Archive for the ‘The University of Georgia’ Tag

Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Eleven Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  City Hall, Athens, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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On the morning of Tuesday, August 9, 2005, I moved from East Dublin, Georgia, to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to begin doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA).  My major professor, to whom I refer to as “John Doe” in this post, dashed my hopes and killed my program within sixteen months, however.  I dropped out of UGA in December 2006, for I knew that I would have no third year and perceived no reason to complete the second year.  The graduate supervisor of the department advised me take a M.A. degree instead.  I informed him that I had one already.  Take a second one, he replied; the second M.A. will be from a “superior institution.”  My succinct reply, via email, copied to my negligent major professor, who was stingy with feedback, was, “No.”  The powers that were in the Department of History had tried to convert me into something I refused to become:  someone who could not pass five minutes without saying or thinking “subalternate.”  I liked people who changed the course of history and left documentation about it.  Subalternates did not interest me very much.  I finished Fall Semester 2006, holding myself together with the emotional equivalent of twine and duct tape.  Blazing Saddles, in five-minute-long increments, also helped greatly.  (Thank you, Mel Brooks!)  “To thine own self be true,” as Shakespeare wrote, placing those words in the mouth of Polonius in Hamlet.  I maintained my integrity in the face of pressure to do otherwise.

I still find subalternates boring.  Institutional and Great Man and Woman history retain my interest.

I also refuse to call what happened to me anything other than what it was:  academic abuse.  Judgment and mercy on the guilty parties rest entirely in the purview of God, I am not the judge of Dr. Doe and those in the department who made excuses for him.   Grudges do not build me up anyway, and any quest for revenge would damage me and be contrary to my Christian principles.  The trauma of my short-lived doctoral program has left much spiritual scar tissue; I need not add any more to it.  On the other hand, my stress levels today are much lower than they were when I was a graduate student at UGA.  I conclude that the Department of History was not a healthy milieu for me at that time.

Athens, however, has become my home.  Of all the places I have lived it is the one in which I fit best.  The intellectual life of the city is agreeable to me.  And, after all those years of feeling like the damned, marginalized liberal and heretic in South Georgia, I find myself slightly to the right of the center in most circles in which I move.  I have not even changed my opinions much.  I have, however, ceased to be an outcast.  I also refuse to make those to my left feel like outcasts, for I have no desire to do unto others negatively as others have done to me negatively.

I have never lived in one place this long.  I, born in Rome, Georgia, spent my earliest years in Chattooga County, Georgia–a few years in Trion but mostly in the ancestral family home in Summerville.  When I was six years old my parents moved my sister and me to South Georgia.  Starting in 1980 we took the grand tour of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  From kindergarten to Twelfth Grade I attended schools in six counties.   Then I attended college in three more counties and lived in four other counties prior to relocating to Athens-Clarke County.

I have changed spiritually since I arrived in Athens in 2005.  I have, by grace and through trauma, become a better human being.  I am more aware of my weaknesses and my complete dependence upon God.  I am more forgiving, of both others and myself, for being weak.  I am more aware of my responsibilities to others, especially my students.  I know what St. Paul the Apostle meant by “dying to self,” although I cannot express that meaning in words.  I have received abundant grace via human beings and know of my responsibility to function as a vehicle of grace for others better than I did.  I have experienced spiritual death and rebirth.  I know well the pain of the death and the elation of the rebirth.  I am quite aware of my dark side, of my unworthiness, and of the immeasurable riches of the love of God.  I know that the light shines most brightly in the deepest darkness.

I do not know how long I will remain in Athens or its vicinity.  Neither do I know how long I should continue to live here.  I hope and pray that I will remain here as long as that is appropriate and that I will then move along to the proper subsequent location.  Meanwhile, I am glad to reside in Athens-Clarke County.

May my twelfth year in Athens be positive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

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Of “Statesman” and “Stateswoman”   Leave a comment

Stateswoman

Above:  Stateswoman

Writing and Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Years ago, when I was a graduate student and teaching assistant at The University of Georgia (UGA), Charles, one of the other teaching assistants with whom I shared an office in the basement of LeConte Hall, asked me to proofread something he had written for an assignment.  I was glad to do so.  I proofread the text and used the the spellcheck function of Microsoft Word.  The spelling and organization of the text was excellent, by the way.  The spellchecker did, however, flag the word “statesman,” which Charles used to describe Willy Brandt (1913-1992), the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969 to 1974.  I recognized no need to recommend that Charles change the word.  After all, Brandt was a man.  I told Charles of the spellcheck result.  He agreed with my conclusion.

