Archive for June 2011

Galactica 1980 (1980)   1 comment

The DVD Root Menu

This post follows this one:  https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/battlestar-galactica-1978-1979/.

ABC liked part of the Battlestar Galactica concept but sought a lower budget.  So they got Galactica 1980, set in what was then the present day.  This cost the network less per episode but yielded what, in Galactica parlance, one might call felgerkarb.  Yes, it was really bad, and it has not improved with age.

The Galactica

Thirty yahrens (years) after the events of the Battlestar Galactica pilot, the Galactica discovers Earth, the same Earth those of us alive in 1980 recall.  The Cylons are trailing behind the fleet, so Adama steers away from Earth to protect the planet from a Cylon attack.  The Galactica cannot defeat the Cylons, and the sole purpose of seeking Earth was to find a refuge.  So all humans are now in great danger.  That is the basic premise.

Continuity does not work, however.  The original series, which ran one season, was set after 1969.  1980 minus 1969 equals 11, which is less than 30.  But who is counting?

Most of the original cast did not return.  Lorne Greene, as Commander Adama, was the main exception to this rule.  His beard marked the passage of time.

Troy

Troy was Boxey as adult.  He was, like Apollo (dead by Galactica 1980), who raised him, a straight arrow.

Dillon

Dillon was Troy’s friend and partner.  He was somewhat impetuous, but not nearly as roguish as Starbuck.

Troy, Dillon, and Their Flying Motorcycles

They got to ride their flying motorcycles.

Jamie Hamilton

In the three-part pilot, Troy and Dillon met Jamie Hamilton, a reporter.  During the short-lived series (ten hours, including advertisements), she helped them in various ways, mainly by helping guard a group of Galactican children Adama sent to the Earth for safety.

The children, however, stood out.  They could, for reasons of scientific technobabble, jump higher than Earth children, were stronger than them, and had greater intellectual discipline.  This attracted the unwanted attention of a U.S. Air Force officer, who pursued them episode after episode.   Most of the series concerned the adventures of Troy, Dillon, Jamie, and a few children.

The Disclaimer

Speaking of the Air Force, this disclaimer appeared at the end of episodes in which Air Force personnel pursued any Galacticans.

Doctor Zee

I suppose that Commander Adama was supposed to be in charge of the fleet, but he deferred to the young genius, Doctor Zee, who was also quite an inventor.  Doctor Zee’s mother was one of those ascended humans from the ships of light.  The one very watchable Galactica 1980 episode (also the last one), The Return of Starbuck, consisted mostly of a flashback to how Starbuck became stranded on an uninhabited planet, befriended a Cylon, rescued a mysterious woman who also crashed on the planet, and sent her (and her baby, Doctor Zee), out to space in a one-person craft.  (An untold story never filmed would have shown the ship of lights humans rescuing Starbuck.)

Doctor Zee

Doctor Zee looked like this after the pilot movie.

In the three-part pilot movie, Galactica Discovers Earth, teams of Colonial warriors seek out elite members of the scientific community for first contact.  These men and women should be the most open to the possibilities and the least likely to react out of fear and distrust, after all.  The goal is to raise Earth’s level of technology until Earth can defend herself from the Cylons.

Dr. Donald Mortensen

Troy and Dillon visit Dr. Donald Mortensen, at the Pacific Institute of Technology.  He becomes convinced that Troy, Dylan, and the other Galacticans may be as important to the human race “as the coming of the Messiah.”

Those were heady words, ones meant to sound important, but the series became bogged down in issue-of-the-week stories, such as the dangers of industrial pollution, how bad irrigation quotas are, and why anti-Hispanic bias is misplaced.  The show aired on Sunday evenings, at an hour which came with requirements to present educational messages.  The first rule of comedy is to be funny.  Likewise, the first rule of drama is to tell an interesting story.  The telling of the story ought to present the moral and/or educational message(s) without being pedantic.   But, in Galactica 1980 we get Quincy, M.E.-style speeches, which were no less annoying when Jack Klugman delivered them.  At least Klugman had relatively better material, though.  Of course, Larson made Quincy, M.E., too.

Xaviar

Council member Xaviar, impatient to build up Earth’s technology level gradually, travels back in time to help the Nazis.  So Troy, Dillon, and Jamie must follow him and prevent him from succeeding.  Fortunately, Jamie took her history lessons very seriously.

Xaviar

Oh, and some days Xaviar looks like this.

Wolfman Jack and a Cylon at a Halloween Party

The Cylons do land on Earth–at Halloween, where they encounter Wolfman Jack.  This picture says it all.

