Archive for July 16, 2017

Feast of Johann Walter (April 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Luther Rose

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHANN WALTER (1496-MARCH 25, 1570)

“First Cantor of the Lutheran Church”

Also known as Johann Walther and Johannes Walter

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod celebrates the life and legacy of Johann Walter on April 24.  On my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, his feast day is April 23.

Walter was a native of Kahla, Thuringia.  He, born in 1496, studied in Kahla and Rochlitz before matriculating at the University of Leipzig in 1521.  He, who had experience as a chorister, sang bass in the court of Frederick III “the Wise,” Elector of Saxony (reigned 1486-1525).  In 1524 and 1525 Walter collaborated with Martin Luther.  He edited the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (1524), a collection of polyphonic motets.  Our saint also adapted music for use in the reformer’s German Mass.  In 1526 Walter started a new job–cantor at Torgau, with duties to teach music to boys and to direct music in the parish church.  He did that until 1548, when he became the kappelmeister to Maurice, Elector of Saxony (reigned 1547-1553).  Walter’s last job ended in 1554, when he, aged 60 years, became a pensioner.  Then he returned to Torgau, where he died on March 25, 1570.

Walter’s main contribution to Lutheran hymnody was musical.  He did, however, compose some texts, such as the one translated into English as “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us,” originally 33 stanzas in German.  English translations, however, have been much briefer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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

thank you for those (especially Johann Walter)

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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The Unfortunate Triumph of Ignorance and Emotionalism   Leave a comment

Above:  The Beginning of the Declaration of Independence 

Image in the Public Domain

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Or, Why We Should Not Fail to Recognize the Text of the Declaration of Independence, Especially on July 4

In 1988 National Public Radio (NPR) began its annual tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on the air on the morning of each July 4.  For years I, as a student of American history, have anticipated the orchestra of voices, each speaker reading a segment of the complete text of that great document.  This year NPR tweeted the full text of the Declaration of Independence in 113 tweets, giving rise to an unfortunate Twitter storm.  There were bitter complaints that NPR was, among other offenses, calling for the violent overthrow of the federal government and daring to (gasp!) criticize Donald Trump, as if criticizing those in authority is unpatriotic and un-American.  (Tsk:  Dissenters founded this country.)  Many angry Twitter uses had to eat crow the following day.

 A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

–From the Declaration of Independence

This incident leads me to some troubling thoughts.  It confirms me in my low opinion of human nature (trust in the faithfulness of God, as Martin Luther said) and illustrates the fact that one negative use of social media is to expose the degree to which one is an overly emotional and poorly informed person.  People out themselves voluntarily and unwittingly as individuals who should study more deeply, or at all.  I recall hearing that my grandfather Taylor, who died in 1976,  said that it was better to have a reputation as a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  If social media had existed in his time, I am certain, he would have added clauses about posting and sharing.  All of us who are or have been on social media are guilty of some unfortunate acts of posting, sharing, and/or liking, especially with regard to factually inaccurate posts.  I am.  I am also a former used of social media.  It is something best avoided, except for official purposes, at least in my case; I might permit it to take up too much of my time otherwise.

…whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

–From the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is a document of which many Americans have superficial knowledge at best.  Many (including some of my students) conflate it with the Constitution, which, of course, a few years younger.  So if one is already worked up emotionally and coming from a certain defensive political perspective while reading a disembodied criticism of George III (Parliament, actually, British Parliamentary supremacy dates to the Glorious Revolution of 1688), one might interpret it as a criticism of Donald Trump or a call for the overthrow of the government.  (George III, by the way, was a loving husband and a kind father-in-law.)  My knowledge of the document is greater than that of such poorly informed Twitter users, for I teach the document not quite line-by-line in U.S. History I survey courses.  The Declaration of Independence is a foundational document, one that schools should teach well and that inquisitiveness should compel one to explore on one’s own.  I do not blame schools and teachers completely though, for, although I teach the document thoroughly, some of my students still manage to confuse it for the Constitution and Thomas Jefferson for James Madison, the Father of the Constitution.  At some point students are responsible for their own ignorance.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

–From the Declaration of Independence

By the way, is not July 4 a wonderful day to read the full text of the Declaration of Independence?  When one thinks about how much many of the signers of the document sacrificed for idealism and country, one should stand in awe of them.

