Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

Words Matter III   1 comment

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast promised for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Job 28:12-28

James 3:1-13

Luke 12:22-34

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Reading the Book of Job with proper understanding requires paying close attention.  For example, as in the poetic portion, one needs to keep in mind who is speaking.  If one of the alleged friends is speaking, read the words with more than a few grains of salt, so to speak.

In Chapter 27, Job complained that God had deprived him of justice.  This was consistent with Chapters 1 and 2, in which God permitted “the Satan,” in the Book of Job, God’s loyalty tester–an employee–to test Job.  Two posts ago in this series, we read James 1:12-18, in which the author insisted that God does not tempt/test anyone.  In Job 1 and 2, God permitted the testing of Job.  Was this a distinction without a difference?

Elihu (alleged friend #4) replied with conventional piety in Chapter 28.  The alleged friends assumed that Job must have sinned, for they thought that God would not permit the innocent to suffer.  In Job 28, Elihu compared God to a miner and likened wisdom to silver.  The beautiful prose about the preciousness of wisdom, meant to condemn Job as a fool and a sinner, actually defined the titular character as a sage, ironically:

[God] said to man,

“See!  Fear of the Lord is wisdom;

To shun evil is understanding.”

Words matter.

The words of Elihu and other three alleged friends of Job were part of an intervention.  They meant well, but were wrong.

To mean well is insufficient.  Good results are the proof in the proverbial pudding.

May we seek to use our words for the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of others–to build them up, not to tear them down.  There is room for strong criticism, a practice in which Jesus engaged.  As we seek to use our words for good effect, may we succeed, by grace.  May we trust in God, on whom we rely entirely, and not imagine that we must deprive others to help ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Suffering, Part IV: Redemptive Suffering   1 comment

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who prayed for thy disciples that they might be one even as thou art one with the Father:

draw us to thyself that, in common love and obedience to thee,

we may be united to one another in the fellowship of the one Spirit,

that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

or

Eternal God, who hast called us to be members of one body:

bind us to those who in all times and places have called upon thy name,

that, with one mind and heart, we may display the unity of thy church

and bring glory to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Isaiah 53:1-11

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

Mark 14:17-25

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This is a devotion for World Communion Sunday, hence the Eucharistic language in Mark and 1 Corinthians, texts that speak for themselves.  I, as an Episcopalian, do not think much about World Communion Sunday, for the Holy Eucharist is our default service.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines the Holy Eucharist as

the central act of Christian worship.

Why should there be just one Sunday on which as many churches as possible celebrate Communion?

I choose to focus on Isaiah 53:1-11.  The identity of the suffering servant is a topic of long-standing disagreement that reaches back into antiquity, before the birth of Christ.  My question at the moment is, who was the suffering servant at the time of the Babylonian Exile and Second Isaiah?  The most likely answer is the nation of Israel, a seemingly insignificant people who played a prominent role in divine plans and whose suffering was redemptive and salvific for Gentiles.  According to this interpretation, resurrection is a metaphor for national renewal after the exile.  Besides, a well-informed student of the development of Jewish theology knows that the resurrection of the dead was not yet part of Jewish theology.

In many ways, Jesus is a better fit for the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 because collective sin brought on the Babylonian Exile.  Nevertheless, I remind you, O reader, pious Jews studying this passage in the 500s B.C.E. were not talking about Jesus, for obvious, temporal reasons, five centuries prior to the Incarnation.

I do not know how to process the thought that the suffering of Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Exile was redemptive for Gentiles.  I suppose that one could argue that suffering brought them back to faith, thereby transforming them into a light to the nations.  One could make that case, one which the author of the Book of Jonah probably would have favored.  But what about the inward-looking, post-Exilic reaction that led to shunning Gentiles?

