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Preview: Allan R. Bevere

Allan R. Bevere

Faith Seeking Understanding

Updated: 2018-01-17T06:00:04.564-05:00


The Early Church and Caring for the Sick


(image) from Gary B. Ferngren, Christian History Institute:
If you had the misfortune of becoming sick in classical Greece or Rome, it was your problem. 

Responsibility for health was regarded as a private, not a public, concern. In spite of the damage wrought in the ancient world by several well-known epidemics, virtually all victims of infectious disease were left to deal with their symptoms themselves. Public officials did not believe they had any responsibility to prevent disease or to treat those who suffered from it. 

Philanthropy among the Greeks did not take the form of private charity, nor was it driven by a personal concern for those in need. There was no religious or ethical impulse for almsgiving: philanthropic acts were undertaken for the purpose of increasing one’s personal reputation.

The classical world did not recognize emotion or pity as a desirable response to suffering or as a motive for personal charity. And when donors did make gifts or perform services, they intended them for the entire community. Any benefaction (civic gift), endowment, or foundation had to be provided for all members of the city-state, rich and poor alike; this was true all the way from Greek city-states in the fifth century BC up to large thriving cities of the Roman Empire in late antiquity, over 700 years later. 

The sick poor simply did not have an identity as a defined group that deserved special consideration. Classical society required a new movement, arising outside the traditional framework of the classical world, to challenge this assumption. That movement was Christianity.
The entire article can be read here.(image)

Letter from Birmingham Jail


Martin Luther King. Jr.Letter From Birmingham JailApril 16, 1963MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here.  I am here because I have organizational ties here.But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I. compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.Then,[...]

Scriptures and Prayer for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany


(image) Old Testament: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

Psalter: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Gospel: John 1:43-51
Insistent God, by night and day you summon your slumbering people, So stir us with your voice and enlighten our lives with your grace that we give ourselves fully to Christ's call to mission and ministry. Amen.(image)

Saturday at the Cinema: A Practical Way to Help the Homeless Find Work and Safety


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We Always Manage to Receive What We Wish to Avoid


Many years I spent a week one July vacationing in the mountains of northern Virginia with my two sons, Joshua and Jason.On Tuesday of that week, we made a three-hour drive to Gettysburg. I had wanted to tour the Civil War battlefield since I was a boy, and my sons also expressed an interest in going. As anyone familiar with battlefields will note, it is ideal to visit during the time of the year of the actual battle. This way one gets an accurate impression of what the conditions were like when the fighting took place. Since the Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1-3, 1863, we visited at the right time of the year.I purchased an audio CD for the car and we took the driving tour around the battlefield. We got out of the vehicle at several places and spent some time looking around, and since I have that professor instinct in me, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to teach my sons. We began our tour at about one p.m. and finally finished around seven p.m. at the Soldiers National Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. We spent so much time there and yet realized that we could return again and see things we had not.During our tour, there were several moments that truly struck me as profound. There was the stop at the edge of the line of trees where General George Pickett and his men began the ill-fated charge over the three-quarters of a mile of open ground on which so many Confederate soldiers marched to their deaths. There was the eerie Devil’s Den that the South took control of, shredding the Union defenders. Then there was Little Round Top where the Twentieth Maine held the line against the Confederates at great loss. Finally there was the “copse of trees,” the concentration point of the Rebel charge on the last day.I had several meaningful moments throughout the day where I said to myself, “We human beings seem to find a way to get what we so desperately wish to avoid.” So many of our best and brightest are lost in battles that we wish would not have happened. Countries continually find the conflict they hope to avoid with diplomacy. Communities experience pain and insult because we get so entrenched in our own unwavering points of view. Individuals knowing the great health risks in smoking and heavy drinking continue in reckless behavior hoping that they will not have to “pay the piper.” We know we need to eat less and more healthily, and we must exercise moderately as well, but we keep putting it off until we find ourselves physically unable to do what we should have and now cannot.We human beings always manage to receive what we wish to avoid. This is not a new story. It is as old as the Garden of Eden and as true as the orbit of the earth around the sun.In his Letters and Papers from Prison, pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes of liberation, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes—and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside....”Bonhoeffer’s imprisonment was not self-imposed, and yet his words ring true for all of us. It is no wonder that God must free us from our prisons, self-imposed or not, both corporately and personally. It cannot come from us, for we are too busy falling into the very traps we wish to avoid, even though we set many of them for ourselves.None of this proposes any profound solutions to our human condition and situation; indeed, to suggest a solution in the space of a few paragraphs would ignore the complicated nature of our dilemmas, both corporately and individually.But one thing is certain: when one looks at what it means to be made in the image of God, albeit a cracked image, one understands why salvation cannot come to us from us; intervention from the outside is our only hope.[...]

