Archive for the ‘Violence’ Tag

The Golden Rule, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth 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, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace:

give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our divisions.

Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Genesis 9:8-17

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 12:13-21

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People who long to be rich are a prey to trial; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

–1 Timothy 6:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One theme this week is greed.

Money and, more generally, wealth, are morally neutral.  How one relates to them is not, however.  The Bible contains more verses about money and wealth than about sexual desire and activities, but the latter conveniently receives more attention in sermons and lessons that the former.  I propose that ranking our moral concerns according to Biblical priority is a good idea.

A bigger idea than greed is the lack of trust in God that greed indicates.  We want security blankets, so to speak.  Radical discipleship does not permit them, however.  Trust in God becomes evident in one’s actions, just as lack of trust in God does.  Whenever we turn against each other for selfish purposes, we reveal our lack of trust in God.  We are en route to evil when we do so.

According to a note in The Jewish Study Bible, an excellent resource, especially for a Gentile, the Talmud teaches that all Gentiles who observe the

seven commandments of the descendants of Noah

will meet with full divine approval.  Jews have 613 commandments, but Gentiles have just the following:

  1. To establish courts of justice,
  2. To avoid blaspheming the God of Israel,
  3. To refrain from committing idolatry,
  4. To refrain from committing sexual perversion,
  5. To refrain from committing bloodshed,
  6. To refrain from committing robbery, and
  7. To avoid eating meat cut from a living animal.

Most of these seven commandments relate to how we relate to God and each other.  Those two relationships are akin, after all.  One cannot love God and habitually tear others down for our immediate benefit.  Besides, when we harm others, we really damage ourselves, too.  This may become clear to us only with the passage of time, but the principles remain true.

Do we trust God enough to love our neighbors as we love 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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Signs, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

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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Exodus 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

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-20-year-b-humes/

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Uncomfortable and Difficult   2 comments

Above:  Elijah Slays the Prophets of Baal

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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Exodus 24:12-18 or 1 Kings 18:1, 17-40

Psalm 58

Hebrews 3

Mark 8:14-21

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I teach a Sunday School class in which I cover each week’s readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  The RCL has much to commend it, but it is imperfect.  (Of course, it is imperfect; it is a human creation.)  The RCL skirts many challenging, violent passages of scripture.  This post is is a devotion for a Sunday on an unofficial lectionary, however.  The note on the listing for Psalm 58 reads,

Not for the faint of heart.

Indeed, a prayer for God to rip the teeth from the mouths of one’s enemies is not feel-good fare.  Neither is the slaughter of the prophets of Baal Peor (1 Kings 18:40).

I remember a Sunday evening service at my parish years ago.  The lector read an assigned passage of scripture with an unpleasant, disturbing conclusion then uttered the customary prompt,

The word of the Lord.

A pregnant pause followed.  Then the congregation mumbled its proscribed response,

Thanks be to God.

The theme uniting these five readings is faithfulness to God.  Jesus, we read, was the paragon of fidelity.  We should be faithful, too, and avoid committing apostasy.  We should also pay attention and understand, so we can serve God better.  Hopefully, metaphors will not confuse us.

I perceive the need to make the following statement.  Even a casual study of the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible reveals a shameful record of Anti-Semitism, much of it unintentional and much of it learned.  We who abhor intentional Anti-Semitism still need to check ourselves as we read the Bible, especially passages in which Jesus speaks harshly to or of Jewish religious leaders in first-century C.E. Palestine.  We ought to recall that he and his Apostles were practicing Jews, too.  We also need to keep in mind that Judaism has never been monolithic, so to speak of “the Jews” in any place and at any time is to open the door to overgeneralizing.

To condemn long-dead Jewish religious leaders for their metaphorical leaven and not to consider our leaven would be to miss an important spiritual directive.  To consider our leaven is to engage in an uncomfortable, difficult spiritual exercise.  It does not make us feel good about ourselves.

We also need to ask ourselves if we are as dense as the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark.  To do that is uncomfortable and difficult, also.

Sometimes we need for scripture to make us uncomfortable.

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-19-year-b-humes/

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Breaking the Cycle of Resentment   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast commanded us to love our enemies

and to do good to those who hate us;

grant that we may not be content with the affections of our friends

but may reach out in love to all thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Joshua 1:1-9

2 Peter 1:3-11

Luke 6:27-38

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God loves us and gives us commandments for our own good.  If we obey them, we will fare much better than if we disobey them.  We will reap what we sow.

The list of commended practices from 2 Peter 1:5-7 is:

  1. Keeping faith,
  2. Being good,
  3. Being understanding,
  4. Maintaining self-control,
  5. Persevering,
  6. Being kind to one’s brothers (and sisters, too), and
  7. Being loving.

