Archive for the ‘February 16’ Category

Feast of Philipp Melanchthon (February 16)   Leave a comment

philipp-melanchthon-1537

Above:  Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

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PHILIPP MELANCHTHON (FEBRUARY 16, 1497-APRIL 19, 1560)

German Lutheran Theologian and Scribe of the Reformation

Philipp Melanchthon was a leader of the Protestant Reformation.  Our saint, born Philipp Schwarzerd at Bretton, Baden, on February 16, 1497, was a son of Georg Schwarzerd (an armorer) and Barbara Reuter (niece of classical and humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin).  Reuchlin supervised our saint’s classical and humanist education, transforming him into a classical and humanist scholar whom other classical and humanist scholars respected.  Reuchlin gave our saint the surname “Melanchthon,” Greek for “Schwarzerd.”  Melanchthon, who earned his B.A. degree at Heiderberg (1512), M.A. degree at Tubingern (1514), and B.D. degree at Wittenberg (1519), translated certain classical Greek works into German.

Melanchthon’s move to Wittengerg in 1518 was crucial.  In August of that year our saint arrived to teach Greek at the university there.  On August 29, 1518, he delivered an influential address, The Improvement of Studies, in which he proposed to renew society and education by bypassing certain secondary sources and returning to primary sources.  The scholarship of Melanchthon influenced the work of Martin Luther, whose ally he became the following year.  In 1520 Melanchthon married Katharine Krapp of Wittenberg.  The couple had four children:  Anna (1522), Philipp (1525), Georg (1527), and Magdalen (1533).  Melanchthon influenced education in Germany.  His educational theories led to the founding of Protestant public schools and the reorganization of universities in much of Germany.  Thus he became the “Preceptor of Germany.”

Melanchthon, the scribe of the Reformation, wrote Biblical commentaries and composed the Augsburg Confession (1530) and a defense of it.  Despite these facts, some Lutherans considered our saint to be insufficiently Lutheran.  Melanchthon was a Lutheran diplomat and spokesman in discussions with representatives of the Reformed and the Roman Catholic Churches.  For him justification by faith was essential; any point not contradicting it was nonessential.  Melanchthon was even willing, for the sake of Christian unity, to accept papal government yet not supremacy.

Our saint, anguished by ecclesiastical schisms, maintained his ecumenical dialogues until he died, aged 63 years, on April 19, 1560.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Philipp Melanchthon,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) page 60

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Feast of Louis (Lewis) F. Kampmann (February 16)   1 comment

Moravian Logo

Above:  Moravian Logo

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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LOUIS (LEWIS) FRANCIS KAMPMANN (FEBRUARY 16, 1817-OCTOBER 21, 1884)

U.S. Moravian Minister, Missionary, and Hymn Translator

Louis (Lewis) F. Kampmann came from a family with deep roots in the Moravian Church.  He, born at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 16, 1817, was a son of Dr. Franz Christian Kampmann (1745-1832), from Schwingelsen, Germany.  Our saint’s mother was related to the Nitschmann family (link #1, link #2, and link #3) of Zauchtenthal, Moravia.  Due to his mother’s death when he was a child, Kampmann studied at Nazareth Hall, Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  In 1835, at the age of 18 years, having studied for the ministry, our saint became a teacher at Nazareth Hall.

Kampmann left his position at Nazareth Hall in 1840.  The 23-year-old saint arrived in New Fairfield, Upper Canada (now Ontario), on November 14, 1840, to serve as an assistant missionary to indigenous people.  He returned to Pennsylvania in that time to marry Maria Louisa Oerter at Bethlehem in November 1843.  The couple had eight children, only three of which survived them.  Kampmann, ordained a diaconus in November 1845, served as minister at Canal Dover, Ohio, until 1850, and at Gnadenhutten, Ohio, in 1850 and 1851.  From 1851 to 1855 our saint was the assistant minister at Bethlehem.  His next posting was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

In 1857 Kampmann was a delegate to the General Synod at Herrnhut, Saxony.  This was a crucial meeting, for it altered the constitution of the Unitas Fratrum, decentralizing the communion and increasing the authority of the provinces.