On the Duty of Constant Communion: Because Some Things Are Too Important to Neglect


John Wesley, the founder of Methodism (along with his brother Charles) participated in the sacrament of Holy Communion at least a couple of times a week. He told his people called Methodists that they should take Communion as often as possible. In his sermon entitled, "The Duty of Constant Communion," Wesley gives his reasons for constant Communion as well as answering common objections to those who believed the Lord's Supper could be celebrated too frequently. In response to one objection that I heard often growing up in the church Wesley writes,A Third objection against constant communion is, that it abates our reverence for the sacrament. Suppose it did? What then? Will you thence conclude that you are not to receive it constantly? This does not follow. God commands you, "Do this." You may do it now, but will not, and, to excuse yourself say, "If I do it so often, it will abate the reverence with which I do it now." Suppose it did; has God ever told you, that when the obeying his command abates your reverence to it, then you may disobey it? If he has, you are guiltless; if not, what you say is just nothing to the purpose. The law is clear. Either show that the lawgiver makes this exception, or you are guilty before him.In other words, the objection is that if the Lord's Supper is celebrated too often it will lose its meaning to which Wesley basically responds, So what? If Jesus commands us to do this often and it loses its meaning, does that allow us to break the command? But Wesley continues,Reverence for the sacrament may be of two sorts: Either such as is owing purely to the newness of the thing, such as men naturally have for anything they are not used to; or such as is owing to our faith, or to the love or fear of God. Now, the former of these is not properly a religious reverence, but purely natural. And this sort of reverence for the Lord's Supper, the constantly receiving of it must lessen. But it will not lessen the true religious reverence, but rather confirm and increase it.It seems to me that Wesley's reference to "the newness of the thing" is in reference to a practice becoming routine, which will happen to anything we human beings do over time. Those who fret over the loss of meaning are really concerned over losing the feeling of doing what one has never done before. In this case celebrating Holy Communion once a month or once a quarter will also lose its sense of newness over time as even four times a year can become routine. But this entirely misses the point of the significance of constant Communion. The meaning of the Lord's Supper is not found in our own personal appropriation of its meaning; its significance is found in the sacrament itself and reason why we are to celebrate in the first place.Communion must be constant because the Lord's Supper must become a habit just as prayer. Have you ever heard anyone say, "Well, I only pray once a month because I don't want talking with God to lose its meaning?" Discipleship is a daily thing, and in order for it to be daily, there are certain habits that embody such discipleship-- among them are daily prayer and constant Communion.I wonder what my wife would say if I came home one evening and said, "Honey, I have decided I am only going to tell you I love you once a month because I am afraid if I tell you too often, it will get old and lose its meaning?" On the contrary I tell my wife often that I love her, not because if I don't she will get worried that I no longer do, but because my love for her is too important to fail to tell her as often as I can.And the same is true with our children. Our adult daughters who no longer live with us never end a phone conversation with me without my utterance of those all-important words, "I love you." It's not a matter of my words losing their meaning; it's about my love for my wife and my children being so constantly expressed in word and in deed that it becomes a habit. And sin[...]