Today is, on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, the Feast of Flora MacDonald (1926-2015), whom I describe as a “Canadian Stateswoman and Humanitarian.”  I have no hesitation describing her as a stateswoman, for she was, obviously, a woman.

Accuracy and precision in language are wonderful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

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Feast of Gene Britton (April 22)   1 comment

Gene Britton 02

Photograph Courtesy of Nicola Britton

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WAYNE EUGENE BRITTON, SR. (AUGUST 13, 1930-APRIL 22, 2012)

Episcopal Priest

Gene Britton was born at LaGrange, Georgia, to Wayne Prather Britton and Willie Ruth Smith Britton.  Our saint, a member of the Moultrie High School, Moultrie, Georgia, Class of 1949, graduated from The University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1954.

Before Britton graduated, however, he stood up for what was merely right and politically unpopular.  In 1953 he and the rest of the editorial staff of The Red and Black, the campus newspaper, published a series of editorials condemning racial segregation.  Roy V. Harris, a member of the state Board of Regents and a staunch segregationist, censured the journalists—Britton; Walter Lundy, Editor-in-Chief; Bill Shipp, Managing Editor; and Priscilla Arnold—and arranged for the Board of Regents to withhold funding for The Red and Black unless or until the editorial board backed down.  The University imposed editorial veto power on the publication.  Then the journalists resigned.

Britton’s immediate post-University life consisted of a series of milestones and a journalistic career.  He married Laurie Lindebaugh in 1954.  For two years he served in the United States Army Signal Corps before writing for the Atlanta Constitution then running the Atlanta bureau of the Macon Telegraph and News then, from 1963 to 1965, serving as the Director of Information and Research Services of the Georgia Education Association.

Our saint’s ultimate vocation, however, was religious.  In 1968 he graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary with his Master of Divinity.  He served at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, as a transitional deacon and young priest before serving St. Margaret’s Church, Carrollton, from 1970 to 1976.  In 1977 Bennett J. Sims, Bishop of Atlanta, appointed him to St. Clement’s Church, Canton.  Two years later Britton began his tenure as the Rector of the Church of the Resurrection, East Point.  Seven years later he moved to Athens to become the Rector of St. Gregory the Great Church.  There, in 1988, Laurie, his first wife died.  From there he retired in 1995.  And there our saint remarried (to Nicola Joy Wolstenholme) toward the end of his tenure.

Britton contributed to the Diocese of Atlanta in various ways.  From 1982 to 1984 he served as the Co-chairperson of the new Commission of Racism.  He also served on the Executive Committee, the Commission on Ministry, and the Task Force on Discernment and the Formation of Vocations.  And he chaired the Board of Governors of Mikell Camp and Conference Center.

Our saint continued to serve during retirement.  He was the Interim Rector of St. Alban’s, Elberton, and St. Andrew’s, Hartwell.  He also assisted at Emmanuel Church, Athens, and worked as a chaplain for the state Department of Corrections at the I. W. Davis Probation Detention Center, Jefferson.

Britton’s survivors include Nicola Britton, his wife of sixteen years; two sons, Wayne Eugene Britton, Jr., and Edward B. Britton; Edward’s wife, Cathy Parker; a stepson, Wayne’s daughter, Evey Britton; Andrew Spencer; a stepdaughter, Emily Spencer.

Our saint pursued his passions, from the Enneagram Model of Human Personality to photography to The University of Georgia Bulldogs.  And he influenced people positively, leaving his corners of the world better than he found them.  Much tangible and intangible evidence of that continues to be easy to find at St. Gregory the Great Church, Athens, from the outdoor cross and altar (a memorial to Laurie) to the lives of parishioners from his time there.

Britton insisted correctly, as I have read in his history of the church, that The Episcopal Church is Catholic, not Protesant.  Protestants, he wrote, do not have priests.

My only regret in relation to Gene Britton is that I never had the opportunity to get to know him.  I met him a few times, occasions which left me with a favorable opinion of him.  But knowing him would have enriched me life much more.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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Amended on September 4 and 7, 2013

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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 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

Feast of Milner Ball (April 6)   Leave a comment

Image Source = University of Georgia Law School Tribute Page

(Link located in this post)

MILNER SHIVERS BALL (APRIL 10-1936-APRIL 6, 2011)