In 1857 Bishop Peter Wolle (1792-1871) ordained Kampmann a presbyter.  The following year our saint became the President of the Moravian College and Theological Seminary, Bethlehem.  Our saint, also a member of the Provincial Elders’ Conference, translated a hymn for The Liturgy and Hymns of the American Province of the Unitas Fratrum, or the Moravian Church (1876).  Petrus Herbert (1530-1571) had composed a text 25 stanzas long.  Kampmann cut 17 stanzas and translated the text as “The Word of God, Which Ne’er Shall Cease,” hymn #2 in The Liturgy and Hymns (1876).  Since the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923), however, North American Moravian hymnals have reduced the number of stanzas to five.

Kampmann died at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on October 21, 1884.  He was 67 years old.

Lehigh University, Lehigh, Pennsylvaania, has his papers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Louis (Lewis) F. Kampmann

to be a pastor in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister

in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719

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Feast of Christian Frederick Martin, Sr., and Charles Augustus Zoebisch (February 16)   Leave a comment

Moravian Logo

Above:  The Moravian Logo

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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CHRISTIAN FREDERICK MARTIN, SR. (JANUARY 31, 1796-FEBRUARY 16, 1873)

German-American Instrument Maker

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CHARLES AUGUSTUS ZOEBISCH (MAY 9, 1824-MAY 13, 1911)

German-American Instrument Maker

Among the virtues of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) is high regard for the worth of music and musical instruments, even those of “worldly” character.  Thus the Unitas Fratrum has given the world and attracted fine composers, musicians, and instrument makers.  Two members of the latter category were our “new” saints, both natives of Markneukirchen, Germany.

Christian Friedrich Martin (1796-1873) started young.  He made cabinets and guitars with his father, Johann Georg Martin, in Germany.  The younger Martin emigrated to the United States of America in 1833 and changed his middle name to “Frederick.”  In New York City he founded his own guitar-making company (which still exists) and made the first guitars in the United States.  Our saint moved the business to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in 1839.  He died at Nazareth on February 16, 1873.

Until 1898 the exclusive distributor for Martin guitars was the firm which Charles Augustus Zoebisch (1824-1911) founded in New York City after emigrating to the United States in 1842.  Zoebisch was a successful manufacturer, importer, and distributor of various musical instruments.  He also became the most famous Moravian layman in North America.  He was active in the Moravian Church, belonging to American provincial boards and serving as the President of the Seminary for Young Ladies at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  He died at New York City on May 13, 1911.

These two saints served God in various ways, including then manufacturing of musical instruments.  They applied their talents and other abilities toward a higher purpose.

To what seemingly mundane or “worldly” yet actually higher purpose or purposes is God possibly calling you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS

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Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants

Christian Frederick Martin, Sr., and Charles Augustus Zoebisch,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724

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Feast of St. Norbert of Xanten, St. Evermod, and Blessed Hugh of Fosses (February 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Northern Part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1000 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN (CIRCA 1080-1134)

Founder of the Premonstratensians

His feast transferred from June 6

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SAINT EVERMOD, A.K.A. SAINT EVERMODE (DIED CIRCA 1178)

“Apostle to the Wends”

His feast transferred from February 17

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BLESSED HUGH OF FOSSES (CIRCA 1093-1167)

Second Founder of the Premonstratensians

His feast transferred from February 10

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St. Norbert of Xanten was a nobleman and a courtier of his cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V (reigned 1106-1125).  But St. Norbert had a profound religious experience.  Struck by lightning, he perceived that he heard the words St. Paul the Apostle did on the road to Damascus.  He became a dedicated ascetic and a monk.  Unfortunately for St. Norbert, many of his fellow monks objected to expectations that they should have to live according to the standard of asceticism that he wished they would.  Pope Gelasius II (reigned 1118-1119) granted St. Norbert permission to preach where he wished; he chose northern France.  He founded the Canons Regular of Premontre (the Premonstratensians) in 1121 and pioneered tertiary membership in religious orders, whereby one could live in the world, remain married, and follow religious practices.  Made Archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126, the saint upheld the rights of the church against royal enroachments, a stance which caused him to become the target of several assassination attempts.  He also supported Pope Innocent II (reigned 1130-1143) against antipope Anacletus II (1125-1137) and persuaded German King Lothair II (reigned 1125-1127; Holy Roman Emperor from 1133) to lead an army to Rome to support the Pope in 1133.  That year the Emperor appointed St. Norbert Chancellor of Italy.  St. Norbert died on June 16, 1134.

