Archive for the ‘March 8’ Category

Feast of Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy (March 8)   1 comment

geoffrey-studdert-kennedy

Above:  Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy

Image Source = Hymntime.com

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GEOFFREY ANKETELL STUDDERT KENNEDY (JUNE 27, 1883-MARCH 8, 1929)

Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer

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Nobody worries about Christ as long as he can be kept shut up in churches.  He is quite safe inside.  But there is always trouble if you try and let him out.

–Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy

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Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (surname = Studdert Kennedy) was a man from and of the Church.  He, born on June 27, 1883, was a native of Leeds, England, where his father, William Studdert Kennedy, was an Anglican vicar.  Our saint, educated at Leeds Grammar School and at Trinity College, Dublin, took Holy Orders.  He served as a priest at, in order, Ripon and Rugby, before becoming the Vicar of St. Paul’s Worcester, in 1914.  From 1916 to 1919 Studdert Kennedy was a military chaplain.  He placed his life at risk to tend to the material and spiritual needs of soldiers, especially the injured and the dying.  For his valor–recklessness, King George V called it–our saint received the Military Cross in 1917.  He became known as “Woodbine Willie” for distributing Woodbine cigarettes to soldiers.

After the war Studdert Kennedy, who married Emily Catlow in 1914, became a pacifist and a Christian Socialist.  Our saint, the Rector of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, Lombard Street, London, from 1922, went on the lecture circuit for the Industrial Christian Fellowship.

Studdert Kennedy published poems, sermons, essays, and social critiques.  His published works included the following:

  1. The Hardest Part (1918);
  2. Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918);
  3. More Rough Rhymes (1919);
  4. Lies (1919);
  5. Democracy and the Dog Collar (1921);
  6. Food for the Fed Up (1921);
  7. The Wicked Gate (1923);
  8. The Word and the Work (1925);
  9. I Believe:  Sermons on the Apostles’ Creed (1928); and
  10. The Warrior, the Woman, and the Christ (1928).

There was also an undated volume, The Sorrows of God, and Other Poems.

Studdert Kennedy’s hymns included “Not Here for High and Holy Things” and “When Through the Whirl of Wheels.”

When thro’ the whirl of wheels, and engines humming,

Patiently powerful for the sons of men,

Peals like a trumpet promise of his coming,

Who in the clouds is pledged to come again;

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When thro’ the night of the furnace fires aflaring,

Shooting out tongues of flame like leaping blood,

Speak to the heart of Love, alive and daring,

Sing of the boundless energy of God;

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When in the depths of the patient miner striving,

Feels in his arms the vigor of the Lord,

Strikes for a kingdom and his King’s arriving,

Holding his pick more splendid than the sword;

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When on the sweat of labor and its sorrow,

Toiling in the twilight flickering and dim,

Flames out sunshine of the great tomorrow,

When all the world looks up because of him–

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Then will he come with meekness for his glory,

God in a workman’s jacket as before,

Living again in th’eternal gospel story,

Sweeping the shavings from his workshop floor.

Studdert Kennedy died at Liverpool, England, on March 8, 1929, while on the lecture circuit for the Industrial Christian Fellowship.  He was 45 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN, A.K.A. MUNGO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Glorious God, we give thanks not merely for high and holy things,

but for the common things of earth which you have created:

Wake us to love and work, that Jesus, the Lord of life,

may set our hearts ablaze and that we, like Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy,

may recognize you in your people and in your creation,

serving the holy and undivided Trinity;

who lives and reigns throughout all ages and ages.  Amen.

2 Samuel 22:1-7 (8-16) 17-19

Psalm 69:15-20

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Luke 10:25-37

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 265

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Feast of Edward King (March 8)   Leave a comment

NPG Ax38337; Edward King

Above:  Edward King

Image in the Public Domain

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EDWARD KING (DECEMBER 29, 1829-MARCH 8, 1910)

Bishop of Lincoln

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We must not give up on any soul as hopeless.

–Edward King

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We should acknowledge God in trade by truthfulness of work, by fair dealing, and by fair wages.

–Edward King

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The housing of the people is in reality immediately connected with the social and moral condition of the nation.

–Edward King

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The Feast of Edward King comes from the calendar of saints of The Church of England.