Presbyterian Minister, Law Professor, Witness for Civil Rights, Humanitarian

From time to time one finds one’s self in the company of greatness.  The greatest of people are those who improve the lives of others, often facing scorn for part or much of their efforts.  Years and decades later, admirers speak of how courageous these great people were, but such high praise was scarce at the time.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1936, and educated in Georgia and Tennessee public schools, Milner Ball earned his A.B. degree from Princeton University and his Master of Divinity from Harvard University.  A man possessed of a keen intellect and deep Christian faith, he studied with Karl Barth and became a Presbyterian minister.  Lifelong concerns for social justice led Ball to support causes usually described as liberal.  In the 1960s, for example he was openly pro-civil rights.  After a stint as pastor in Manchester, Tennessee, he became the Presbyterian campus minister at The University of Georgia (UGA).  There his demonstrated belief in racial equality aroused much opposition at the recently (1962) integrated campus.  The last straw, however, came when Ball became a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but not as a member of the Lester Maddox-approved delegation.  Ball, joined the Julian Bond-led delegation instead.

Ball, fired from his position, entered law school and commenced a career of public service via the law.  Graduating first in his class from the UGA Law School, Ball served as former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s representative to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1971 and 1972.  Then he taught law at Rutgers University from 1972 to 1978 before returning to UGA as a law professor.  He retired in 2006.

A prolific scholar, Ball wrote many law review articles and four books:  The Promise of American Law:  A Theological, Humanistic View of Legal Process (1981), Lying Down Together:  Law, Metaphor, and Theology (1985), The Word and the Law (1993), and Called by Stories:  Biblical Sagas and Their Challenge for Law (2000).  A specialist in environmental law, tribal law, constitutional law, and the intersection of theology and law, Ball challenged his students and readers to improve the lives of the less fortunate and to work for justice.  Law, he wrote, ought to be a force which transfigures society and builds up human community.

Ball’s work extended far beyond Athens, Georgia.  He taught overseas (in Argentina, France, Belgium, England, and Iceland) over the years and served as a judge on the International People’s Tribunal in Hawaii (1993).  Ball was also a member of the Theological Anthropology Project at the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton University.  And his influence continues through the careers of his law students.

Locally in Athens, Ball was instrumental in the Athens Justice Project, which, in the words of its website, “assists low income individuals with pending criminal charges in achieving a fair legal outcome and in becoming productive, law-abiding community members.”  Such work, truly a living memorial to Ball’s commitment to social justice, reflects his active belief in helping the disadvantaged and building up human community.  The Athens Justice Project was just one of Ball’s many community-building activities, with others including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter.

Ball received many civil rights and public service honors.  It is appropriate then that the Working in the Public Interest (WIPI) Law Conference established the Milner S. Ball Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Our love for our neighbors, Jesus said, must be active.  The obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves requires us to reach out to those who need the assistance we can offer.  Following our Lord in this way will cause us to cross lines some of our neighbors consider improper, for we human beings cling to social injustices which benefit us, if only psychologically.  But crossing these lines is part of God’s mandate upon our lives.  Jesus disregarded such barriers, as the canonical Gospels record.  He was (and is) the Master; a servant is not above his or her master.

Milner Ball followed his master faithfully.  He and I participated in the life of the same parish, crossing paths.  Knowing him, even casually, was a great honor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

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For More Information:

UGA Law School Tribute Page

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A collect and the readings for a Renewer of Society, according to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

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 Milner Ball, to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name, 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

First Day of Easter: Easter Sunday, Year B–Principal Service   Leave a comment

Above:  Victory of the Resurrection

Raised–In an Altered Form

APRIL 1, 2018

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43

John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

The Collect:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; 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:

First Day of Easter:  Easter Sunday, Year A–Principal Service:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-a-principal-service/

First Day of Easter:  Easter Sunday, Year B–Principal Service:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

First Day of Easter:  Easter Sunday, Years A, B, and C–Evening Service:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-years-a-b-and-c-evening-service/

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My devotion for this Sunday morning is subjective, whereas my text for the Easter Vigil is a straight-forward “He did rise from the dead” affirmation.  If you prefer that, follow the link.

The power of the Resurrection is that of restored life–in an altered form.  One cannot pass from life to death to life again without emerging changed.  I know this power well in my life.

I was a Ph.D. student at The University of Georgia from 2005 to 2006.  My program became a casualty of my major professor.  So I limped my way to the emotionally draining end of a dream.  I was burned out on being a graduate student.  Besides, in my understandable anger, I had burned my bridges.  There was no turning back, one way or another.

Then I faced legal charges, of which I was innocent.  Finally, in late June 2007, after making my life difficult for months, my prosecutor offered a compromise which entailed the court dropping all charges immediately.  I accepted; at least the case was over and I avoided a criminal record, a result I value because of my innocence.  (Yet I distrust the legal system to this day.)