St. Norbert mentored Blessed Hugh of Fosses, who was born at Fosses, near Namur, in modern-day Belgium.  He met St. Norbert in 1119 and helped the saint to draw up the constitutions of the Premonstratensian order.  Blessed Hugh became Superior General of the order and abbot of the mother house (Premontre Abbey) in 1128.  He was the Second Founder of the order because he built it up so well.

St. Evermod heard St. Norbert reach at Cambrai in 1120.  Impressed, St. Evermod became one of the earliest Premonstratensians.  He accompanied St. Norbert to Antwerp in 1124 on a mission to undo the damage one Tanchelm (died in 1115) had done.  Tanchelm was a rogue monk who preached against the institutional church and the payment of tithes.  He also declared himself King of Antwerp in 1115, at which point a priest killed him.  Nine years later, Tanchelm’s legacy remained.  St. Evermod succeeded St. Norbert as superior of Gottesgnaden monastery in 1134.  Four years later, he became abbot of Magdeburg abbey.  St. Evermod remained in Magdeburg for two decades until he became a  bishop in 1154.  As Bishop of Ratzeburg he proved an effective evangelist, hence his label, “Apostle to the Wends.”

The Premonstratensians continue.  As for Tanchelm, who, other than ecclesiastical history buffs, recall him?  What will your legacy be?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT GORE, SR., UNITED STATES SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT SABAS, ORTHODOX MONK

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O God,

whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world,

that we, inspired by the devotion of your servants

Saints Norbert of Xanten

Saint Evermod,

and Blessed Hugh of Fosses,

may serve you with singleness of heart,

and attain to the riches of the age to come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34 or 34:1-8

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 12:33-37 or Luke 9:57-62

–Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), pages 249 and 927

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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Saints’ Days and Holy Days for February   Leave a comment

Winter, by Hendrick Avercamp

Image in the Public Domain

1 (Henry Morse, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr)

  • Benedict Daswa, Roman Catholic Catechist and Martyr
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Roman Catholic Composer and Musician
  • Sigebert III, King of Austrasia

2 (PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE)

3 (Anskar and Rimbert, Roman Catholic Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen)

  • Alfred Delp, German Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Charles Seymour Robinson, U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymnologist
  • Nicholas Kasatkin, Orthodox Archbishop of All Japan

4 (CORNELIUS THE CENTURION, WITNESS TO THE CRUCIFIXION)

5 (Martyrs of Japan, 1597-1639)

  • Avitus of Vienne, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Jane (Joan) of Valois, Cofounder of the Sisters of the Annunciation
  • Phileas and Philoromus, Roman Catholic Martyrs

6 (Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, Poet and Hymn Writer)

  • Mateo Correa-Magallanes and Miguel Agustin Pro, Mexican Roman Catholic Priests and Martyrs
  • Vedast (Vaast), Roman Catholic Bishop of Arras and Cambrai
  • William Boyce and John Alcock, Anglican Composers

7 (Helder Camara, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife)

  • Adalbert Nierychlewski, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Mitchell J. Dahood, Roman Catholic Priest and Biblical Scholar
  • Moses, Apostle to the Saracens

8 (Josephine Bakhita, Roman Catholic Nun)

  • Jerome Emiliani, Founder of the Company of the Servants of the Poor
  • John of Matha and Felix of Valois, Founders of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity
  • Josephina Gabriella Bonino, Foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family

9 (Benjamin Schmolck, German Lutheran Pastor and Hymn Writer)

  • Adelaide Anne Procter, English Poet and Feminist
  • Alto of Altomunster, Roman Catholic Hermit
  • Porfirio, Martyr