Edward King came from an ecclesiastical family and served God via the Church.  His grandfather was Walker King (Sr.) (1751-1827), the Bishop of Rochester from 1809 to 1827.  Our saint’s parents were Anne Heberden and Walker King (Jr.), Rector of Stone, Kent.  Edward, born at London on December 29, 1829, was the third of ten children.  He had a reputation for kindliness from an early age.  Anne, one of his sisters, was an invalid for twelve years.  Our saint sat by her bedside many nights and learned Italian so he could share her love of the writing of Dante Alighieri.  Edward’s constitution was also weak; he remained at home while John Day, his father’s curate (and later the Vicar or Ellesmere, Shropshire) tutored him.  Our saint helped Day with the choir and a Bible class for men. In February 1848 King matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford.  There he became a Tractarian.  Our saint had to leave Oxford for health reasons in 1851, but he accepted an honorary degree.  Next he toured the Holy Land and environs (in 1852) and worked as a private tutor (in 1853).  King, ordained deacon in 1854 and priest the following year, served as the Curate of Wheatley from 1854 to 1858.  It was his only pastorate.  Cuddesdon Theological College (now Ripon College), Cuddesdon, beckoned next.  He was chaplain from 1858 to 1863 and principal from 1863 to 1873.  From Cuddesdon our saint returned to Oxford; he became the Chair of Pastoral Theology and the Canon of Christ Church in 1873.  Six years later King helped to found St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, an Anglo-Catholic theological college.  In 1885 King succeeded Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) as the Bishop of Lincoln.  Our saint remained in that post for the rest of his life.  King remained kindly and concerned about the plight of a wide range of people, from farmers to industrial workers to prisoners condemned to die.  The Gospel commanded him to minister to them, he understood.

King’s liturgical “innovations,” actually returns to older practices, proved controversial and got him into trouble.  At the time members of the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of The Church of England clashed, with some Evangelical Anglicans went so far as to accuse Anglo-Catholics of being in league with Satan and certain Anglo-Catholics accused Evangelical Anglicans of practicing false religion.  Also, Parliament passed the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874, forbidding certain ritualistic practices.  In 1888 King had to contend with eight allegations of supposed liturgical malfeasance:

  1. Mixing water and wine in the chalice;
  2. Administering the mixed elements to communicants;
  3. Washing the communion vessels ceremonially then drinking the water;
  4. Facing eastward before communion;
  5. Standing during the prayer of consecration so that nobody in the congregation could see him perform the Manual Acts of Consecration;
  6. Having two lit candles not necessary for illumination on the altar during the service;
  7. Permitting the singing of the Agnus Dei after the consecration of the elements; and
  8. Making the sign of the cross in the air with his hand at the benediction.

Archbishop of Canterbury Edward White Benson (1829-1896) spared King a civil prosecution by convening an ecclesiastical court.  In 1890 the court exonerated the Bishop of Lincoln on all but two counts:  (5) and (6).  Benson ordered King not to commit them any longer.  King obeyed that judgment.  The ordeal, however, stressed him spiritually and physically. The matter should never have come to the attention of any court.

King, who never married, died on March 8, 1910.  He was 80 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PEPIN OF LANDEN, ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II OF BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA AND MARTYR

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Edward King

to be a bishop 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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Saints’ Days and Holy Days for March   Leave a comment

Daffodil

Image Source = Bertil Videt

1 (Anna of Oxenhall and Her Faithful Descendants, Wenna the Queen, Non, Samson of Dol, Cybi, and David of Wales)

  • Daniel March, Sr., U.S. Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister, Poet, Hymn Writer, and Liturgist
  • Edwin Hodder, English Biographer, Devotional Writer, and Hymn Writer
  • Roger Lefort, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bourges

2 (Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World)

  • Aidan of Lindisfarne, Celtic Missionary Bishop; Caelin, Celtic Priest; St. Cedd of Lastingham, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Bishop of Essex, and Abbot of Lastingham; Cynibil of Lastingham, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest and Monk; Chad of Mercia, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of York/the Northumbrians and of Lichfield/the Mercians and the Lindsey People; Vitalian, Bishop of Rome; Adrian of Canterbury, Roman Catholic Abbot of Ss. Peter and Paul, Canterbury; Theodore of Tarsus, Roman Catholic Monk and Archbishop of Canterbury; and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Celtic and Roman Catholic Monk, Hermit, Priest, and Bishop of Lindisfarne
  • John Stuart Blackie, Scottish Presbyterian Scholar, Linguist, Poet, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Ludmilla of Bohemia, Duchess of Bohemia and Martyr; Her Grandson, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia and Martyr; Agnes of Prague, Bohemian Princess and Nun; Pen Pal of Clare of Assisi, Foundress of the Poor Clares; Sister of Agnes of Assisi, Abbot at Monticelli; Daughter of Hortulana of Assisi, Poor Clare Nun

