Archive for December 2012

Proper 15, Year C   Leave a comment

vineyard

Above:  A Sonoma Valley, California, Vineyard

Image Source = Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection,

Reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C

Injustice and Its Consequences

The Sunday Closest to August 17

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 18, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18

or 

Jeremiah 23:23-29 and Psalm 82

then 

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

Luke 12:49-56

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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:

Proper 15, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

Proper 15, Year B:

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

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-thirteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/sin-clings-to-us/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-thirteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-29-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 11-12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-lent-monday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-second-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-third-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The readings for this Sunday sound a note of judgment.

I begin with Luke 12:49-56.  Read it, O reader of this post, in literary context:  reed it in the context of precedes and follows it immediately.  The context is one of Jesus comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable hypocrites, especially certain Pharisees.  As a matter of fact, Jesus was, in the Lukan narrative, en route to Jerusalem to die.  Yes, he was a cause of conflict.  Yes, he remains one.

Do not test and oppose God, the readings say.  Do not follow false gods and prophets–even out of ignorance, they tell us.  Repent–straighten up and fly right–or face the consequences, they attest.  And Isaiah 5:7 speaks of the need to repent of injustice.  The Hebrew prophets decried corruption, idolatry, and economic injustice more than any sexual acts.  Yet I detect a preoccupation with sexual acts at the expense of condemnations of corruption and economic injustice–related problems–in many Christian quarters.  This reality indicates misplaced priorities on the part of those I criticize.

To commit idolatry is to focus on anything other than God when one should focus on God.  Thus idolatry is commonplace and idols are varied and ubiquitous.  But one can become mindful of one’s idolatry and seek to reduce one’s instances of committing it.  The problems of corruption and economic injustice are systemic.  One can act constructively; one should do so.  These systems are of human origin, so people can change them.  Yet we can do this only by grace.  May we do so.  May we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  And may we therefore avert harm to others and destruction of ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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Feast of Andrew Reed (February 26)   2 comments

Flag of England

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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ANDREW REED (NOVEMBER 27, 1787-FEBRUARY 25, 1862)

English Congregationalist Minister, Humanitarian, and Hymn Writer

Andrew Reed, son of a watchmaker, learned how to make watches–to follow in his father’s footsteps.  But Reed had a different vocation, which he followed.  So he studied for the Congregational ministry at Hackney College then served his home church, New Road Chapel, St. George’s-in-the-East, London, beginning in 1811.  There he continued until 1831, when the congregation, having outgrown its building, relocated and assumed a new name, Wycliffe Chapel.  He pastored that church until 1861.

Reed’s legacy has two main components:  hymns and humanitarian works.  He founded and raised funds for three orphanages and three mental asylums.  Reed’s rationale was:

We can never rise to the highest, nor are our moralities safe, till we can say, “of Him, and to Him are all things.”

Late in life, Reed, in reply to a question, summarized his life as follows:

I was born yesterday, I shall die to-morrow, and I must not spend to-day in telling what I have done, but in doing what I may for HIM who has done all for me.  I sprang from the people, I have lived for the people–the most for the most unhappy; and the people when they know it will not suffer me to die out of loving remembrance.

Reed composed twenty-one hymns and edited two hymnals (1817 and 1842).  One of these hymns, “Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayers,” appeared in The Evangelical Magazine (June 1829) and his Hymn-Book (1842).  The hymn’s first singing occurred at London on Good Friday, 1829.

Spirit divine, attend our prayers,

And make this house Thy home;

Descend with all Thy gracious powers;

O come, great Spirit, come!

Come as the light: to us reveal

Our emptiness and woe;

And lead us in those paths of life

Where all the righteous go.

Come as the fire: and purge our hearts

Like sacrificial flame;

Let our whole soul an offering be

To our Redeemer’s Name!

Come as the dove: and spread Thy wings,

The wings of peaceful love;

And let Thy Church on earth become

Blest as the Church above.

Spirit divine, attend our prayers;

Make a lost world Thy home;

Descend with all Thy gracious powers;

O come, great Spirit, come!

Reed understood the proper relationship of creeds to deeds.  May the same be true of each of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Revised on December 9, 2016

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Proper 14, Year C   Leave a comment

3c26559v

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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:

Proper 14, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

Proper 14, Year B:

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

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

Genesis 15:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-tenth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/week-of-proper-7-wednesday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-second-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-1/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it 0r else, the text says.  This is a call t0 society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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Feast of Thomas Binney (February 28)   2 comments

Union Jack

Above:  The Union Jack

Image in the Public Domain

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THOMAS BINNEY (APRIL 30, 1798-FEBRUARY 24, 1874)

English Congregationalist Minister, Liturgist, and “Archbishop of Nonconformity”

Thomas Binney, raised in a Presbyterian family, educated himself while apprenticing under a bookseller.  The saint became a Congregationalist (notnfar from the tree; still Reformed), studied at the theological seminary at Coward College, Wymondley, Herts, and became an ordained minister.  He served congregations at Bedford, then the Isle of Wight before becoming senior pastor of Weigh House Chapel (founded in 1695), London, where he had a reputation as one of the greatest preachers in England.