10 (Scholastica, Abbess of Plombariola; and her twin brother, Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino and Father of Western Monasticism)

  • Benedict of Aniane, Restorer of Western Monasticism; and Ardo of Aniane, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • Henry Williams Baker, Anglican Priest
  • Philip Armes, Anglican Church Organist and Composer

11 (ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM)

12 (Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, and Jarena Lee, Evangelists and Social Activists)

  • Charles Freer Andrews, Anglican Priest
  • Christoph Carl Ludwig von Pfeil, German Lutheran Hymn Writer
  • Michael Weisse, German Moravian Minister and Hymn Writer and Translator; and Jan Roh, Bohemian Moravian Bishop and Hymn Writer

13 (AQUILA, PRISCILLA, AND APOLLOS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE)

14 (Abraham of Carrhae, Roman Catholic Bishop)

  • Cyril and Methodius, Missionaries to the Slavs
  • Johann Michael Altenburg, German Lutheran Pastor, Composer, and Hymn Writer
  • Victor Olof Petersen, Swedish-American Lutheran Hymn Translator

15 (New Martyrs of Libya, 2015)

  • Francis Harold Rowley, Northern Baptist Minister, Humanitarian, and Hymn Writer
  • Michael Praetorious, German Lutheran Composer and Musicologist
  • Thomas Bray, Anglican Priest

16 (Philipp Melanchton, German Lutheran Theologian and Scribe of the Reformation)

  • Christian Frederick Martin, Sr., and Charles Augustus Zoebisch, German-American Instrument Maker
  • Louis (Lewis) F. Kampmann, U.S. Moravian Minister, Missionary, and Hymn Translator
  • Norbert of Xanten, Founder of the Premonstratensians; Hugh of Fosses, Second Founder of the Premonstratensians; and Evermod, Bishop of Ratzeburg

17 (August Crull, German-American Lutheran Minister, Poet, Professor, Hymnodist, and Hymn Translator)

  • Francis Serrano, Roman Catholic Priest and Missionary
  • Janani Luwum, Archbishop and Martyr
  • Marie Adolphine Dierks, Roman Catholic Nun, Missionary, and Martyr

18 (Ben Salmon, Roman Catholic Pacifist and Conscientious Objector)

  • Barbasymas, Sadoth of Seleucia, and Their Companions, Martyrs
  • Colman of Lindisfarne, Agilbert, and Wilfrid, Bishops
  • Guido di Pietro, a.k.a. Fra Angelico, Roman Catholic Monk and Artist

19 (Nerses I the Great, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Mesrop, Bible Translator)

  • Bernard Barton, English Quaker Poet and Hymn Writer
  • James Drummond Burns, Scottish Presbyterian Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator
  • Samuel Davies, American Presbyterian Minister and Hymn Writer

20 (Johann Heermann, German Lutheran Minister and Hymn Writer)

  • Henri de Lubac, Roman Catholic Priest, Cardinal, and Theologian
  • Karl Friedrich Lochner, German Lutheran Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Wulfric of Haselbury, Roman Catholic Hermit

21 (John Henry Newman, Cardinal)

  • Arnulf of Metz, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Germanus of Granfel, Roman Catholic Abbot and Martyr
  • Robert Southwell, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Samuel Wolcott, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Missionary, and Hymn Writer

22 (Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst, Anti-Nazi Martyrs at Munich, Germany)

  • Eric Liddell, Scottish Presbyterian Missionary to China
  • Margaret of Cortona, Penitent and Foundress of the Poor Ones
  • Praetextatus, Roman Catholic Bishop of Rouen

23 (Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishops and Martyrs)

  • Alexander Akimetes, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, Polish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Willigis, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mainz; and Bernward, Roman Catholic Bishop of Hildesheim

24 (MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR)

25 (Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder, Nonna, and Their Children:  Gregory of Nazianzus the Younger, Caesarius of Nazianzus, and Gorgonia of Nazianzus)