If NPR retweets the Declaration of Independence again next July 4, it will probably meet with a similar reception, unfortunately.  Ignorance and emotionalism seem never to die.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

Feast of Toyohiko Kagawa (April 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  Toyohiko Kagawa

Image in the Public Domain

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TOYOHIKO KAGAWA (JULY 10, 1888-APRIL 23, 1960)

Renewer of Society and Prophetic Witness in Japan

The Episcopal Church celebrates the life of Toyohiko Kagawa on April 23 and describes him as a “Prophetic Witness in Japan.”  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada also observe this feast on the same day, but list him as a “Renewer of Society.”  Both labels are accurate.

Christ alone can make all things new.  The spirit of Christ must be the soul of all social reconstruction.

–Toyohiko Kagawa

Toyohiko Kagawa–Christian minister, labor activist, political dissident and prisoner, civil servant, pacifist, advocate for slum dwellers and the working poor, and Christian Socialist–grew up a Buddhist.  He, born in Kobe, Japan, on July 10, 1888, was the second child of businessman-politician Denjiro Kagawa and concubine Kame.  They died two months apart, before our saint was five years old.  For six years young Toyohiko lived on the Kagawa family farm in Awa provivince.  There he studied the Confucian classics.  At the age of 11, after a false accusation of harming a girl, he went to the middle school at Tokushima, on the island of Shikiku.  This was an educational institution he wanted to attend.  Young Toyohiko was a serious student who desired to master the English language.  That interest, combined with his location, led to the next step in our saint’s spiritual journey.

Kagawa learned English and came to Christ under the tutelage of Drs. Harry Myers and Charles Logan, Presbyterian ministers.  In 1903, at the age of fifteen years, our saint converted to Christianity.  His first prayer was

Oh God, make me like Christ!

Young Toyohiko, baptized and determined to study for the ordained ministry, had found a new family.  He also lost his old one; the Kagawas disowned him.

Kagawa had two main social concerns–pacifism and poverty.  These existed in the context of his promise to God to dedicate his life to telling the story of the cross of Christ.  The church, our saint insisted, must identify with the poor and the downtrodden and serve God in them.  The church, he concluded, was not doing as well by this standard as it should.  Pacifism was a matter of following the Golden Rule, one of Christ’s commands.

Dr. Myers arranged for the 17-year-old Kagawa to study at Presbyterian College, Tokyo, starting in 1905.  There our saint remained until tuberculosis forced him to leave in 1908.  He had developed interests in and studied theology, philosophy, sociology, and economics.  His studies had not ended, however.

Katawa returned to Kobe, where he continued his theological studies.  Academics were important in preparation for ordained ministry, he affirmed, but he needed to serve the poor also.  Therefore our saint lived not in a residence hall but under a bridge then in a slum.  In 1909 he decided not to seek ordination but to serve the poor full-time.  From 1910 to 1924, with some gaps, Kagawa lived in a tiny hut in a slum in Kobe.  In May 1914, when he married Haru, a factory worker, he and his wife lived in a tiny hut.  She also cooked for sixteen people daily.  Husband and wife were a team.

In August 1914 Kagawa sailed for the United States, to study at Princeton University.  He cobbled together the fare with help from his in-laws, Drs. Myers and Logan, his church, and the seminary at Kobe.  For eighteen months our saint investigated urban poverty, social services, and living conditions.  He also began to formulate strategies that might prove effective in Japanese cities.  Kagawa decided to stop being a social worker and to be come a social reformer.  He thought about how to change institutions and society, to alter conditions that contribute to poverty.  How to create more jobs, increase wages, improve education, make health care more accessible, et cetera became concerns for him.  This had a theological grounding–the affirmation of inherent human dignity.