Binney was a man of strong opinions.  He opposed slavery actively.   He also argued against The Church of England vigorously while being on friendly terms with some C of E bishops and participating in at least one interdenominational service with one in Australia.  Binney might have thought that The Church of England had damned more souls than it had saved, but he did not find everyone in it objectionable.  (Aside:  I, as an Episcopalian, have a different opinion of The Church of England.)  Binney also pioneered a relatively high order of worship, introducing chants and anthems into the services at Weigh House Chapel.  That was radical by the standards of the day, given the historic Calvinist principle of Jure Divino and how many adherents had interpreted it for so long.  He also published Historical Sketches on the Liturgical Forms of the Reformed Churches, by Charles W. Baird, of New York, New York.    The saint wrote the introduction and an appendix, asking,

Are Dissenters to have a Liturgy?

Binney also wrote many devotional poems–

cart loads,

he said.  Among them was “Eternal Light, which he composed at Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1826.

Eternal Light! Eternal Light!

How pure that soul must be,

When, placed within thy searching sight,

It shrinks not, but with calm delight

Can live, and look on thee.

O how shall I, whose native sphere

Is dark, whose mid is dim,

Before the Ineffable appear,

And on my naked spirit bear

The uncreated beam?

There is no way for man to rise

To that sublime abode;

An offering and a sacrifice,

A Holy Spirit’s energies,

An Advocate with God:

These, these prepare us for the sight

Of holiness above:

The sons of ignorance and night

May dwell in the eternal Light,

Through the eternal Love!

Binney also headed the Congregational Union of England and Wales, which, along with the former Presbyterian Church of England, has become part of The United Reformed Church.

The congregation of Weigh House Chapel disbanded in 1966.  Their former building has become home of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Thomas Binney)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Revised on December 9, 2016

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Proper 13, Year C   Leave a comment

citizen-kane

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane, from Citizen Kane

(A Screen Capture)

Proper Priorities

The Sunday Closest to August 3

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 31, 2016

AUGUST 4, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43

or 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23 and Psalm 49:1-11

then 

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecos/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

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Citizen Kane is a wonderful film, one which many younger viewers, accustomed to a different, faster-paced style of cinema find intolerable.  That is their loss.  The movie ends with Charles Foster Kane having died recently.  His business empire is gone and his mansion is full of material goods which mean nothing to those burning them.

And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

–Luke 12:20b, New Revised Standard Version

Night Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following words near the ritual’s beginning:

It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early,

and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety.

For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.

–page 167

Proper priorities matter.  Appropriate work provides one with an opportunity for self-fulfillment and economic independence while doing something beneficial to others.  It is about the “we,” not just “me.”  Such work is something worth enjoying.  And everything which destroys or damages that which is best in others and in oneself one must not nurture.  Or, as Rumi wrote in A Basket of Fresh Bread:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you who 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.

Too often

we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey

run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

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

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

–Translated by Coleman Barks; from The Essential Rumi (1995), page 256

God, who loves us, longs to show us mercy.  Yet our actions will have consequences.  What we sow, we will also reap.  May we sow righteousness and focus on that which is positive and long-lasting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, KING OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WAYNE JUSTICE, JURIST

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Feast of Bernard Barton (February 19)   Leave a comment

Flag of England

Above:  Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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BERNARD BARTON (JANUARY 31, 1784-FEBRUARY 19, 1849)

English Quaker Poet and Hymn Writer

Bernard Barton, born into a Quaker home, attended Ipswich Quaker School.  As a young man, he apprenticed to a Halstead, Essex, shopkeeper from 1796 to 1806 then entered into the corn-and-coal business at Woodbridge, Suffolk, with a brother.  Barton married Lucy Jesup in 1807 yet lost her to death during childbirth the next year.  The widower worked briefly as a tutor at Liverpool before returning to Woodbridge, where, for four decades, he worked at a bank.

Barton was a published poet with a day job.  Thus he did not have to rely on his writing to support himself.  He also befriended Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, major literary figures.  And Barton’s son-in-law, husband of his daughter Lucy, was Edward FitzGerald, translator of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  During his lifetime Barton published nine books, including Devotional Verses (1826).  A posthumously published memoir completed the list of volumes.