Our Lord and Savior ordered people to love their enemies and, more broadly, to break the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.

This is a difficult commandment; I know my struggles with it.  This commandment is vital, though; it is the only feasible way forward when dealing with enemies.  Justice is essential, but vengeance and the desire for it are destructive of those who harbor grudges.

As I write these words in 2019, I notice that resentment fuels many politicians (and their supporters) who think more of their weak egos and their strong resentments than of the common good, assuming that they place any value on the common good.  (That may be too much to assume reasonably.)  These politicians are public predators, not public servants.  They appeal to their power base, which includes people full of resentments.  Who will break this cycle of resentment?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Posted July 18, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 1, Joshua, Luke 6

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XIII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Finding of Moes, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday in Lent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who seest that we are prone to bring back the troubles of yesterday,

and to forecast the cares of tomorrow:

give us grace to throw off our fears and anxieties, as our Lord hath commanded;

that, this and every day, we may by kept in thy peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Exodus 2:1-15

Romans 5:1-11

Luke 9:51-62

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The balance of divine judgment and mercy interests me.  Both seem to be like sides of a coin; judgment for some is part of mercy for others, and mercy tempers judgment.

Mercy does not eliminate properly high standards of conduct, of course.  Excuses for not following Jesus are never acceptable.  Abusing slaves is always wrong.  Having slaves is always morally unacceptable.  Sometimes violence in the defense of slaves or by slaves is the only way to resist oppression in the moment.  Yet even oppressors are people for whom Jesus died.

If we remember that, we will know how to leave certain judgments to God, even as we sometimes have to defend others or ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

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; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

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

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

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Posted June 22, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 2, Luke 9, Romans 5

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Taking Offense   Leave a comment

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Jeremiah 7:1-7

Colossians 3:12-17

Mark 2:1-17

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Jeremiah 7:1-7 and Mark 2:1-17 contain offensive speech and actions.  They qualify as offensive not because of any profane nature but because, in real time, some people found them offensive.  The antidote to taking offense wrongly in such cases is following the advice in Colossians 3:12-17.

How quickly and easily do we take offense at that which is good and kind?  Yes, difficult truths offend us, but, in many circumstances, the warning of judgment is an opportunity for repentance.  We ought to welcome such opportunities, which are mercies.

Life is more pleasant when we take offense only when appropriate to do so.  Exploitation, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, nativism, pollution, unnecessary violence, and disregard for human life should, for example, always offend us.  They ought to offend us so much that we act collectively to alter our societies in the direction of what Theodore Parker (1810-1860), the maverick Unitarian minister, a prominent abolitionist, and an advocate of civil disobedience in the context of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, referred to as the moral arc of the universe that bends toward justice.

Some on the Right pretend that the Left has a monopoly on snowflakism.  I know from experience that conservative snowflakes also exist, for I have offended some of them by, for example, politely disagreeing with them.  In the classroom I have experience offending others by presenting objective, confirmed facts about ancient comparative religion.  I also offend many to my left by maintaining the singular-plural binary, thereby refusing to use “them,” “they,” “themselves,” and “their” as singular pronouns.  If any of this offends, so be it; I have done nothing wrong.

Neither did Jesus or Jeremiah, who were focusing on weightier issues.

If Jesus offends us, that is our fault, not his.

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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Religious Persecution IV: Endurance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Eternal God, who hast taught us that we shall life if we love thee and our neighbor:

help us to know who is our neighbor and to serve him, that we may truly love thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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1 Kings 3:3-14

Acts 28:23-31

Matthew 10:16-25

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This set of readings is interesting; the first pericope seems not to fit with the other two, at least initially.

St. Paul the Apostle ended his days under house arrest in Rome.  He was free to preach there, until he died of beheading.  His martyrdom was a form of religious persecution.

Religious persecution is recognizable.  If one, for example, risks severe penalties (such as incarceration or death), legal or informal, for attending the church of one’s choice, one suffers from religious persecution.  Many of my fellow Christians live their faith under religious persecution.  I, a citizen and resident of the United States of America, do not suffer religious persecution, fortunately; nobody interferes with my church-going.  Yet I do know of incidents of domestic terrorists burning churches or vandalizing houses of worship, often out of racism or xenophobia.  These actions constitute forms of religious persecution.  Yet legal authorities in the United States often deal with those domestic terrorists.

Wise governance can minimize, although not prevent, informal religious persecution.  Wise governance certainly prevents official religious persecution.  Yet there is no such thing as absolute freedom.  I know, for example, of some extreme cases in which child abusers have attempted to hide behind appeals to religious freedom.  However, religious freedom does not excuse domestic violence; prosecution of that offense does not constitute religious persecution.

When Christianity endures religious persecution, the faith emerges stronger for the ordeal.  The blood of the martyrs truly waters the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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