Anyway, suffering can lead to positive results for others, regardless of the cause of the suffering.  If one grows spiritually, that growth will influence other people, who will influence other people, et cetera.  Suffering is bad and unpleasant, but grace can bring about a high yield of benefit from it.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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The Sins of the Fathers, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

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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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Exodus 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37

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The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

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Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Genesis 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-22-year-b-humes/

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Apocalypse and Hope   1 comment

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, by David Roberts

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 9:32-43

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

2 Peter 3:8-14

Mark 13:1-13

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The apocalyptic tone of 2 Peter 3:8-14 and Mark 13:1-3 is actually good news.  God is the king of creation, of course, despite appearances to the contrary.  The word of God continues to spread, despite violent attempts to prevent that.  The end of the current world order will precede the rise of the divine world order.

One of the themes in the New Testament is the importance of remaining faithful–of not committing apostasy–despite many short-term reasons to do so.  Avoiding prison, continuing to live, and preventing suffering all sound like good reasons not to do something, do they not.  They are, much of the time.  However, Christian fidelity sometimes leads to incarceration, suffering, and/or martyrdom.  Yet, if we suffer with Christ, we will reign with him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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Waiting for Good News   1 comment

Above:  Denial of Saint Peter, by a Follower of Gerard Seghers

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:

Daniel 12:1-10

Psalm 51:1-12

2 Timothy 4:5-22

Mark 14:53-72

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With one week to go before Palm/Passion Sunday, we read downbeat lessons–an apocalypse in Daniel 12, confession of sin in Psalm 51, reports of suffering and bad treatment in 2 Timothy 4, and the railroading of Jesus by the Sanhedrin and the denial of Jesus by St. Simon Peter.  All of this is seasonally appropriate.

Where, however, is the good news?  God shows mercy to the contrite.  God keeps company with the faithful suffering.  The resurrection is temporally nearby in the Gospel narrative.  Furthermore, the fully realized Kingdom of God will be good news for the faithful.

Before we get to the good news, however, we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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Posted June 24, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Timothy 4, Daniel 12, Mark 14, Psalm 51

Tagged with , ,

Glorifying God VI   1 comment

Above:  The Four Men in the Fiery Furnace

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:

Daniel 3:1, 4-28

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Mark 10:32-45

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These three readings testify that suffering is frequently part of a faithful life, and that the suffering faithful enjoy the presence of God.

The readings from Daniel 3 and 2 Timothy 1 speak for themselves, but the lesson from Mark 10 needs some unpacking.

James and John, sons of Zebedee, were also sons of Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth.  They were, therefore, first cousins of Jesus.  In an alternate version (Matthew 20:20-38) this story, Mary Salome made the request on their behalf.  At that point James and John had yet to grasp certain key points, such as the impending crucifixion of Jesus, which our Lord and Savior predicted more than once.  They sought glory; Jesus called for carrying one’s cross and following him.

The call to Christian discipleship is the call to follow Jesus, even through times of persecution and suffering.  God will glorify as God sees fit; we ought not to seek glory for ourselves.  No, we should glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/20/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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Honest Faith Versus False Certainty II   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

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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Job 8:8-22 or Deuteronomy 11:18-28

Psalm 42

James 2:18-26

Mark 2:1-12

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In the perfect moral universe of Bildad the Shuhite and those who think like him, piety is a shield against misfortune.  This is an attitude present in parts of the Book of Psalms.  That book also contradicts the attitude, however, for certain psalms acknowledge that innocent people suffer.

Jesus, without ignoring that the suffering of many resulted partially from their sins, did not state that all human suffering resulted from the sins of the suffering.  His sinless life testified to a different reality, that sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others, and piety sometimes leads to persecution and/or death.

Certainty can become an idol, as in the cases of Bildad (Job 8) and the accusers of Jesus (Mark 2).  Idols abound; certainty is one of the most popular ones.  I refer to false, misplaced certainty, not to confirmed knowledge, such as 2 + 2 = 4.  No, I refer to certainty that fills voids meant for faith in God.  The human psyche craves certainty.  Unfortunately, false certainty leads to conspiracy theories, to other denial of reality, and to idolatry.  In reality, what we do not know outweighs what we do know, and humility is in order; certainty be damned much of the time.

May we walk the path of faith in Christ without ignoring that of which we can objectively be certain.  May God grant us the wisdom to recognize the difference between matters in which we need faith and those in which we can reasonably have certainty.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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