3 (Katharine Drexel, Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)

  • Antonio Francesco Marzorati, Johannes Laurentius Weiss, and Michele Pro Fasoli, Franscican Missionary Priests and Martyrs in Ethiopia, 1716
  • Gervinus, Roman Catholic Abbot and Scholar
  • Henry Elias Fries, U.S. Moravian Industrialist; and His Wife, Rosa Elvira Fries, U.S. Moravian Musician

4 (Charles Simeon, Anglican Priest and Promoter of Missions; Henry Martyn, Anglican Priest, Linguist, Translator, and Missionary; and Abdul Masih, Indian Convert and Missionary)

  • John Edgar Park, U.S. Presbyterian then Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Paul Cuffee, U.S. Presbyterian Missionary to the Shinnecock Nation
  • Thomas Hornblower Gill, English Unitarian then Anglican Hymn Writer

5 (Karl Rahner, Jesuit Priest and Theologian)

  • Christopher Macassoli of Vigevano, Franciscan Priest
  • Eusebius of Cremona, Roman Catholic Abbot and Humanitarian
  • Ion Costist, Franciscan Lay Brother

6 (Martin Niemoller, German Lutheran Minister and Peace Activist)

  • Chrodegang of Metz, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Jordan of Pisa, Dominican Evangelist
  • William Bright, Anglican Canon, Scholar, and Hymn Writer

7 (James Hewitt McGown, Humanitarian)

  • Drausinus and Ansericus, Roman Catholic Bishops of Soissons; Vindician, Roman Catholic Bishop of Cambrai; and Leodegarius, Roman Catholic Bishop of Autun
  • Edward Osler, English Doctor, Editor, and Poet
  • Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 203

8 (Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln)

  • Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • John Hampden Gurney, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • John of God, Founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God

9 (Sophronius of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Patriarch)

  • Emanuel Cronenwett, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator
  • Frances of Rome, Foundress of the Collatines
  • Robert Hall Baynes, Anglican Bishop of Madagascar

10 (Marie-Joseph Lagrange, Roman Catholic Priest and Biblical Scholar)

  • Agripinnus of Autun, Roman Catholic Bishop; Germanus of Paris, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Droctoveus of Autun, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • John Oglivie, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Macarius of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Bishop

11 (John Swertner, Dutch-German Moravian Minister, Hymn Writer, Hymn Translator, and Hymnal Editor; and his collaborator, John Mueller, German-English Moravian Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymnal Editor)

  • Aengus the Culdee, Hermit and Monk; and Maelruan, Abbot
  • Eulogius of Spain, Roman Catholic Bishop of Toledo, Cordoba; and Leocrita; Martyrs
  • Folliot Sandford Pierpoint, Anglican Educator, Poet, and Hymn Writer

12 (Trasilla and Emiliana, Sisters-in-Law of Sylvia of Rome; and Her Son, Gregory I “the Great,” Bishop of Rome)

  • Maximillian of Treveste, Roman Conscientious Objector
  • Rutilio Grande, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Theophanes the Chroncler, Defender of Icons

13 (Yves Congar, Roman Catholic Priest and Theologian)

  • Heldrad, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • Plato of Symboleon and Theodore Studites, Eastern Orthodox Abbots, and Nicephorus of Constantinople, Patriarch
  • Roderic of Cabra and Solomon of Cordoba, Roman Catholic Martyrs

14 (Fannie Lou Hamer, Prophet of Freedom)

  • Alfred Lister Peace, Organist in England and Scotland
  • Harriet King Osgood Munger, U.S. Congregationalist Hymn Writer
  • Nehemiah Goreh, Indian Anglican Priest and Theologian

15 (Zachary of Rome, Pope)

  • Jan Adalbert Balicki and Ladislaus Findysz, Roman Catholic Priests in Poland
  • Ozora Stearns Davis, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Vethappan Solomon, Apostle to the Nicobar Islands

16 (Adalbald of Ostevant, Rictrudis of Marchiennes, and Their Relations)

  • Abraham Kidunaia, Roman Catholic Hermit, and Mary of Edessa, Roman Catholic Anchoress
  • John Cacciafronte, Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, Bishop, and Martyr
  • Megingaud of Wurzburg, Roman Catholic Monk and Bishop

17 (Patrick, Apostle of Ireland)

