Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship

Consisting of one RCL cycle, plus Year D ...


       

One colleague suggested issuing them in a slip case. Now that would be nice, wouldn't it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The lectionary and the liturgical year can lend shape to all kinds of things

With Year B fast approaching, allow me to reiterate, yea, demonstrate, that I have long found the Revised Common Lectionary a very helpful, valuable, and inspiring tool, not just for preaching, liturgy, and prayer.


But I encourage you to compare the Table of Contents and the titles here with the Sunday lections in Year B:


... and the track list here to the Sundays of the Christmas cycle (Advent through Transfiguration).


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christ the King Sunday - 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Proper 29]

Obadiah 1-21
Psalm 87 AND 117
John 12:17-19, 37-50
1Corinthians 15:27-50 (51-57)

       

CALL TO CONFESSION [from GREATER ATTENTION: LERW, YEAR D]
Though you say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”, though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, for your proud heart has deceived you, says the LORD. For the day of the LORD is near. As you have done, it shall be done to you. Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Some people have no knowledge of God. But you are to come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Therefore, let us confess our sins.
        

The Secret of Salix Babylonicus

BUMPED (Originally posted Jun 22)

UPDATE: Here is the FB page for SSB.

There are countless people under such tremendous stress just now, many depressed, many bereaved, many sick, many wounded, many undergoing persecution for their faith; there is so much deep need on so many fronts. On one level, this little book is just a short story, a parable (to be more precise), so perhaps one should not expect too much of it. On another level, however, the need of the world is so great that one would be negligent if one were to keep in reserve the most modest palliative or source of consolation that might ease, however slightly, the burden of just one despairing soul. Written in 1997 and fully illustrated for the first time, The Secret of Salix Babylonicus, has much wisdom and encouragement to offer, despite (and perhaps owing to) its brevity and simplicity. May it be a blessing to you, dear reader, and a source of inspiration, encouragement, and hope to you and to any and all with whom you "share" it. [Thank you for liking it on FB. Bear in mind though, that Shares reach further, and the ministry of the willow is all about the long reach.]

Available on CreateSpace:




... and Amazon:



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Psalm 21

(vv. 1-7)—This psalm, by virtue of its placement in the psalter, follows Psalm 20 as a joyful and thankful response to an answered prayer. Where Psalm 20 consists of a series of petitions for the king and expressions of confidence that they will be granted by the LORD, the verb tenses that predominate in Psalm 21 laud the LORD both for what he has done for the king and for what he is doing in the present tense.
            The king rejoices in the LORD’s strength and exults greatly for the help he has received (v. 1). The LORD has “not withheld the request” of the king (v. 2), but has granted him life—“length of days forever and ever” (v. 4). Such phrases, in a merely historical-literary sense, may no doubt be attributable to the hyperbolic nature of royal liturgy of ancient near eastern culture; but taken in light of the Davidic covenant, they ring with Messianic promise and assurance. Further, this Christological covenant best illumines the alternating use of present tense verbs that describe the relationship between the LORD and the Messianic king:
you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold on his head (v. 3). … 
His glory is great through your help;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
You bestow on him blessings forever; 
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD … (vv. 5-7a)
The use of the present tense to describe what we might otherwise consider “one off,” punctiliar events (blessing, coronation, meeting, etc.) is clearly meant to assert and establish ongoing, enduring, even eternal relationship that corresponds to a divinely instituted and “kept” covenant.

