  The Church was powerful when it agitated for justice.  The Church was powerful when it was not

an arch-supporter of the status quo.

Christendom was not a golden age of the Church.  I have detected no reason to feel nostalgic for the long age of Christendom, of Constantinian Christianity.

In these days when “none” is the fastest-growing religious affiliation in my society, I recognize that many people have abandoned the Church, which has frequently betrayed its foundational principles and become a powerful voice for injustice and varieties of hatred.  I recognize an opportunity for ecclesiastical leaders and members to wake up from the slumber of the unjust status quo and to reclaim the pre-Constantinian Church’s power of witness.

Note:  I borrowed “Constantinian Christianity” from Dr. Cornel West.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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