Kagawa, back in Japan, became a social reformer.  He also decided to seek ordination after all.  Our saint, ordained in 1917, worked in the slums.  Kagawa, the national secretary of the Japanese Federation of Labor, published The Adoration of the Laborer in 1919.  This prompted his arrest that year.  Two years alter he was back in prison for leading a strike and arguing for the right to workers to organize.  (Labor unions were illegal in Japan until 1925.)  Between arrests he wrote an influential novel, Across the Death-line, about conditions in slums.

Japanese officialdom, which kept Kagawa under surveillance much of the time, wavered between labeling him a criminal and questioning his patriotism on one hand and hiring him on the other hand.  In 1923 an earthquake devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, killing 100,000 people and rendering five million people homeless.  Kagawa organized the relief projects so ably that he went on to serve on the Imperial Economic Commission.  He used his influence to help pass laws to end slums in Asaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Yokohama.  On the other hand, Kagawa’s pacifism angered militarist elements of society and government .  In 1927 he was the only Japanese person to sign an international anti-military conscription manifesto presented to the League of Nations.  Other signers included Mohandas Gandhi and Albert Einstein.  Our saint was allegedly a

traitor in the pay of American imperialists

and a

tool of the Russian Communists.

He certainly made no friends among militarists by organizing the National Anti-War League the following year.  In 1940 Kagawa’s public apology to the people of China for the Japanese invasion led to more time in prison.

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

–Voltaire

In August 1941 Kagawa and seven other Japanese men traveled to the United States.  There they engaged in dialogue in the vain search for ways to avoid war between the U.S.A. and the Japanese Empire.  Our saint, recalling hearing news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, wrote:

I felt that all the lights of the world had gone out.  My heart was broken.

During World War II the Imperial Japanese government continued to vacillate regarding how to treat Kagawa.  In 1943 they arrested him for being a pacifist then released him without filing charges.  Then, in March 1945, toward the end of the war, they appointed him the Chairman of the Wartime Relief Committee.

After World War II Kagawa became the civil servant in charge of social services programs.  Prime Minister Naruhiko Higaskikuni (in office August 16-October 8, 1945) told our saint:

Dr. Kagawa, Japan has been destroyed, not because we had not a sufficient, but because we had suffered the loss of a good standard of morality and engaged in war.  We need a new standard of ethics, like that of Jesus Christ.  Buddhism can never teach us to forgive our enemies; nor can Shintoism.  Only Jesus Christ was able to love his enemies.  Therefore, Dr. Kagawa, if Japan is to be revived, we need Jesus Christ as the basis of our national life.  I want you to help me put the love of Jesus Christ into the hearts of our people.

–Quoted in Orlo Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (Nashville, TN:  Graded Press, 1968), page 26

Kagawa eventually retired from that work.  His health failing, he spent his final year of life bedridden.  Our saint died in Tokyo on April 23, 1960.  He was 71 years old.

Kagawa was a patriot–one frequently at odds with his government, which kept him under surveillance, arrested him occasionally, and hired him from time to time.  He was a pacifist.  During much of his life the government was under the control of militarists who ordered atrocities–violations of human rights.  Kagawa was a labor activist.  During some of his years labor unions were illegal.  If he had never been at odds with his government, he would have been a hypocrite.

Kagawa was indeed a renewer of society and a prophetic witness.