The axe fell after ten completed episodes, with few people to mourn the loss.

Over twenty years later, Ronald D. Moore had the Galactica discover Earth, but he did it properly.

A Scene from Revelations

In Revelations, a fourth season episode, the fleet discovers Earth, which is irradiated and in ruins.

A Scene from Daybreak

Yet, in the finale, Daybreak, the Galactica discovers a planet people agree to call Earth.  The scene you, O reader, see above, is set 150,000 years ago.

I knew that, despite my opinion of Galactica 1980, I would purchase a copy when it became available.  Maybe I am a sucker for science fiction with Lorne Greene in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

All images are screen caps I took via PowerDVD.

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Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)   2 comments

The Galactica in Orbit of the Planet Terra, from the episode Experiment in Terra

The success of Star Wars prompted the development and release of other science fiction in the late 1970s.  Paramount Pictures, after years of vacillating, gave the green light to Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (1979).  TMP was really the Motionless Picture, but c’est la vie.  (People wearing bland-colored one-piece spandex pajamas, er, uniforms, while staring at special effects is about as motionless as a movie can get.)  However, Universal Pictures and ABC, in conjunction with Glen A. Larson (who used plenty of spandex in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), put Colonial warriors in comfortably fitting uniforms in Battlestar Galactica.

(Note to science fiction series and movie costume designers:  Avoid spandex!)

A Cylon

Battlestar Galactica feeds off the mythology of ancient astronauts.  The pilot opens with the robotic Cylon race, which has been at war with the twelve human colonies of Kobol for a thousand yahrens (years), using a truce as a pretense to exterminate humanity.

The Peace that Wasn’t

They almost succeed.

Baltar

Baltar, a member of the ruling council, has sold out humanity in hopes of become the leader of the survivors.  The Cylons have led him to believe that this will happen.  They have lied to him.

Commander Adama

Commander Adama, commanding officer of the Battlestar Galactica, has the good sense to escape from the Cylon ambush, so his battlestar survives intact.  He thinks that it was the last battlestar until he encounters the Battlestar Pegasus, commanded by Commander Cain, played by Lloyd Bridges.

Adama and Athena

Athena, Adama’s daughter, is a bridge officer aboard the Galactica.

Captain Apollo

Apollo, Adama’s son, is one of the viper, or fighter, pilots.  Apollo is the dutiful, responsible voice of morality and reason.  He is a straight arrow.

Starbuck

Starbuck is not a straight arrow.  Sometimes he dates Athena, sometimes not.  He is not ready to settle down yet, but he is an excellent pilot and a basically good guy.

Adama gathers up as many survivors as possible and shepherds a rag-tag fleet in search of Earth, the thirteenth colony, the precise location of which he does not know.  Cylons pursue the fleet, posing a continuous danger, while, from time to time, Adama must overrule the ruling council, populated mostly with fools.

Galactica is a post-apocalyptic story, one ABC decided to air in the old “family hour.”  The “family hour” was a good venue for family dramas and clean comedies, but not a post-apocalyptic saga about human survivors stuck inside cramped spaceships.  So network demands watered down the possible power of the series, which came to suffer from the cutesies.

Hector and Vector

Exhibit A:  The annoying robots Hector and Vector, who, mercifully, appeared in only one episode.  Here they are singing and dancing.

No more exhibits are necessary.

Another weakness was the lack of character development.  Actions in one episode rarely had consequences in another, except in the case of a two-part story.  So most characters felt like stereotypes.

Also, most of the early scripts were bad.  The network rushed into series production after the pilot, giving the writers insufficient time to develop good stories at the beginning.  So many early episodes have tried-and-true plots.  The Magnificent Warriors, for example, is based on The Magnificent Seven.  Watch the original instead.  And Fire in Space, set after a Cylon attack on the Galactica, is based on many 1970s big-budget, all-star-cast disaster movies.  Avoid those.

There was also Boxey, an annoying boy, with his more annoying mechanical daggit, or dog-like creature.  Apollo is raising Boxey as his son, which is noble, as is the captain.  The less one says about them, the better.

There was also sexism.  Early in the series, most of the male viper pilots become ill.  So the defense of the rag-tag fleet is left to…gasp…women!  There is much concern about this, but the women do their jobs well.

On the other hand Lorne Greene, as Commander Adama, brought gravitas to his role.  Who wouldn’t want to follow Pa Cartwright during such a time of crisis?

“John”

The best element of the original Battlestar Galactica was the group of mysterious people who wore white and lived in white ships.  These were deceased humans who had ascended to a higher realm.  They intervened on behalf of the Galactica during the series.  This does beg a question, though:  Why did they not prevent the attack in the pilot episode?