Barton had a good reputation.  People knew him to be punctual, methodical, gentle, and good-natured.  And, of course, they knew about the devotional poems he had published.

Among Barton’s poems which have become hymns are “Walk in Light! So Shalt Thou Know” (based on 1 John 1:7) and “Lamp of our Feet.”

Lamp of our feet, whereby we trace

Our path when  wont to stray;

Stream from the fount of heavenly grace,

Brook by the traveler’s way;

Bread of our souls, whereon we feed,

True manna from on high;

Our guide and chart, wherein we read

Of realms beyond the sky;

Word of the everliving God,

Will of His glorious Son;

Without thee how could earth be trod,

Or heaven itself be won?

Lord, grant us all aright to learn

The wisdom it imparts;

And to its heavenly teaching turn

With simple, childlike hearts.

1 John 1:7, as Barton knew it, read:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Authorized Version

Barton’s hymn based on that verse follows:

Walk in the light! so shalt thou know

That fellowship of love

His Spirit only can bestow,

Who reigns in light above.

Walk in the light! and thou shalt find

Thy heart made truly his

Who dwells in cloudless light enshrined,

In whom no darkness is.

Walk in the light! and thou shalt own

Thy darkness pass’d away,

Because that light hath on thee shone

In which is perfect day.

Walk in the light! thy path shall be

A path, though thorny bright;

For God, by grace, shall dwell in thee,

And God himself is light.

Vocation can lead to a career in a field for which one  might become well-known or respected.  Or vocation can manifest itself in a hobby for which one might become well-known or respected.  Or vocation might lead to both.  Barton is here, on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, because of his poetry, not his profession at a bank–honorable work, to be sure.  But his legacy of writing survives to today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF GUSTAV AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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

We bless your name for inspiring Bernard Barton

and all those who with words and image 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

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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Proper 12, Year C   Leave a comment

the-missal-john-william-waterhouse

Judgment, Mercy, and Deliverance

The Sunday Closest to July 27

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 24, 2016

JULY 28, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85

or 

Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138

then 

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Luke 11:1-13

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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For though the LORD is high,

he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.

–Psalm 138:6-7, New Revised Standard Version

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Except when it does not.

Focusing mainly on examples from this Sunday’s readings, I write about the following.

  1. In Genesis 18 Abram talked God down to a minimum number of righteous inhabitants of Sodom to stave off divine destruction of that city.  Yet, a few chapters later, the patriarch did not argue for the life of his own son.  He argued for the lives of strangers but not that of his own son.  Sodom, of course, faced destruction; there were too few righteous people in a city with many equal-opportunity rapists.  And God did spare Isaac in Genesis 22.
  2. What did Hosea’s children do to deserve such names?  Jezreel means “God sows.”  Lo-ruhamah translates as “Not pitied.”  And Lo-ammi means “Not my people.”  Their names were, of course, symbolic of divine rejection of a people who had turned their backs on God.  Destruction of the unfaithful and the wicked is a biblical theme.  But I wonder what psychological harm the children of Hosea and Gomer suffered.
  3. There are, of course, numerous instances of martyrdoms and genocides from ancient times to current events.  Many of those who perished were righteous.  Often they died because of their fidelity to God.  And what about Jesus, sinless yet crucified?
  4. The Book of Job refutes (correctly) the simplistic formula whereby suffering results from one’s own sin and God spares all the righteous from harm.  The example of Jesus confirms this.

Speaking of Jesus, we read in Colossians that he overrides our assumptions regarding a number of issues.  Some of them do not apply one with a Western scientific worldview in the twenty-first century.  I do not, for example, share the Hellenistic assumption (referenced in Colossians) that elemental spirits govern the world.  No, I am a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  But other worldviews persist and I carry my own assumptions in my head.  Christ, we read in Colossians, overrides much–from schools of philosophy to erroneous cosmology.  It is Christ who, as we read in Luke 11, spoke of prayer and God’s attentiveness.

There is also judgment, of course.  That abounds in both Testaments.  So one ought not to focus so much on mercy and judgment as to minimize or ignore its opposite.  Besides, mercy for one party does mean judgment for another much of the time.  So, if one perceives that God has not delivered one, one might be in the wrong camp.  Or one might be impatient.  Or one might have a legitimate complaint against God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

Feast of Francis Harold Rowley (February 15)   Leave a comment

Horses

Above:  Horses

Image in the Public Domain

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FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY (JULY 15, 1854-FEBRUARY 14, 1952)