I offer you, O reader, the germane propers from Episcopal and Lutheran sources.  All three collects apply well to Kagawa’s life and legacy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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We bless your Name, O God, for the witness of Toyohiko Kagawa, reformer and teacher,

who was persecuted for his pacifist principles and went on to lead a movement for democracy in Japan;

and we pray that you would strengthen and protect all who suffer for their fidelity to Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Job 13:13-22

Psalm 140

Philippians 1:12-20

Luke 22:47-53

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 341

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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 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,

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.

or 

Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Toyohiko Kagawa, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, 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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Feast of St. Vitalis of Gaza (April 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Vitalis of Gaza

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA (DIED CIRCA 625)

Monk, Hermit, and Martyr

Alternative feast day = January 11

April 22 is the feast day of St. Vitalis of Gaza in the Eastern Orthodox churches.  In the Roman Catholic Church his feast day is January 11.  St. Vitalis is the patron saint of day-laborers and prostitutes.  The story of the final years of his life explains why.

Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.

–St. Vitalis of Gaza

In the sixtieth year of his life St. Vitalis left his monastery in Gaza for Alexandria, Egypt.  There he ministered to prostitutes, at the risk of his reputation and his life.  He worked as a day-laborer and, most nights, hired a prostitute–so she would not sin sexually that night.  He ministered to those prostitutes who listened to him, prayed with them, and led many of them out of that life.  Pimps did not approve of this.  Circa 625 one pimp hit St. Vitalis over the head then stabbed him.  Our saint returned to his hut, where he began to pray then died.  Many former prostitutes honored him.

In the Gospels our Lord and Savior came under scrutiny for socializing with notorious sinners, including prostitutes.  The sick, he said, were the ones who needed to visit a doctor.  St. Vitalis followed the example of Jesus in Alexandria.  Because he died for his faith, St. Vitalis was a martyr.

The challenge of the life of St. Vitalis of Gaza and the teaching of Jesus germane to this post is to point out the extent to which we shun those to whom God sends us as agents of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of St. Vitalis of Gaza,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage

to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

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

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of Kathe Kollwitz (April 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Kathe Kollwitz

Image in the Public Domain

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KATHE SCHMIDT KOLLWITZ (JULY 8, 1867-APRIL 22, 1945)

German Lutheran Artist and Pacifist

Kathe Schmidt always had leftist politics and an active concern for the poor and the downtrodden; socialism and nonconformity were her inheritance.  Our saint, born in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia), on July 8, 1867, was a daughter of house builder Karl Schmidt and socialist Katerina Schmidt, daughter of an outcast, independent Lutheran minister.  Our saint, who began to study at the age of 12 years, went to work in etching, sculpture, lithography, and woodcutting.  She channeled her social concerns via her art.

Above:  Working Woman (1910), by Kathe Kollwitz

Image in the Public Domain

From 1891 to 1940 our saint was the wife of Dr. Karl Kollwitz (died in 1940), a physician who treated poor and working-class patients in clinics.  Some of those patients became models for her artwork depicting the struggles of the underclass.  Our saint especially liked to create art depicting mothers and children; the maternal bond interested her.  Kathe, who lived in Berlin most of her life, had two sons–Hans (born in 1892) and Peter (born in 1896).  Peter’s death during World War I was one factor in her conversion to pacifism, which she defined as the brotherhood of man, not merely opposition to war.  Peter’s death was on Kathe’s mind as she sculpted The Grieving Parents (1932), a war memorial commissioned for the Soldiers Cemetery near Dixmuiden, Belgium.  She and her husband were the models for the grieving parents.

Above:  The Grieving Parents (1932), by Kathe Kollwitz

Image in the Public Domain

Life was difficult for the Kollwitzes during the Third Reich.  Officials banned exhibition of her work and the Gestapo threatened the couple.  The Kollwitzes’ prominent international profile seems to have protected them, however.  Nevertheless, Kathe was not exempt from the grief of war; grandson Peter died in combat.

Kathe died, aged 77 years, in Moritzburg, Germany, on April 22, 1945, shortly before V-E Day.

The power of her art that survived the ravages of World War II remains, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Kathe Kollwitz.

Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder, that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord,

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

Isaiah 28:5-8 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

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