Battlestar Galactica ran for one season only, ending more because of production costs than its place in the ratings.  There would, however, be a follow-up series, Galactica 1980, the subject of my next post at this blog.

As the late, great Peter Falk said in character as Lt. Columbo, “one more thing.”  In the final episode, The Hand of God, the Galactica receives a signal they cannot understand.  It is on a frequency they do not use much any more.  Besides, the signal is garbled.  But, once the signal is cleaned up, we have the big reveal.

“The Eagle has landed.”

It comes from Apollo 11.  The events we have been watching are set after 1969.  And that is no felgerkarb.

I remember watching Galactica for the first time in the 1990s.  It was okay, I thought, but I was sure to keep watching, even if only to poke fun at 1978-1979 hair styles.  Then I saw the Ronald D. Moore version, beginning with the 2003 miniseries, and never looked at the old show the same way again.

Yet the 1978-1979 series retains certain charms, despite the hair.  They (not the hair styles) are worth discovering for one’s self.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

All images are screen captures I took via the PowerDVD program.

Feast of Allan Crite (September 6)   Leave a comment

Douglass Square, Boston (1936), by Allan Crite

ALLAN ROHAN CRITE (MARCH 20, 1910-SEPTEMBER 6, 2007)

Artist

There are many gifts from God, and art is among them.  Allan Crite received this gift and shared with others.

When The Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention approved an overhaul and expansion of the denominational calendar of saints, it replaced the old Lesser Feasts and Fasts book (which became thicker with each successive edition) with Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010).  Page 708 of this volume is an appendix, a list of names of people who might join the calendar, given the passage of sufficient time.  This is where I found the name of Allan Crite.  The General Convention might wait to add him to the official calendar, but I wait no longer than today to add him to mine.

Crite spent almost all of his life in the Boston, Massachusetts, area, where he grew up attending St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Cambridge.  Later, as an adult, he was an integral part of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Boston.  Crite, a liturgical artist, designed banners and vestments, painted bulletin covers, and drew stations of the cross.  Much of his work reflected the influence of African-American spirituals and urban settings.  During his long life Crite encouraged artists via various means, including the Artists Collective and the Allan Crite Research Institute, run out of his home.

How did Crite come to arrive at that point?

Crite’s father, Oscar, was an engineer.  His mother, Annamae, was a poet who encouraged her young and talented son to draw.  Crite studied at the Museum of Fine Arts, preferring to attend the school there rather than go to Yale, which had also accepted him.  He graduated in 1936, during the Great Depression, so he worked for Public Works Art Project then the Works Progress Administration, which paid him to paint.  This work was also important because his father, who had  suffered a stroke and become an invalid, died in 1937; somebody had to support Annamae.

From 1940 to 1970 Crite worked as a draftsman at the Boston Naval Shipyard.  It was steady work which enabled him to paint during his spare time.  Later, Crite worked at Grossman Library, Harvard University.

The port draftsman was a noted artist, for, as early as 1936, the Museum of Modern Art showed his work.  And today one can see his work at such noted places as the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Fine Arts (his alma mater), the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Corcoran Gallery of American Art.

Crite said of himself,

As a visual artist, I am in the communication business, as are all the disciplines of the arts:   the performing arts in music and drama, the written arts from poems, sagas, news items, and all the broadcast media, from talking drums to broadcast networks.  As a visual artist, I am part of that tradition, a storyteller of the drama of man.  This is my small contribution–to tell the African-American experience–in a local sense, of the neighborhood, and, in a larger sense, of its part in the total human experience.

Allan Crite did this well.  He found ways to live his vocation, to glory of God and the benefit of his fellow human beings.  May you, O reader, also live your vocation well, to the glory of God and benefit your fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF RANDOLPH ROYALL CLAIBORNE, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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I drew information from the following websites, which contain more details:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/obituaries/articles/2007/09/08/allan_rohan_crite_97_dean_of_ne_african_american_artists/

http://www.dce.harvard.edu/pubs/alum/1998/04.html

http://www.episcopalarchives.org/Afro-Anglican_history/exhibit/leadership/crite.php

http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/79425_93253_ENG_HTM.htm

http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=81

http://www.dropbears.com/a/art/biography/Allan_Crite.html

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The collect for the feast is a slightly adapted version of that for “Artists & Writers,” from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728.  The readings are those for this common of the saints.

Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Allan Crite

and all those who with images and words

have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Fransz de Grebber

Of Skin Conditions, Stigma, Healing, and Humility

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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2 Kings 5:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her,

If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.

