Archive for the ‘Tacitus’ Tag

Spiritual Blindness, Part I   1 comment

Ephesus

Above:  Ephesus

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23106

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 6:10-19 (Monday)

Jeremiah 8:4-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:73-78 (Both Days)

Acts 19:21-27 (Monday)

Acts 19:28-41 (Tuesday)

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Your hands have made me and held me firm,

give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments.

–Psalm 119:73, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Among the sins of people in Jeremiah 6 and 8 was having an attitude other than that manifested in Psalm 119:73-80.  If they did not know better, they should have.  They lacked any legitimate excuse for their sins, especially those that harmed the vulnerable.  This sinful population reaped what it sowed.

One might wonder if Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus, had a way of knowing better.  He profited by making and selling silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, and the spread of Christianity threatened his business.  Demetrius incited violence against traveling companions of St. Paul the Apostle.  Fortunately, the town clerk refused to submit to mob rule.  Judaism was not unknown among Gentile populations in the Hellenistic age, so perhaps that fact deprived Demetrius of an excuse.  Yes, Christianity was young and misconceptions regarding it were commonplace.  Even the Roman historian Tacitus repeated some inaccurate information regarding Christians and Christianity as if it were accurate.  He could have conducted a fact check easily, but he did not.  Likewise, Demetrius could have learned much about Christianity, for there was a church in the city.  He was also without an excuse.

Sometimes we humans become accustomed to certain sets of propositions, even those which are false.  Yet we might not recognize them as being such.  Greed is another spiritually blinding factor, as in Jeremiah 6 and Acts 19.  Righteousness becomes economically inconvenient.  Regardless of the reason(s) for our spiritual blindness, may we repent of it and may God forgive us for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Sure Promises of God   2 comments

tissot

Above:  The Blind and Mute Man Possessed by Devils, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 31:1-9

Psalm 131

Luke 11:14-23

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O Lord, my heart is not proud:

my eyes are not raised too high.

I do not occupy myself with matters too great for me:

or with marvels that are beyond me.

But I have stilled and made quiet my soul,

like a weaned child nestling to its mother:

so like a child, my soul is quieted within me.

O trust in the Lord:

from this time forth and for ever.

–Psalm 131, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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To place one’s trust in the wrong place is to commit a grave error. Egypt was not material for an ally, so the alliance to which Isaiah 31 refers was stupid, foolish, and other choice adjectives. And Jesus, by bypassing the healing function of religious authorities, made powerful enemies. They trusted in the power structure which collaborated with the Roman Empire—again not the cloth from which to create the garment of a good alliance.

Egypt and Rome acted according to form. The former was no ally and the latter brooked no opposition or the semblance thereof. The Roman Empire, as Tacitus wrote, made a desert and called it peace. This violence was the foundation of the Pax Romana.

But, as Jesus said,

…the kingdom of God has come to you.

–Luke 11:20, The New Revised Standard Version

That kingdom stands not on violence, but on love and righteousness. It stands upon God, the rock. It is the kingdom of the Beatitudes. And that kingdom is simultaneously present with us and not realized fully. Its unveiling remains an ongoing process.

The message of this day’s readings is to trust God, who is faithful. As Martin Luther affirmed in various theological debates and questions, the promises of God are sure, thus our spiritual emphasis belongs there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Risks of Discipleship   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Saint John on Patmos, by the Limbourg Brothers (1385-1416)

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:11-22

Psalm 122

Matthew 24:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Matthew 24:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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For there are thrones of judgment,

the thrones the house of David.

–Psalm 122:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Matthew 24 contains much apocalyptic content which need not be bad news for everyone because, even in dark times, there is deliverance for some.  Genesis 6:22, at the end of technical instructions regarding the ark, says:

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

The New Revised Standard Version

Thus Noah and those with him survived.

Faithfulness to God is not always a recipe for temporal survival, of course, for the roll of Christian saints includes many martyrs.

They they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.

–Matthew 24:9, The New Revised Standard Version

The baptism of many martyrs is solely of blood.  Yet, despite numerous difficulties,

the one who endure to the end will be saved.

–Matthew 24:13, The New Revised Standard Version

I am writing this devotion in late Spring, a time which feels much like early Summer.  Yet this is, of course, a devotion for late November and the eve of Advent.  So now I pretend that today is at the tail end of the Season after Pentecost, immediately before Advent.  We Western Christians are about to begin a time of preparation for Christmas.  May we recall that Jesus of Nazareth, born into a world in which a tyrant wanted him dead immediately, died by order of a Roman imperial official.  Our Lord and Savior died under the banner of the Pax Romana, a peace based on violence.  We make a desert, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote, and call it peace.  If we Christians follow Jesus, human violence might befall us also.  It continues to befall many of my coreligionists around the world.  Even when such violence does befall us, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Nevertheless, I quote the martyrs in Heaven from the Revelation to John:

How long?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part III: Violating Social Norms   1 comment

william-lloyd-garrison

Above:  William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672098/)

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 6:4-7:5 (May 22)

Song of Songs 7:6-8:14 (May 23)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–May 22)

Psalm 97 (Morning–May 23)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–May 22)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–May 23)

John 6:22-40 (May 22)

John 6:41-59 (May 23)

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Some Related Posts:

John 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-18-and-19-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/seventeenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/nineteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twentieth-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

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The Song of Songs ends with a note consistent with the rest of the book:  this love violates social norms.  To consumate it is risky, and the lovers must be prepared for a risky parting or a flight together; the Hebrew text is ambiguous regarding whether the lovers will remain in each other’s company.

Speaking of violating social norms, the discourse of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood violated Jewish social norms.  Such potent language offended sensibilities.  It sounds like cannibalism, does it not?  And more is happening in the narrative.  The Greek text in John 6 echoes the Greek text of the Septuagint in reference to grumbling Israelites in the desert after the Exodus.  So those who complained regarding Jesus received especially negative press.  And Jesus was (and remains) far more than manna.

In my North American context celebrations of the Holy Eucharist are routine, with no legal attention paid to them.  Yet, a few centuries ago, Roman Catholic priests risked their lives to say the Mass in England.  Following Jesus violated social and norms at that time and place.

Sometimes I think that following Jesus has become too respectable, not that I favor religious persecution.  Early Christianity, like the love in the Song of Songs, had an edge an element of risk to it.  And it had value.  As Thomas Paine wrote,

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  ’Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.

The American Crisis, Number 1, December 23, 1776

And, when religion becomes respected–the establishment even–it loses its prophetic edge.  I think of the uses of Christianity in  U.S. history to justify slavery then segregation and to criticize prostitutes while affirming the sexism and patriarchy which pushed many women into that situation.  Such hypocrisy, in the case of these women, blamed the victims.  Simply put, Jesus did not die because he was respectable and affirmed social injustice.  No, he died because Roman imperial officials considered him a threat to Pax Romana, a desert called peace, as Tacitus referred to it.

Respectability is overrated.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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