The combined traumas of 2006 and 2007 killed (metaphorically speaking, of course) my former self.  Then, by the power of God, the new self began to emerge.  (Here is a link to my poem from that period.  He looks like the former self outwardly and has many of the same memories as the former self, but is slower to judge and quicker to try to understand others.  The new self grasps better how much he depends on God and accepts this reality ungrudgingly.

Yes, I carry psychological scar tissue, but scar tissue is a natural result of surviving an injury or injuries.  I am grateful to be where I am spiritually, but do not look back fondly on my journey in 2006-2007.  It was truly painful, but it made me a better person. The bottom line, however, is this:  I am still here, a little worse for wear yet better off in many ways.  I still here because of God’s power, not my own.  [Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

Resurrection used to be abstract for me.  Not anymore.

KRT

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Published in a nearly identical form at LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 28, 2011

Proper 15, Year A   Leave a comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E.)

Mercy–Even For Foreigners

The Sunday Closest to August 17

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 17, 2014

AUGUST 20, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, `Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my deliverance will be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,

and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,

and hold fast my covenant–

these I will bring to my holy mountain,

and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Thus says the Lord GOD,

who gathers the outcasts of Israel,

I will gather others to them

besides those already gathered.

Psalm 67 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

SECOND READING

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

(Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what goes out of the mouth that defiles.”  Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”  He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.  And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”  But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”  Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”)

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son 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:

Genesis 45:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

Matthew 15 by way of the parallel readings in Mark:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/week-of-5-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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Portions of my North American culture tell me that I should not show weakness.  No, they say, I ought to be “strong,” which is to say, tough.  So, according to that logic, the example of Jesus, who showed mercy, is a sign of weakness.  But that analysis is far from the truth.

Persistent anger is corrosive, especially to the one who wallows in it.  At some point the grudge-bearer must lay down his or her burden, for his or her own sake.  Consider the case of Joseph, the foreign-born Vizier of Egypt.  He could have taken out his vengeance on his brothers, who sold him into slavery.  They would not even have known who he really was, unless he had told them.  But he forgave them; the better angels of his nature triumphed.

The reading from Isaiah 56 speaks of the extension of salvation to faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, the Temple establishment in the time of Jesus kept such believers at the margins.  These monotheists followed the God of Judaism, but they were still Gentiles, after all.  Jesus, surrounded by Gentiles in the region of Tyre and Sidon, recognized the faith of a Gentile woman.  And Paul preached to Gentiles while acknowledging that God had not abandoned the Jews.

Those who have known mercy have the obligation to extend it to others, regardless of meaningless categories, such as Jew and Gentile, native-born or foreign-born.  All who come to the Judeo-Christian God sincerely are equal to each other in relationship to God, in sinfulness, and in access to forgiveness.  We ought not discriminate against each other.

I was a doctoral student at The University of Georgia from the Fall Semester of 2005 to the Fall Semester of 2006.  My program ended when I learned that there would be no third year, hence no Ph.D.  I received a letter encouraging me to take a Master’s Degree instead.  But I already have one, I said.  The second-ranking professor in the Department of History said that I should take a second M.A., this time from a “superior institution.”  I scoffed and refused.  So I never registered for Spring Semester 2007 classes.  Much of Fall Semester 2006 constituted a very difficult time for me; I melted down emotionally, holding myself together with proverbial twine and duct tape until the end, when I exploded in anger and said what I really thought.  It was impolitic, unwise, and brutally honest.

Initially I was openly hostile to UGA, especially the History Department.  But that was years ago.  As I write these words, a sense of uneasiness with UGA and the History Department persist within me, but the hostility has run its course.  I am painfully aware that I need to forgive my “foreigners,” namely UGA, the History Department, and certain professors–for my sake, not theirs.  I have not “arrived” spiritually, O reader; I am weak.  But God is strong, and the fact that I have come as far as I have in my relationship to UGA and the History Department as I have indicates extravagant grace.  That grace has more work to do, but at least the process of forgiving has begun.

Forgiveness can be very difficult.  It might not even happen all at once.  But may it begin then continue to completion, all by grace.

One professor extended me great kindness while I melted down.  My stress levels and emotional collapse neutralized me academically during that final semester.  But thanks to one professor who cut me a deal, I received a respectable grade in one particular course.  Since then, as I have functioned as a classroom instructor, I have been increasingly aware of good students struggling with their own issues.  As I have received grace, I have extended it to others.  Jesus would have me to do no less.

No, I have not “arrived” spiritually, but, by grace, I have come as far as I have.  I wonder how much farther I have to go, and I look forward to the journey.

KRT

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ADDENDUM:

Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

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[Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 11, 2011