(vv. 8-13)—In the latter portion of the psalm, the future tense emerges with a strong sense of prophetic promise, each promise declaring the absolute victory of the king over his enemies, with the LORD himself sure to “swallow them up in his wrath” (v. 9). Granted, the strong imprecations against the enemies in this section are difficult to reconcile in light of Christ’s instruction that we should pray for, bless, and love our enemies. Two verses in particular give us pause.
(v. 9)—“you will make (your enemies) like a fiery furnace when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.” A couple of features of this passage need to be considered. First, the psalmist in this section is clearly speaking to the king when he says “your” enemies; the psalmist is not offering a merely self-serving prayer against “my” enemies. Second, the Davidic king and the LORD are so closely allied in this Messianic psalm that the uses of the second person “you” and “your” should in no instance be stripped of their sense of theological and Christological agency. In fact, the fiery end of the LORD’s enemies at the appearance of the LORD’s anointed bears considerable proleptic, even apocalyptic thrust. It concerns what God will do with his enemies in the end, not what Christ has commanded his followers to do in the interim between his two advents.
(v. 10)—The other troublesome verse concerns the doom pronounced upon the children and offspring of the LORD’s and the king’s enemies. The difficulty here is similar to that presented by the psalmist’s outburst in Psalm 137, or by the ban pronounced by Samuel on the Amalekites. Admittedly, this is a concept or image that begs for a more symbolic than literal interpretation; e.g., “offspring” are seeds, and in biblical literature so too may many other things be sown: words, deeds, etc. Patterns of behavior and attitudes, especially toward the Jews can also be passed from generation to generation, and regarding these too we should not hesitate to pray for a crop failure. Certainly, this verse should not be used as a rationale for genocide, which mishandling of the text would also miss another important mitigating factor, namely, the moderating sense of progression in these verses from discovery (v. 8), to revealing (v. 9) [NB: fire is illuminating as well as consuming], to restraint (v. 9) [swallowing is akin to surrounding], to containing the spread of enmity (v. 10), to a failure of the enemies’ plots (v. 11), and finally, to flight (v. 12). If the enemies can flee at the end of this process, we can be assured that some mercy has been extended, more than would appear at first glance. Moreover, their flight is mentioned in response to bows aimed at their faces. Nothing is said of the arrows being launched. Thus, we are left with an image of evident and considerable restraint.
            The psalm ends (v. 13) as it began (v. 1), with direct address to the LORD. It is a promise of song and praise that shall ever be lifted up as a tribute to God’s blessed use of strength and power on behalf of his anointed king.

Luke 1:(57) 58-67 (68-79) 80

After her seclusion, which was evidently brought to an end in absolutely the best possible way by the visit from Mary (1:39-56) … and Jesus! … Elizabeth’s pregnancy eventually came to term, and with the birth of her son, those before whom she once felt such disgrace (1:25) come to share in her joy. By now, the circumstance that brought about Zechariah’s silence has become a dim memory and they have grown accustomed to his muteness. They also expect that a son, especially a priest's only son who arrives late in his father’s life, will surely bear the name of the father to keep his memory alive (1:59). It is only natural to receive and to confirm this gift of continuity.
            But the child, though he certainly represents a culmination of the prophets and the priesthood of Israel and stands in line with them, also represents a great discontinuity, a break with the generations-long ministry that has, for all practical and redemptive purposes, failed. There will be nothing smooth and seamless about John’s role. 
            And so, when Elizabeth announces, and Zechariah conforms in writing, that his name is to be John (1:60-63), the joyful neighbors and relatives are shocked. A new name will be entered into this family’s genealogy. Moreover, it is clear—from the moment of his naming and from the startling development, namely, that the aged, silent priest now erupts with loud praise to God (1:64)—that “the hand of the Lord was with him” (1:66). “What,” they wondered, “will this child become?” (1:65) Not, it would seem, a mere link in the chain. 

