Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

Of God, Kings, and an Emperor   Leave a comment

Above:  Beheading of Saint Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who hast summoned us to be doers of the Word:

grant us strength to fulfill thy commandments;

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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1 Samuel 12:6-15

Romans 15:22-29

Matthew 9:35-10:4

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St. Paul the Apostle was one of the laborers who went out to work in God’s fields, for the harvest; he focused on Gentiles.  He, writing, probably in the 50s C.E., addressed the church at Rome, a congregation he had not yet visited.  The Apostle, concerned about his safety, was planning a trip to Jerusalem, to deliver the collection for the church there.  He was also planning to visit Rome.  St. Paul arrived in that city eventually–as a prisoner.  (Read Acts 27-28.)  He died there.

St. Paul, a Roman citizen, knew who his king was; God was his king.  Unfortunately, St. Paul’s emperor as Nero.  Many of St. Paul’s ancestors in 1 Samuel 12 did not understand, however, that their only proper king was God.  The majority of them and their descendants for a number of generations disregarded God.  One kingdom became two kingdoms, both of which fell.

St. Paul, for all his vices (including arrogance and excessive querulousness), followed Jesus after the road to Damascus.  He suffered also, but for the sake of righteousness.

Ultimately, in 64 C.E., he became a martyr via beheading.  The activities of St. Paul from the road to Damascus forward changed the world for the better.

Nero, Emperor of Rome, and most of the Kings of Israel and Judah did not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Way of the World, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:   Icon of St. Peter

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Holy Wisdom, Light of Light:  shine through thy Word,

and by thy Spirit let our minds be opened to receive thee,

our hearts be drawn to love thee,

and our wills be strengthened to obey thee;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122-123

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Isaiah 26:16-19

1 Peter 2:21-25

John 21:13-19

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The assigned readings focus on suffering, sometimes (as in Isaiah 26) for punishment of sins, or for the sake of righteousness (as in 1 Peter 2 and John 21).  Suffering as punishment for sins can simply be facing the consequences of actions and inactions.  Suffering for the sake of righteousness, a theme that runs throughout the Bible and religious history, can be a more difficult problem.

Why do good people suffer?

is an ancient question.

1 Peter 2:21-25 seems harmless, even comforting.  It tells us of the suffering of Jesus, who commanded people to take up their crosses and follow him.  One may recall stories of the crucifixion of St. Simon Peter, foreshadowed in John 21:18-19.

Yet, O reader, consider 1 Peter 2:18-20:

Slaves, you should obey your masters respectfully, not only those who are kind and reasonable but also those who are difficult to please.  You see, there is merit if, in awareness of God, you put up with the pans of undeserved punishment; but what glory is there in putting up with a beating after you have done something wrong?  The merit in he sight of God is putting up with it patiently when you are punished for doing your duty.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I understand the differences between Roman slavery and chattel slavery.  I also grasp that slavery persists in many forms.  I live slightly northeast of Atlanta, Georgia, a hub of human trafficking.  I oppose all forms of slavery in all places and at all times.

The way of the world is to enslave people and to persecute workers of righteousness.  The Kingdom of God shines a floodlight on the sins of the way of the world; it does not accommodate itself to them.  May we, by grace, speak the truth in godly love, confronting with the hope of prompting repentance.  May we be bold for God and good, and avoid becoming obnoxious in our zeal.  And, when we suffer, may we do so for the sake of righteousness and remain righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Cross and Glorification, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:   A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For Holy Wednesday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Everlasting God, who delivered the Children of Israel from cruel captivity:

may we be delivered from sin and death by your mighty power,

and celebrate the hope of life eternal within your promised kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 145

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Hebrews 5:5-10

Luke 22:24-34

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The author of the misnamed Epistle to the Hebrews (neither an epistle nor to Hebrews), whoever he was (Origen said that only God knew who wrote it) did not read the Gospel of John.  The most probable reason for this was that the “Epistle to the Hebrews” predated the Fourth Gospel.

