Archive for the ‘Violence’ Tag

Against a Siege Mentality in Faith and Religion   3 comments

If one has a siege mentality, one should seek to rid oneself of it.

I recall hearing a true story years ago, at either Georgia Southern University or The University of Georgia.  A professor of Latin American history had, in one lesson, referred to abuses in which the Roman Catholic Church was complicit.  A few days later, the department head received an angry telephone call from the mother of one of the students.  The professor had allegedly insulted Roman Catholicism.  His (the professor’s) source had been the Roman Catholic Church, which had acknowledged those sins.  Pope John Paul II had publicly apologized for them.  The Roman Catholic student in question and his mother seemed unaware of this.   The department head understood that the student and his mother had reacted out of a siege mentality.  Being a Roman Catholic in the Bible Belt is not like being a Roman Catholic in many other regions.

I have a way of speaking objectively and dispassionately.  One of the criticisms I have heard of myself over the years is that I am too matter-of-fact.  The criticism seems odd to me.  How are remaining grounded in objective reality and staying calm negative?  I have a long track record of speaking objectively and calmly in classrooms, especially about religious history, and of offending students.  The fault has been with the students and their siege mentalities, not with me.  Some of them, I know, have thought of me as an antitheist.  And I have known myself to be a devout Episcopalian!

In the 1990s, when I was undergraduate at Valdosta State University, I explained a piece of church history to a fellow resident of my dormitory.  I, citing verified historical dates, explained that the Church determined the table of contents of the New Testament.  I was objectively correct.  The other resident took my word for it.  He also took offense.  He asked, “How dare they?”  His Christian fundamentalism had led him to assume that the New Testament had descended from on high, fully formed.  Church history and his religion were incompatible.  As Karen Armstrong has written, fundamentalism is ahistorical.

For the record, the Church did an excellent job of determining the table of contents of the New Testament.  They got it right.  That is my opinion and statement of faith on the subject.

I have also triggered a fundamentalist by pointing out St. Paul’s use of allegorical interpretations of scripture, as well as the presence of Greek philosophy in the New Testament.  I was not being critical of St. Paul or of the Letter to the Hebrews.  Rather, I merely stated objective reality regarding them.

A siege mentality in faith and religion stands in the way between one and the calm recognition of objective reality.  Facts are facts.  Objective reality is what it is.  We can know much of objective reality, given sufficient information.  (Call me an Enlightenment-style modernist if you like; I will accept the compliment.)  And more of us need to reserve outrage for offenses (such as racism, police brutality, etc.) that should make us livid.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KOSTKA STAROWIEYSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LANCASTER SPALDING, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PEORIA THEN TITULAR BISHOP OF SEYTHOLPOLIS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETROC, WELSH PRINCE, ABBOT, AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS RAYMOND KELLY, U.S. QUAKER MYSTIC AND PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY

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Two Kingdoms III   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, we beseech thee, show thy mercy unto thy humble servants,

that we who put no trust in our own merits may not be dealt with

after the severity of thy judgment, but according to thy mercy;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 231

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Isaiah 35:4-10

Psalm 119:129-144

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Luke 19:11-26

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God, who vanquishes the wicked and redeems the oppressed, balances judgment and mercy.  The redemption of the oppressed is mercy for the oppressed and judgment of the oppressors.  In a real sense, oppressors doom themselves.  They do not have to be oppressors, after all.  The redemption of the oppressed may come in this life or the next one, but it will come.  God is faithful.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Two Kingdoms II   1 comment

Above:  Archelaus

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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1 Samuel 31:1-9 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 14-33

Psalm 114

Romans 15:14-33

Luke 19:11-27

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As I have written many times, the judgment and mercy of God exist in a balance of justice/righteousness.  (As I have also written ad infinitum, justice and righteousness are the same word in the Bible.  I keep repeating myself.)  Mercy for the persecuted and oppressed may be judgment on the persecutors and oppressors.  Actions and inaction have consequences.  Not serving God has negative consequences.  Serving God may have some negative consequences in this life, but God rewards the faithful in the afterlife.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-28-year-c-humes/

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Perplexing Readings   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are we not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/devotion-for-proper-23-year-c-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XVI   1 comment

Above:  The Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

FEBRUARY 14, 2021

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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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Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6

Psalm 99

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Luke 9:18-36

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How well can we understand the judgment and mercy of God?  Christianity dwells on divine mercy yet the New Testament contains plenty of judgment.  Need I remind anyone of Revelation?  Furthermore, anger and fantasies of violence recur throughout the Psalms.  We read of the Day of the LORD in Malachi.  In that passage we read, according to TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), that the faithful will

trample the wicked to a pulp.

Who do we say God is?  Who do we say Jesus is?  We cannot escape all spiritual veils, for we know in part and carry cultural blinders.  Yet we can, by grace, recognize Jesus sufficiently to follow him to Jerusalem, so to speak.

God will tend to judgment and mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-c-humes/

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A Covenant People, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Disputation with the Doctors, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 49:5-23

Psalm 72:1-15, 17

Romans 12:1-9

Luke 2:40-52

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The call of God, in both Judaism and Christianity, entails both individuals and groups being lights to the nations.  We Christians have the responsibility to testify to the light that is Jesus, to point toward him.  We cannot do this alone; we need grace and communal context.  The Church is supposed to be a covenant people.  Each congregation is supposed to be a covenant people.  Faithful Jewish communities are supposed to be covenant peoples.

Covenant peoples bear the fruits of justice/righteousness (the same word in the Bible).  These fruits include the presence of economic equity, the lack of oppression, the absence of unnecessary violence, and the presence of an honest judiciary.  Abuse of power has no place in any covenant people.  Neither does assuming that one is better than other people.  Human mutuality and the recognition of complete dependence on God exemplify any covenant people.

The use of externally Jewish or Christian rhetoric to argue against characteristics of a covenant people constitutes a mockery of faith and the Kingdom of God.  Unfortunately, such rhetoric for that purpose remains ubiquitous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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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 1, Luke 6

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