Northern Baptist Minister, Humanitarian, and Hymn Writer

The Reverend Francis Harold Rowley entered the world at Hilton, New York, in 1854.  He graduated from Rochester University (1875) and Theological Seminary (1878) then became a minister in the American Baptist Missionary Union.  (Aside:  The ABMU renamed itself the Northern Baptist Convention in 1907.  The NBC became the American Baptist Convention in 1950.  And the ABC became the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. in 1972.   The “Northern”/American Baptists have long been more progressive on average than their Southern Baptist counterparts.  An old joke oversimplifies the distinction:  A Northern Baptist says that there isn’t a Hell, but a Southern Baptist says, “The Hell there isn’t.”)  Rowley served churches at the following places:

  • Titusville, Pennsylvania (1879-1884);
  • North Adams, Massachusetts (1884-1892);
  • Oak Park, Illinois (1892-1896);
  • Fall River, Massachusetts (1896-1900); and
  • Boston, Massachusetts (1900-1910).

Rowley retired from parish ministry and First Baptist Church, Boston, in 1910, and devoted the rest of his life to philanthropic work.  He served as President (1910-1945) then Chairman of the Board (1945-1952) of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  He also wrote The Humane Ideal and The Horses of Homer.  And Rowley worked on children’s health care.  I have concluded that the link between good health care for children and the prevention of cruelty to animals is the relative vulnerability and powerlessness of both populations.  So Rowley’s compassion reached out to both of them, as it should have done.

I am familiar with one aspect of Rowley’s legacy, a hymn, “I Will Tell the Wondrous Story.”  Any hymn, if set to a bad tune and/or sung badly, can prove irritating to one with good taste.  (I have good taste.)  Unfortunately for me, I grew up in rural congregations where bad singing was rife.  People sang hymns too quickly and with bad diction and nasal vowels.  It was a joyful noise, with the accent on “noise.”  But YouTube searches today have revealed more than one setting of the hymn.  Some of the arrangements even sound joyful and not noisy.  The words, however, are a separate matter from the music.  Rowley composed the text in 1886, while pastor of First Baptist Church, North Adams, Massachusetts.

1.  I will sing the wondrous story

Of the Christ who died for me,

How he left His home in glory

For the cross of Calvary.

Refrain:

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story

Of the Christ who died for me,

Sing it with the saints in glory,

Gathered by the crystal sea.

2.  I was lost, but Jesus found me,

Found the sheep that went astray,

Threw his loving arms around me,

Drew me back into His way.

Refrain

3.  I was bruised, but Jesus healed me;

Faint was I from many a fall;

Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,

But He freed me from them all.

Refrain

4.  Days of darkness still come o’er me,

Sorrow’s paths I often tread,

But the Saviour still is with me;

By His hand I’m safely led.

Refrain

There is another part of the Rowley legacy.  The School of Humanities at Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., bears his name.  That is appropriate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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Proper 11, Year C   Leave a comment

mamre

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Promises

The Sunday Closest to July 20

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 17, 2016

JULY 21, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52

or 

Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15

then 

Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-confession-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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Feast of Johann Michael Altenburg (February 14)   1 comment

Europe 1648

Above:  Europe in 1648

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG (TRINITY SUNDAY, 1584-FEBRUARY 14, 1640)

German Lutheran Pastor, Composer, and Hymn Writer

Johann Michael Altenburg received his education at Eufurt, where he spent most of his life.  He served churches at or near Eufurt during the Thirty Years’ War–truly difficult circumstances.  He also composed tunes and wrote hymns, including one often translated into English as “Fear Not, Thou Christian Flock,” printed in the original German in 1632.  I found an alternate translation in the Lutheran Common Service Book (1917), which contained the English rendering by Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1858) and Luther D. Reed (1915).

Be not dismayed, thou little flock,

Although the foe’s fierce battle shock,

Loud on all sides, assail thee,

Though o’er thy fall they laugh secure,

Their triumph cannot long endure;

Let not thy courage fail thee.

Thy cause is God’s–go at His call,

And to His hand commit thine all;

Fear thou no ill impending;

His Gideon shall arise for thee,

God’s Word and people manfully,

In God’s own time, defending.

Our hope is sure in Jesus’ might,

Against themselves the godless flight,

Themselves, not us, distressing;

Shame and contempt their lot shall be;

God is with us, with Him are we:

To us belongs His blessing.

Amen, Lord Jesus, hear our cry;

Stir up Thy power, come from on high,

Defend Thy congregation;

So shall Thy Church, through endless days,

Give thanks to Thee and chant thy praise

In joy and adoration.

Such words make much sense in the midst of great hardship.  I am fortunate to live in a setting of religious freedom–not absolute freedom, I know, but there is no such thing as that.  Yet I can attend church without fear of arrest.  And I live in a peacetime setting.  So I am quite blessed.  And I defer to those less fortunate in that way to interpret the hymn.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant Johann Michael Altenburg,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Epheisans 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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