The reading from Hebrews 5 may mystify a Christian shaped by the Johannine Gospel.  What does it mean that Christ learned obedience via his sufferings?  And what about Christ being perfected?  The divine passive in the latter case indicates that God was the actor, the one who perfected Christ.  But was not Jesus already perfect–always perfect?  The confusion does not cease even when one realizes the particular meaning of perfection in this case–suitability to be the ultimate sacrifice.

None of this inconsistency constitutes a difficulty for me, for I am not a fundamentalist.  I acknowledge the obvious fact–that the New Testament contains mutually exclusive points of view presented and authoritatively.  I prefer the Johannine perspective to that of the author of the “Epistle to the Hebrews” when the two contradict each other.

Both readings (Luke 22 and Hebrews 5) agree on the priority of obeying God.  The ethic of service (from Luke 22) fits hand-in-glove with the obedience of Jesus (Hebrews 5).  One may also ponder John 12:26 (from the previous post‘s readings), about following Jesus, who loved us all the way to an ignominious execution–his execution, in the Gospel of John.

Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, likes to say,

Love like Jesus.

When one considers that statement in the full context of Christ’s life, one realizes that this is no feel-good slogan, but a challenge to discipleship, to cross-bearing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Living in Love   2 comments

Above:   The Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Prepare our hearts, O Lord, to accept thy Word.

Silence us in any voice but thine own, that hearing, we may also obey thy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 51:4-6

1 John 3:7-14

John 6:1-14

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Indeed, it is better to keep quiet and be, than to make fluent professions and not be.  No doubt it is a fine thing to instruct others, but only if the speaker practices what he preaches.

–Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 15, translated by Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth

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1 John 3 features prominently the exhortation to live uprightly, in a manner defined by love for God and one’s fellow human beings.  That should be noncontroversial, right?  Not surprisingly, obeying the Golden Rule is frequently politically unpopular, socially unacceptable, and sometimes even illegal.

Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.

–1 John 3:13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So, then, why not lose hope?  Why not conform to the politics of hatred–racism, xenophobia, nativism, and all other phobias directed at human beings?  Why walk in love if it may lead to trouble?

Why not walk in love?  If one is to suffer, why not suffer for the sake of righteousness?  God, with whom there are leftovers, even when, according to human standards, that should be impossible, is with us when we are faithful.

May we practice living in love for God and our fellow human beings.  May we preach it, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Reunion of Esau and Jacob, by Francesco Hayez

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 33:1-11 or Isaiah 17:7-14

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33

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One might suffer for any one of a variety of reasons.  One might suffer (as in the case of Damascus, in Isaiah 17) as punishment for idolatry and injustice.  Maybe (as in 1 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 10) one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Perhaps one is merely unfortunate.  Or maybe another explanation fits one’s circumstances.

Either way, the commandment to remember, honor, and obey God remains.  Also, judgment for disobedience is both collective and individual.

As worthwhile as those points are, another one interests me more.  Certain verses in Genesis 32 and 33 refer to faces–of Jacob, Esau, and God.  Karen Armstrong, writing in In the Beginning:  A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996), makes a vital point:  they are all the same face.  Jacob, in confronting Esau, also confronts God and himself.

We human beings go to great lengths to avoid facing God, other people, and ourselves.  In the city in which I live, seldom do I enter a store or a restaurant in which music is not playing; silence is apparently anathema.  Unfortunately, the music is almost always bad, especially in one thrift store, the management of which pipes contemporary Christian “seven-eleven” songs over the speakers.  (I avoid that thrift store more often than not.)  Or, if there is no music, a television set is on.  Sensory stimulation is the order of the day.

But when we are alone and silent, we cannot ignore God and ourselves so easily.  And if we cannot face ourselves honestly, we cannot face others honestly either.  If we persist in running away, so to speak, we will cause our own suffering.  It will not be a matter of God smiting us, but of us smiting ourselves.

One would think that silence would be welcome in more churches.  The silence at the end of the Good Friday service in The Episcopal Church is potent, for example.  Yet many churchgoers have an aversion to silence.  And I recall that, one Good Friday, during that potent silence after the service had ended, someone’s cellular telephone rang, causing spiritual and liturgical disruption.

if we are to become the people we are supposed to be in God, we need to take time to turn off the distracting stimulation and face God, others, and ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-13-year-a-humes/

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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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