  • Felix Varela, Cuban Roman Catholic Priest and Patriot
  • John Roberts, Episcopal Missionary to the Shoshone and Arapahoe
  • Theodor Fliedner, Renewer of the Female Diaconate; and Elizabeth Fedde, Norwegian Lutheran Deaconess

26 (Antonio Valdivieso, Roman Catholic Bishop of Leon and Martyr)

  • Emily Malbone Morgan, Founder of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross
  • Paula of St. Joseph of Calasanz, Foundress of the Daughters of Mary

27 (Nicholas Ferrar, Anglican Deacon; George Herbert, Anglican Priest and Metaphysical Poet; and All Saintly Parish Priests)

  • Anne Line and Roger Filcock, Roman Catholic Martyrs
  • Gabriel Possenti, Penitent
  • Luis de Leon, Spanish Roman Catholic Priest and Theologian

28 (Thomas Binney, English Congregationalist Minister, Liturgist, and “Archbishop of Nonconformity”)

  • Andrew Reed, English Congregationalist Minister, Humanitarian, and Hymn Writer
  • Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, African-American Educators
  • Elizabeth C. Clephane, Scottish Presbyterian Philanthropist and Hymn Writer

29 (John Cassian and John Climacus, Roman Catholic Monks and Spiritual Writers)

  • Bernhardt Severin Ingemann, Danish Lutheran Author and Hymn Writer
  • Edward Hopper, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Jemima Thompson Luke, English Congregationalist Hymn Writer; and James Edmeston, Anglican Hymn Writer

Lowercase boldface on a date with two or more commemorations indicates a primary feast.

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses (Russian Orthodox Icon)

Repeating the Commandment to Obey God

FEBRUARY 16, 2020

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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 15:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

If you choose, you can keep the commandments,

to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

He has placed before you fire and water;

stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

Before each person are life and death,

and whichever one chooses will be given.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord;

he is mighty in power and sees everything;

his eyes are on those who fear him,

and he knows every human action.

He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,

and has not given anyone permission to sin.

OR

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said to all Israel the words which the Lord commanded him,

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

THEN

Psalm 119:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD.

Happy are those who keep his decrees,

who seek him with their whole heart,

who also do no wrong,

but walk in his ways.

You have commanded your precepts

to be kept diligently.

O that my ways may be steadfast

in keeping your statutes!

Then I shall not be put to shame,

having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart,

when I learn your righteous ordinances.

I will observe your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says,

I belong to Paul,

and another,

I belong to Apollos,

are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

THEN

Matthew 5:21-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,” you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

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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The readings for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, continue a thread running though those for the Fourth and Fifth Sundays.  Repetition has certain advantages, such as emphasizing the importance of a topic.  Also, some people do not pay attention easily, and this practice increases the possibility of reaching them.

Everything I have written with regard to the previous two Sundays applies here.  With that out of the way, I provide other remarks.

The laws of God, as recorded in the Bible, come with two elements:  the letter and the spirit.  The letter of the law depends on the time, place, and cultural conditions of the time the law originated.  Thus the letter of the law can become irrelevant.  Consider the Law of Moses.  When was the last time any of you removed the blended garments from your closet? (Leviticus 19:19)

The spirit of the law, however, animates the letter thereof.  What was the reason for the admonition against wearing blends?  It related to the principle of keeping unlike things separate, of being holy.  Think of this as kosher clothing.  Sometimes the spirit of the law remains.  I do not keep kosher, in food or clothing, because I am Christian.  I make no such distinctions; all things are ritually clean for me.

Some of the commandments Jesus mentioned and handed down depended on culture, also.  Yet their spirit transcends their letter.  We humans have received mandates not to objectify or exploit each other, and not to seek creative ways to skirt timeless spirits of the law while seeming to live by the letter thereof.  In making these points, the text from Matthew engages in hyperbole, for eyes and limbs do not cause sin.  Jesus did not advocate self-mutilation, although history says that Origen (c.185-c.254), the influential theologian probably took the text literally and castrated himself.  If this story is true Origen missed the point; he should have contented himself with turning away from sin.  A cold bath or shower would have been a better idea than the option he chose.

May we love one another actively.  This principle summarizes righteousness in a social context.

KRT