Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

Suffering, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Saint Peter, by Marco Zoppo

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 5:17-42

Psalm 46

1 Peter 4:12:5:11

Matthew 24:1-14

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Suffering and persecution are prominent in the assigned readings.  The passage from Matthew 24, set during Holy Week, precedes the crucifixion of Jesus.  Sometimes suffering is a result of obeying God, yet, as we read in Psalm 46:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

One might also think of lyrics Doris Plenn wrote in response to McCarthyism:

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them are winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

After all, God transformed a Roman cross, a symbol of humiliation and a means of execution, into the ultimate symbol of grace and victory over death and sin.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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Resurrected Lives, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Easter Celtic Cross

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 2:22-41 or Job 19:7-27c

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Matthew 28:1-10

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The reading from Job 19 might seem at first to be an odd selection for Easter Sunday.  The choice makes much sense on this occasion, however.  The lesson reminds us that even innocent people suffer, despite what certain conventionally pious people, such as alleged friends who insult the afflicted, claim.  Reading the Book of Job and the Gospel of John together highlights the falseness of the arguments of Job’s alleged friends, for, in the Johannine Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus is Christ’s glorification.

Psalm 118 is a prayer of thanksgiving for victory in battle.  The theme of victory certainly applies to Easter, central to the Christian liturgical year.  Likewise the resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity, as 1 Corinthians 15, in its entirety, affirms.

The body of Christian doctrine is varied and frequently self-contradictory, given the wide variety of competing denominations.  An orthodox Christian in one denomination is simultaneously a heretic, according to the standards of many other denominations.  Yet, for all the variation in doctrines not essential to salvation, a few doctrines are mandatory.  The Incarnation is one.  The atonement (with at least three interpretations of it dating to the Patristic Era) is a second.  The resurrection of Jesus is a third.

In the academic study of history one, assuming that one’s facts are correct and one’s chronology is in order, one must still be able to answer one question satisfactorily:

So what?

St. Paul the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians 15, answers that question ably down the corridors of time.  Through the resurrection of Jesus, we read (especially after verse 11), we Christians, liberated from our former states of sin, have hope; we lead resurrected lives.  Otherwise, if the resurrection is false,

…we of all people are most to be pitied.

–1 Corinthians 15:19b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet we are not, thanks to God.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/devotion-for-easter-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Love and Active Goodness   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 22

Hebrews 10:16-25

John 18:1-19:42

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Who is the servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12?  That has been a debated issue.  If one assumes that, as in earlier Servant Songs, the servant is the personification of the exiled nation of Israel (broadly speaking), the former Kingdom of Judah or at least the faithful remnant thereof, one must accept that the redemptive suffering during the Babylonian Exile was supposed to benefit Gentiles also.  The text certainly applies well to Jesus, who quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 from the cross.  That text, the prayer of one afflicted with a mortal illness, ends on a note of trust in God–certainly on a happy note, unlike Good Friday and the events thereof.

Focusing on the crucifixion of Jesus is proper on Good Friday.  As we do so may we ponder Hebrews 10:24, part of one of the pericopes:

We ought to see how each of us may arouse others to love and active goodness.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a Christlike ethic!  “Love and active goodness” summarize Christ well.  “Love and active goodness” describe his self-sacrifice succinctly.  “Love and active goodness” summarize a faithful response to such selflessness and redemptive suffering.

Yet we frequently arouse each other to anger, usually for selfish purposes.  Anger is not necessarily bad, for we should be angry sometimes, as evidence of well-developed consciences.  Nevertheless, anger and expressions thereof are frequently destructive, not constructive.  This is certainly evident in media, social media, politics, and the comments sections of many websites.

Jesus has shown us a better way.  The long-dead author of the Letter to the Hebrews understood that better way well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FOUNDER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/devotion-for-good-friday-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life   1 comment

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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Psalms 73 and 74   1 comment

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POST XXVIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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One of the themes of Psalm 72 is that a monarch is responsible for establishing and maintaining economic and social justice in the realm.  We know from the Hebrew Bible that all but a few Kings of Israel and Judah failed in this matter and many did not even try to succeed in it.  Psalm 73 is a fine companion piece to Psalm 72.  The author of Psalm 73 struggles with the question of why justice persists and many of the wicked prosper while righteous suffer.  Why does God permit this to occur?  The psalmist concludes that there is an ultimate divine justice we mere mortals do not witness.  That might provide some psychological comfort, but it does not solve problems in this life.

Speaking of injustice, we know that the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was brutal and that violence was one of its foundations.  Psalm 74, from the Babylonian Exile, is a national lament.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, in its final form, is that longterm, national disobedience to the Law of Moses, as evidenced by idolatry and disregard for the mandate of economic justice, contributed greatly to the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The author of Psalm 74, recognizing national sins, asks,

How long?

Then he asks God to end the exile.

How long?

is a valid question.  How long will many of the evil continue to prosper?  How long will institutionalized social injustice persist?  How long will God seem to turn a blind eye to all this social injustice?  How long will the population suffer the consequences of collective action and inaction that violates God’s law?  How long until we learn our lessons?  How long until the wicked who refuse to repent meet with divine justice?

How long, indeed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Psalms 71 and 72   1 comment

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POST XXVII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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A Christian song I heard decades ago speaks of benefits to having a longterm relationship with God.

The longer I serve him, the sweeter he grows,

it says.  I can imagine the author of Psalm 71 saying that, between laments, of course.  That psalmist is an old man (by the standards of his time and place) who has been a devout Jew.  Enemies press in around him.  He, in turn, expresses confidence in God and, unfortunately, asks for revenge.  The author’s confidence in God comes from a lifetime of piety.  He understands that seeking righteousness does not mean that one will not suffer.

Psalm 72, perhaps for a coronation, contains some interesting conditional clauses followed by wishes:

If he rescues the needy crying for aid,

and the oppressed who has no help;

If he takes pity on the poor and the needy,

and saves the lives of the needy;

If he redeems their lives from lawless oppression,

and their blood is precious in his eyes;

Then may he live long,

and gold from Sheba be given to him!

Then let perpetual prayer be made for him,

blessings invoked on him throughout the day!

–Verses 12-15, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

That series of conditional statements does not describe most Kings of Israel and Judah.  Neither, unfortunately, does it describe most of the Presidents of the United States during the last six decades.

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Shorter Catechism

This is true whether one is a commoner or a monarch, a private citizen or a political leader.  Those in positions of power and influence have certain responsibilities the rest of us do not.  May they make wise decisions consistently and build up those for whom they are responsible.  May all of us act in obedience to the divine principles that we depend completely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit one another.  May we glorify God in part by building each other up.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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