Scriptures and Prayer for the Baptism of the Lord


(image) Old Testament: Genesis 1:1-5

Psalter: Psalm 29

Epistle: Acts 19:1-7

Gospel: Mark 1:4-11
Holy God, creator of light and herald of goodness, at the waters of his baptism you proclaimed Jesus your beloved Son. With the baptized of every time and generation, may we say yes to your call to repentance and be led to the life of abundance we experience in your kinship and your love. Amen.(image)

Saturday at the Cinema: What Is Epiphany?


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Scriptures and Prayer for the Epiphany of the Lord


(image) Old Testament: Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalter: Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Epistle: Ephesians 3:1-12

Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Bright Morning Star, your light has come, and the birth of Jesus has overwhelmed us with joy. Like the magi of long ago, may we be drawn to you and offer you such gifts as we are able. Amen.(image)

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction: It's So Cold Outside... How Cold Is It?


It's so cold in Florida, iguanas are falling from trees

By Jennifer Kay

From Associated Press
January 04, 2018 4:02 PM EST

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — It's so cold in Florida that iguanas are falling from their perches in suburban trees.

Temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) early Thursday in parts of South Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

That's chilly enough to immobilize green iguanas common in Miami's suburbs.

Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino tweeted a photograph of an iguana lying belly-up next to his swimming pool. WPEC-TV posted images of an iguana on its back on a Palm Beach County road.

The cold-blooded creatures native to Central and South America start to get sluggish when temperatures fall below 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius), said Kristen Sommers, who oversees the nonnative fish and wildlife program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

If temperatures drop below that, iguanas freeze up. "It's too cold for them to move," Sommers said.

They're not the only reptiles stunned by this week's cold snap: Sea turtles also stiffen up when temperatures fall. The wildlife commission's biologists have been rescuing cold-stunned sea turtles found floating listlessly on the water or near shore, but no such rescue is planned for iguanas.

Well-meaning residents finding stiffened iguanas are advised to leave them alone, as they may feel threatened and bite once they warm up.

"Don't assume that they're dead," Sommers said.

Green iguanas are an invasive species in Florida known for eating through landscaping and digging burrows that undermine infrastructure. They can grow over 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, and their droppings can be a potential source of salmonella bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

On Why Prophets Are Not Recognized in Their Own Time


(image) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, "If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors (Matthew 23:29-32).

Being a prophet can be dangerous. As Jesus rightly noted to the scribes and Pharisees, prophets are are not without honor except during their ministries. Why is it so difficult for people to recognize prophets in their own time? It seems that prophets are like artists-- their work is not appreciated nor does it become important until after they are dead. Jesus himself recognized this in his own day as he excoriated the religious leaders for revering the prophets their ancestors killed, and questioning their assumption that had they lived in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, et al they would have welcomed the prophetic word unlike their forefathers and foremothers.

To be sure, some do recognize prophets in their own time-- Elijah and Elisha had their followers. Jesus had his disciples. Martin Luther and John Wesley all had their devoted laity, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had those who marched with him in the streets. But, it seems that generally prophets struggle to convince those with power, those who have a stake in the status quo, those who benefit the most by everything staying as it is. The prophetic word threatens to disrupt the way things are.

Moreover, we human beings tend to judge the prophetic word based upon whether or not we agree with it. We judge a politician to be prophetic if we like her politics. We anoint a pastor as prophet as one who challenges others to believe and act in ways of which we approve.  No one ever gives the title prophet to someone whose words simply cannot be assented to in good conscience. I have yet to hear someone say, "I disagree with everything she says! What a prophet!"

I don't think I have any definitive answer as to why prophets are not recognized in their own time, other than to say that so often we are caught up in the moment in such a way as it is difficult, if not impossible to  hear the prophetic word because it comes to us in a way that grates against our sensibilities, and stabs at what we cherish. Perhaps only the longer view of history is needed to make true judgments about the prophetic word. Perhaps only our descendants can truly benefit in a large way by the prophetic word spoken by the prophets in our time, as they stand removed from the heat of the current moment.

I am not confident that Jesus' people, the church, would necessarily treat Jesus any better than those who rejected him in the world of his day. And like the religious leaders in Matthew 23, it would be presumptuous of us to think otherwise.