So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go then, and I will sent along a letter to the king of Israel.

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read,

When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said,

Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king,

Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,

Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman became angry and went away, saying,

I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?

He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him,

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

A leper came Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him,

If you choose, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I do choose.  Be made clean!

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him,

See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could not longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and the people came to him from every quarter.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

2 Kings 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a broad term.  It refers to a variety of skin conditions in addition to Hansen’s Disease.  Aside from the physical signs, which could be difficult, there was stigma, which could be harder to handle.

Consider the case of Naaman, a successful military commander in the service of the King of Aram, an enemy of the King of Israel.  The author of 2 Kings 5 tells us that Naaman has won victories over the Israelite army with the help of God.  We also know that Naaman’s forces have kidnapped and enslaved at least one Israelite young woman, whom he has taken into his household as a servant.  We may also conclude that Naaman’s case of leprosy (whatever the modern diagnosis would be) was not severe, for he was still functional as a military commander.  Nevertheless, whatever Naaman had bothered him badly enough that he went to see Elisha.

The prophet Elisha did not stand on ceremony, much to Naaman’s disappointment and ire.  And, instead of staging an elaborate healing ritual, the prophet sent word by a messengerthat Naaman ought to bathe in the humble Jordan River seven times.  One can imagine Naaman thinking in Aramaic, “That’s it!?!”

Note the role of servants in the story.  An enslaved servant girl tell’s Naaman’s wife about Elisha.  Naaman, despite his exalted view of himself, is just a servant of his king, and his success is due entirely to God.  Elisha himself does not speak to Naaman at first, but sends a messenger.

Being proud and mighty does not count for much in 2 Kings 5, does it?

We have another story of a cured leper in Mark 1.  This time the man is anonymous.  All he did to get cured was to ask Jesus, who agreed graciously.  But why did our Lord order the man to stay quiet? Biblical scholars have detected the theme of the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark.  Throughout that book God knows who Jesus is, as do Jesus as well as Satan and any evil spirit whom our Lord encounters.  That, however, was a small circle of the knowledgeable.  No, Jesus had work to do, and that work culminated, in Mark, with his crucifixion, at which point his Messianic identity became plain.  There is also the matter of being able to go from place to place without having encountering thronging crowds.  The leper did not obey our Lord’s injunction to stay quiet, so Jesus had to remain in the hinterlands for a little while, but the crowds came to him.  So much for Plan A!

Divine grace falls upon the already humble and the recently humbled, upon the Jew and the Gentile, upon esteemed and the anonymous.  It arrives via unexpected and seemingly unlikely avenues, and it makes demands upon us.  What happened to the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?  Maybe he rejoined his family; that is the most likely answer.  But what further impact did the incident have on the man?  The text is silent on that point.  As for Naaman, he renounced his faith in Rimmon, his former deity, and followed Yahweh (verse 18).  As to what that entailed for Naaman, the text is silent.

How will grace come to you this day, the next day, the day after that, et cetera?  And what will it require of you?  Will you do it?

KRT

Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 23, 2012

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities

FEBRUARY 4, 2018

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Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.   In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.

KRT

Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 19, 2011

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  A Greek Lamb Led to the Slaughter, 500s BCE

Being Mindful of Others

JANUARY 28, 2018

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Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Moses speaking]

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.  This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said:

If you hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.

Then the LORD replied to me:

They are right in what they have said.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I have commanded.  Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.  But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.

You may say to yourself,

How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?

If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken.  The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols we know that

all of us possess knowledge.

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  Anyone who claims to know something does not have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that

no idol in the world really exists,

and that

there is no God but one.

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge.  Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Food will not bring us close to God.

We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.  But take care that this liberty of yours  does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?  So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.  But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Mark 1:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Jesus, Simon Peter, Andrew, and James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.  They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out,

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying,

Be silent, and come out of him!

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  They were all amazed, and they kept on talking to one another,

What is this?  A new teaching–with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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There is a difference between restraining one’s self or one’s children from certain activities (at some or all times) for the spiritual benefit of others and kowtowing to the unreasonable expectations of spiritually uptight people.

I recall that, in the early 1980s, when I measured my lifespan in single digits, my father served the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia.  The parsonage was next to the church building, with just a dead-end road running between the two.  For at least part of the time we were there (June 1980-June 1982), I was not supposed to play in the front yard on Sunday afternoons, lest anyone “get the wrong idea,” which I suppose, is that I was not keeping the Sabbath appropriately, i.e., dolefully.