  • Ebenezer Elliott, “The Corn Law Rhymer”
  • Eliza Sibbald Alderson, Poet and Hymn Writer; and John Bacchus Dykes, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • Henry Scott Holland, Anglican Hymn Writer and Priest

18 (Leonides of Alexandria, Roman Catholic Martyr; Origen, Roman Catholic Theologian; Demetrius of Alexandria, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Alexander of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Bishop)

  • Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Theologian, and Liturgist
  • Paul of Cyprus, Eastern Orthodox Martyr
  • Robert Walmsley, English Congregationalist Hymn Writer

19 (JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD)

20 (Sebastian Castellio, Prophet of Religious Liberty)

  • Christopher Wordsworth, Hymn Writer and Anglican Bishop of Lincoln
  • Maria Josefa Sancho de Guerra, Foundress of the Congregation of the Servants of Jesus
  • Samuel Rodigast, German Lutheran Academic and Hymn Writer

21 (Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach, Composers)

  • Nicholas of Flüe and His Grandson, Conrad Scheuber, Swiss Hermits
  • Serapion of Thmuis, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • William Edward Hickson, English Music Educator and Social Reformer

22 (Deogratias, Roman Catholic Bishop of Carthage)

  • Emmanuel Mournier, Personalist Philosopher
  • James De Koven, Episcopal Priest
  • Thomas Hughes, British Social Reformer and Member of Parliament

23 (Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great, Patriarchs of Armenia)

  • Meister Eckhart, Roman Catholic Theologian and Mystic
  • Metodej Dominik Trčka, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr
  • Victorian of Hadrumetum, Martyr at Carthage, 484

24 (Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador; and the Martyrs of El Salvador)

  • Didacus Joseph of Cadiz, Capuchin Friar
  • Paul Couturier, Apostle of Christian Unity
  • Thomas Attwood, “Father of Modern Church Music”

25 (ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST)

  • Dismas, Penitent Bandit

26 (Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist)

  • George Rundle Prynne, Anglican Priest, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • Ludger, Roman Catholic Bishop of Munster
  • Margaret Clitherow, Roman Catholic Martyr in England

27 (James Solomon Russell, Episcopal Priest, Educator, and Advocate for Racial Equality)

  • Charles Henry Brent, Episcopal Bishop and Ecumenist
  • Nicholas Owen, Thomas Garnet, Mark Barkworth, Edward Oldcorne, and Ralph Ashley, Roman Catholic Martyrs
  • Rupert of Salzburg, Apostle of Bavaria and Austria

28 (Tutilo, Roman Catholic Monk and Composer)

  • Guntram of Burgundy, King
  • Katharine Lee Bates, U.S. Educator, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • Richard Chevenix Trench, Anglican Archbishop of Dublin

29 (Charles Villiers Stanford, Composer, Organist, and Conductor)

  • Dora Greenwell, Poet and Devotional Writer
  • John Keble, Anglican Priest and Poet
  • Jonas and Barachisius, Roman Catholic Martyrs

30 (Innocent of Alaska, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of North America)

  • Franz Joseph Haydn and His Brother, Michael Haydn, Composers
  • Joan of Toulouse, Carmelite Nun; and Simon Stock, Carmelite Friar
  • John Wright Buckham, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer

31 (Maria Skobtsova, Orthodox Martyr)

  • Ernest Trice Thompson, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Renewer of the Church
  • John Donne, Anglican Priest and Poet
  • John Marriott, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer

 

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

 

Feast of St. John of God (March 8)   2 comments

Above:  Caduceus

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN OF GOD (MARCH 8, 1495-MARCH 8, 1550)

Founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God

Sometimes the process of finding of one’s vocation, the intersection of one’s deepest joys and the world’s greatest needs, takes some time.  However long this process might last, it is never too late to pursue one’s calling from God.

Consider the case of St. John of God.  Born in Portugal in 1495, he bounced around in various careers.  He served the Count of Oroprusa (in Castille and Spain) as Bailiff.  Then, in 1522, the saint began to fight in military campaigns, first against the French (who were fighting the Spanish) then the Turks in Hungary.  After the close of his military career, in 1536, the saint became a shepherd near Seville.