We seem only interested in prophets speaking truth to power when it's our truth to their power. When it's someone else's truth to our power, than prophets are not prophetic, they are meddling in our business.(image)

Scriptures and Prayer for the Holy Name of Jesus


(image) Old Testament: Numbers 6:22-27

Psalter: Psalm 8

Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11

Gospel: Luke 2:15-21
O God of ancient blessing, your servant Mary pondered in her heart the treasured words spoken about her Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Prepare our hearts to receive his Spirit, that our tongues may confess him Lord. Amen.(image)

Scriptures and Prayer for New Year's Day


(image) Old Testament: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalter: Psalm 8

Epistle: Revelation 21:1-6a

Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
How majestic your name in all the earth, O Lord our Sovereign! The heavens reflect your glory and the earth proclaims the wonder of your loving care. In the fullness of time you crowned creation with the birth of your Son. Continue your work of salvation among us and form us into a new creation that, as we behold the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, we may sing your glory. Amen.(image)

Happy New Year!



Scriptures and Prayer for the First Sunday after Christmas


(image) Old Testament: Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalter: Psalm 148

Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
God of glory, you have given us a new name and robed us in salvation. May we like Anna find our home in your presence, and like Simeon recognize Jesus as the Christ, so that, in joy and thanksgiving at becoming your children, we may join with all creation to sing your praise. Amen.

Saturday at the Cinema: The History of New Year's Eve In Times Square


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Me? New Year's Resolutions?



Scriptures and Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Innocents


(image) Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalter: Psalm 124

Epistle: Revelation 21:1-7

Gospel: Matthew 2:13-18
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.(image)

Scriptures and Prayer for the Feast of St. John


(image) Old Testament: Exodus 33:18-23

Psalter: Psalm 92 or 92:1-4, 11-14

Epistle: 1 John 1:1-9

Gospel: John 21:19b-24
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.(image)

Scriptures and Prayer for the Feast of St. Stephen


(image) Old Testament: Jeremiah 26:1-9,12-15

Psalter: Psalm 31

Epistle: Acts 6:8-7:2a,51c-60

Gospel: Matthew 23:34-39
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.(image)

Christmas Reminds Us That Christians Are Materialists


(image) "The Word became flesh," wrote John, "and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). That is what Incarnation means. It is untheological. It is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are.

All religions and philosophies that deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied. Moses at the burning bush was told to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5), and Incarnation means that all ground is holy ground because God not only made it but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here.

One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.
--Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

Merry Christmas!



Scriptures and Prayers for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day)


Proper IOld Testament: Isaiah 9:2-7Psalter: Psalm 96Epistle: Titus 2:11-14Gospel: Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)___God of all ages, in the birth of Christ your boundless love for your people shattered the power of darkness. Be born in us with that same love and light, that our song may blend with all the choirs of heaven and earth to the glory of your holy name. Amen.+++++++Proper IIOld Testament: Isaiah 62:6-12Psalter: Psalm 97Epistle: Titus 3:4-7Gospel: Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20___Christ, our God, whom humble shepherds worshiped at a manger, you are holy and most high, merciful and mighty. Startle us to wakefulness, that we may rejoice in your new and glorious dawn, and, in your holy name, act to mend this suffering world. Amen.+++++++Proper IIIOld Testament: Isaiah 52:7-10Psalter: Psalm 98Epistle: Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)Gospel: John 1:1-14___God, you spoke and your Word became flesh, breathing a new song of joy and praise into the world. Grant that we may bear the good news of your salvation, proclaiming your promise of peace to the ends of the earth. Amen.[...]

Scriptures and Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent


(image) Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Psalter: Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Epistle: Romans 16:25-27

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
Ever faithful God, through prophets and angels, you promised to raise up a holy child who would establish a household of peace and justice. Open our hearts to receive your Son, that we may open our doors to welcome all people as sisters and brothers, and establish your household in our time. Amen.(image)

Saturday at the Cinema: The Holy Night of the Nativity


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