I refuse to live in such a way that I run no risk of offending spiritually uptight people, some of whom take offense easily.  Nevertheless, I do try to live a good life, one of gratitude to God.  So I decide to do X but not Y, according to that standard, and to leave the taking of offense (or absence thereof) by the spiritually uptight to them.  If I were to try not to offend them, I would do little or nothing, and even that might bother them.  Even Jesus offended, and he was perfect.  How “offensive” then, will I be?

I am not a pietist, obviously.

Nevertheless, as Paul observed, Christian liberty is not a license to do everything which is lawful for one.  Sometimes discretion and concern for others dictates that one decide not to do something.  This something is not wrong in and of itself, but does the other person know that? Paul was dealing with the eating of meat sacrificed to false and imaginary deities, a circumstance which no longer applies in many cultures in contemporary times.  It has no bearing on me in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, in 2011.  In fact, I cannot think of anything I do in public that would have a negative spiritual effect on anyone.  And my private life is mostly mundane, if one assumes that scandals are interesting.  (My life is far from scandalous.)

All this falls into the Lutheran category of “civil righteousness.” Yes, it is laudatory that I did not rob a liquor store last week and that I did perform many good works, but…

Our churches teach that a person’s will has some freedom to choose civil righteousness and to do things subject to reason.  It has no power, without the Holy Spirit, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness.

Augsburg Confession of Faith, Article XVIII, as quoted in Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor, Second Edition, Concordia Publishing House, 2006, page 40

I am mindful of the command not to lead the spiritually weak astray, which informs my decisions.  To the extent I have succeeded in following the spirit of Paul’s advice in my cultural context, I have done so by grace.

Grace is the work of God.  It precedes us and enables us to respond favorably to God.  By grace we have free will, so the misuse and abuse of free will is not what God has intended for us.  May we encourage and support each other in our Christian pilgrimages of faith, not throwing up road blocks consciously or unconsciously.  And may we not have hallucinations of road blocks, either.  Thus may we follow Jesus, our Lord and the ultimate authoritative prophet, successfully–by grace, of course.

KRT

Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 13, 2012

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Donkeys

Image Source = Mates II

Putting the Saddlebags on Jesus, Not the Donkey

JANUARY 21, 2018

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God say what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them and he did not do it.

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7 He alone in my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of the world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired him, and followed him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Jonah 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

St. Simon Peter, Apostle and Martyr:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul-apostles-and-martyrs-june-29/

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-and-martyr-november-30/

St. James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-james-bar-zebedee-apostle-and-martyr-july-25/

St. John the Evangelist, Apostle:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-john-apostle-and-evangelist-december-27/

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Rumi, or, as Persians and Afghanis call him, Jelaluddin Balkhi, lived from 1207 to 1273 C.E.  He was one of the great poets.  Professor Coleman Barks has translated many of Rumi’s works into English.  Among these is “A Basket of Fresh Bread,” part of which I quote here:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

(Source = The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256)

Following God requires us to make changes.  The grace may be free to us, but it is not cheap.  We read in Jonah 3 that the prophet’s message found a receptive audience, but we discover in Jonah 4 that this fact disappointed Jonah.  He needed to lay aside his desire to see the people of Nineveh suffer for their sins.

As for Paul of Tarsus, all I can say is that I do not recall hearing this passage or the verse immediately before it read at a wedding, for good reason.

Yet those who marry will experience distress in life, and I would spare you that.–1 Corinthians 7:28b

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon, so marriage and other matters of daily life seemed relatively unimportant to him.  Two thousand years later, however, human relationships continue and Jesus has yet to return.  Some parts of the Bible are timeless; others are not.

And the Apostles?  Some of them left family businesses behind, and most of them died because they insisted on spreading the news of Jesus.  Nearly two thousand years later countless members of successive generations have known the mercies of Jesus because of what these men did.  I owe my faith in part to them.

Grace was not cheap for them.  This is the grace which grants repentance–literally turning around or changing one’s mind–and then forgiveness of sins.  Such grace scandalizes some of us from time to time, but we benefit from grace, too.  Consider this:  Somebody might find the grace God has extended to you scandalous.

Playing with Rumi’s word pictures, how often do we put the saddle bags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture?  How often do we, perhaps out of ignorance, malnourish ourselves spiritually?  And how often do we water thorns?  I need to deal with these issues at least as much as do many other people.

The reality is that we–you and I–will not be the most effective ambassadors for Christ until, by grace, we begin to correct these bad habits and continue to replace them with good habits.  What we–you and I–do affects others in ways we cannot imagine.  Our influence, whether direct or indirect, is greater than we know.  So, by grace, may it be as positive as possible.

KRT

Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 11, 2011