Yet there was greater work awaiting the saint.  He became a penitent at age 40.  He sought ways to devote his life to God.  But what was the best way for him to accomplish this noble goal?  Might he travel to Africa, to rescue Christian slaves?  It was surely a noble cause.  The saint chose instead to sell sacred books and pictures in Gibraltar, in 1538.  There he heard St. John of Avila preach on St. Sebastian’s Day, the bookseller overreacted, crying aloud, beating his breast, begging for mercy publicly, wandering the streets, and generally behaving like a lunatic.  So he wound up in an asylum, where St. John of Avila advised him that the best penance was doing something to help others.

So the former bookseller began his greatest work for God.  Initially he began to help his fellow patients.   After his release, the saint sold wood to raise funds for helping the poor of Granada.  In 1540 he opened a shelter for the poor and offered medical care on the streets before finding a suitable building to function as a hospital.  He offered these services freely, in the name of God, despite the scandal which arose from the fact that he did not refuse to help people of allegedly bad character.  The only bad character at the hospital, the saint said, was himself.

A decade of this hard work led to illness and death on March 8, 1550.  The archbishop presided over the saint’s funeral.  Canonized in 1690, he is the patron saint of the sick, of hospitals, and of nurses, printers, and booksellers.  The Order of Hospitallers, which he organized to assist him in his work among the poor of Granada, became the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God in 1572.  The website (http://www.hospitallers.org/) of the U.S.A. Province of the order says this:

We, the Brothers of St. John of God, are called to witness to the people of God, Christ’s healing love as expressed by our charism of hospitality, through a community of faith and a compassionate service to God’s suffering people.

The legacy of St. John of God rests on how he spent the last ten years of his life.  What will you do for God and your fellow human beings with what remains of your time on Earth?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARAH, BIBLICAL MATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF ST. FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME

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The Collect from Christian Prayer:  The Liturgy of the Hours (1976):

Father, you gave John of God love and compassion for others.  Grant that by doing good for others we may be counted among the saints in your kingdom.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Readings I Have Selected:

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 38:1-4, 6-10, 12-14

Psalm 51

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 25:31-46

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Revised on December 24, 2016

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Second Sunday in Lent, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  Abraham (Russian Orthodox Icon)

Justification by the Righteousness of Faith

MARCH 8, 2020

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Genesis 12:1-4a (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to Abram,

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Psalm 121 (New Revised Standard Version):

I lift up my eyes to the hills–

from where where my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

He who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time on and forevermore.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say?

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written,

I have made you the father of many nations

) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

John 3:1-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him,

Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.

Jesus answered him,

Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.

Nicodemus said to him,

How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?

Jesus answered,

Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus said to him,

How can these things be?

Jesus answered him,

Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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As I begin to write I think about Psalm 121 and what composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy made of it in his oratorio Elijah.  (I own a Robert Shaw/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus recording of this work. )  Two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano (a trio of angels) sing, their voices blending and dancing around each other:

Lift thine eyes to the mountains whence thy help cometh.  Thy help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  He hath said, “Thy foot shall not be moved; thy Keeper will never slumber.”

Then the choir sings:

He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps.  Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish, He will quicken thee.

The music, which I have known for decades, is transcendent.  And it helps me remember a wonderful psalm, too.  Psalm 121 makes a wonderful companion piece to the reading from Romans, from which I take my central point:  Our justification with God begins with divine initiative.

Justification is the state of being right with God, especially at the final judgment.  This justification cannot flow from good deeds, as laudable as they are.  Instead, it comes through faith in God.  This faith extends beyond mere intellectual acceptance and verbal confession of certain theological propositions.  Faith makes orthodoxy (“right belief”) and orthopraxy (“right practice”) different sides of the same coin.  Faith is lived.  Our deeds are our professions.  You shall know a tree by its fruits.  Deeds reveal creeds.

O, and just one more thing.

One need not have had a dramatic conversion experience to be a Christian.  Not to boast, but I have led a relatively sedate life, abstaining from such practices such as using illegal drugs or robbing liquor stores.  So my personal story is not as interesting as some others you, O reader, might have heard.  I have never had a dramatic conversion experience, and do not feel “regenerated,” whatever that is supposed to mean.  Yet I know that I love God as revealed in Jesus and the rest of the Trinity, and have a deepening, lived faith in the God of Christianity.  I have been a Christian for a long time, but cannot state the day or time this process began.  And that is fine.  My spiritual reality does not satisfy certain individuals, and that is just the way things will have to be.  The most important question is where I stand with God, not them.  And I report that I stand on a path of spiritual pilgrimage, and in utter dependence on grace.  I stand relative to God largely because of divine initiative.

That is my testimony, for what it is worth.

KRT

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/