Romans 2:12-29

(vv. 12-16)—Here Paul introduces “the law” into his argument which serves as the reference for judgment of sin. It also, however, serves to distinguish Jew from Gentile; those who have the law, possess the law, or live “under the law” from those who do not have it, who live “apart from the law” (v. 12). So, yes, there are two classes of people: the Jews with the law and the Gentiles without it. But when it comes to sin, there are two types of Jews: those who only hear the law and those who do it, and it is the latter “who will be justified” (v. 13). As for the Gentiles, we should expect, since they do not have the law, that the whole of their lives is degenerate: their since committed “apart from the law” mean hat they shall likewise “perish apart from the law” (v. 12). The Gentiles are, in short, “lawless.”
            But Paul confronts the reader, especially the Jewish reader, with an unexpected class of person, one who defies all prior categorization, namely, the so-called righteous Gentile. Such a person does not have the law, but does “what the law requires” anyway, which Paul asserts is “written on their hearts” (v. 15); thus, they obey the law “instinctively” (v. 14), as a matter of “their own conscience” (v. 15). Indeed, their conscience itself “bears witness” to the law and to its deep-seated inscription on heart and mind; thus, the ongoing adjudication that is characteristic of the human conscience, with its “conflicting thoughts," will either “accuse or perhaps excuse” the Gentile on the day of judgment.
            This is not the only occasion on which Paul calls for judgment of the self in preparatory, even pre-emptive, anticipation of the final judgment (cf. 1Cor 11:31-32). But here he associates it very closely with the core of what he calls “my gospel,” according to which “God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all” (Rom 2:16).
            Thus, where the external distinction between the Jew and the Gentile is initially assumed and posited in terms of the law, that distinction is shortly set aside by way of the internal and “secret” matter of the heart and the conscience; this hidden, internal life alone can account for the instinctive obedience one sometimes sees among Gentiles who, if they are doers of the law, will be justified before any unrighteous Jews who merely hear the law and stop short of doing it. [That Paul can assert, as part of his argument, “the does of the law … will be justified (2:13), suggests that the claims of James (2:14-26) regarding “works” in relation to justification are not a theological aberration, and are not in conflict with Paul's gospel.]
            Nevertheless, all this is strictly by way of comparison in the social order of the human sphere; it has nothing to do, at this point, with a human—whether Jew or Gentile—claiming righteousness apart from Christ. On the contrary, Paul is on his way to showing how Jew and Gentile are equally needful of the righteousness that Christ alone can impart, for “all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (3:9).

(vv. 17-24)—Here Paul turns to address the Jewish reader specifically, and it soon becomes clear that, whereas the Gentiles are by and large regarded by Jews as idolaters, the Jewish predicament is that of hypocrisy, which is arguably worse than idolatry, since the Jew should know better and judges the idolater as though he did, but compounds his problem by doing the very same thing. No doubt Paul’s description of the Jew who considers himself on solid ground hits very close to home, for it closely resembles his accounts of his own life as a Pharisee (in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Acts). In this description, however, we note the law is mentioned five times:
“if you … rely on the law … and determine what us best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? … You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” (2:17-23)
Such hypocrisy on the part of the Jew, Paul laments, has the effect of discrediting the God of Israel among the Gentiles. He quotes Isaiah: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (2:24; cf. Isa 52:5). In short, those who were to serve as a light to the nations, drawing the Gentiles toward God have, by participating in idolatry, besmirched God’s reputation and thereby driven the Gentiles away from him.

(vv. 25-29)—Now Paul takes the distinction between Jew and Gentile to an even more personal level: circumcision, the sign of the covenant by which Jewish males were physically distinguishable from their Gentile neighbors, he declares—like the law—to be “a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal” (2:29). This distinction between spiritual and literal matters recalls a similar point in the Corinthian correspondence (2Cor 3) that Paul makes regarding the reading of the Torah, but here we should stress that the sign of circumcision is not just another example of keeping or breaking the law (as in the previous references to theft, adultery, and idolatry (Rom 2:21-22). Rather, circumcision is a sign of the promise given to Abraham, which (as Paul takes pains to point out to the Galatians) predates the law by several centuries. Thus, the breaking of the law reveals conduct inconsistent with one’s identity as a participant in the covenant, as one whose outlook, priorities, and ‘walk’ are guided by the promise. Such inconsistency, he declares effectively cancels the covenant: the circumcision of the lawless becomes uncircumcision, or (put in more precise chronological terms) the lawlessness of the circumcised becomes uncircumcision; while one who is outside the covenant community but conducts himself in accordance with the law—such a person shows himself to be a Jew inwardly, whose heart is circumcised, even if he does not bear the physical sign of circumcision.
         Paul’s final comment here is striking: “Such a person receives praise not from others but from God” (2:29). Imagine that! The God whom we praise and adore, to whom we give worship and thanks, has praise to bestow upon the obedient. This is something we should bear in mind as we explore the entire epistle, written as it is with the aim of bringing us—the individual reader and the church in all its rich diversity—to “the obedience of faith” (1:5; 16:26).