Empires and Nation-States Rise and Fall, But God Reigns Supreme Always   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of the Ishtar Gate, Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004000690/PP/)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 2:31-45 (Revised English Bible):

[Daniel addressed King Nebudchadnezzar II, saying,]

As you watched, there appeared to your majesty a great image.  Huge and dreading, it stood before you, fearsome to behold.  The head of the image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron and part clay.  While you watched, you saw a stone hewn from a mountain by no human hand; it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay and shattered them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were all shattered into fragments, as if they were chaff from a summer threshing-floor the wind swept them away until no trace of them remained.  But the stone which struck the image grew and became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

This was the dream; now we shall relate to your majesty its interpretation.  Your majesty, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom with its power, its might, and its honour, in whose hands he has placed mankind wherever they live, the wild animals, and the birds of the air, granting you sovereignty over the whole world.  After you will arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, then a third kingdom, of bronze, which will will have sovereignty over the whole world.  There will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron shatters and breaks all things, it will shatter and crush the others.  As in your vision the feet and toes were part potter’s clay and part iron, so it will be a divided kingdom, and just as you saw iron mixed with clay from the ground, so it will have in it something of the strength of iron.  The toes being part iron and part clay means that the kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.  As in your vision the iron was mixed with the clay, so there will be a mixing of families by intermarriage, but such alliances will not be stable:  iron does not mix with clay.  In the times of those kings the God of heaven will establish a kingdom which will never be destroyed, nor will it ever pass to another people; it will shatter all these kingdoms and make and end of them, while it will itself endure for ever.  This is meaning of your vision of the stone being hewn from a mountain by no human hand, and then shattering the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.  A mighty God has made known to your majesty what is to be hereafter.  The dream and its interpretation are true and trustworthy.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;

proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations

and his wonders among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

5 As for the gods of the nations, they are but idols;

but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!

Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:5-9 (Revised English Bible):

Some people were talking about the temple and the beauty of its fine stones and ornaments.  Jesus said,

These things you are gazing at–the time will come when not one stone will be left upon another; they will all be thrown down.

They asked,

Teacher, when will that be?  What will be the sign that these things are about to happen?

He said,

Take care that you are not misled.  For many will come claiming my name and saying, “I am he,” and “The time has come.”  Do not follow them.  And when you hear of wars and insurrections, do not panic.  These things are bound to happen first, but the end does not follow at once.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I like maps, especially old ones.  Two of the books in my library are Longmans’ New School Atlas (1901) and Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945).  The latter comes with a supplement reflecting the post-World War II borders.  The maps of Europe and Asia changed quite a bit more than once from 1901 to 1945.  The Russian Empire became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  The German Empire shrank slightly into the Weimar Republic, which transformed into the Third Reich, which expanded and shrank greatly, becoming two Germanies.  Austria-Hungary broke up.  Yugoslavia was born.  Poland was reborn, but its borders shifted greatly from 1919 to 1945.  And, in Asia, Japan engulfed many colonies and nations, only to lose the territory. Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed, leaving Turkey and former colonies in its wake.   Since 1945, two Germanies have become one, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have crumbled, Czechoslovakia has divided, and European colonial empires have fallen.  The British used to boast that the sun never set on their empire.  It was the literal truth; there was daylight somewhere in the British Empire at any given time.  The jealous Germans, of course, grumbled that God did not trust the British in the dark.  Now the sun never sets on the Falkland Islands and small Atlantic and Pacific islands.

Empires and nation-states rise and fall, but God is always in charge.  This lesson is part of the reading from Daniel.  Reputable scholars of the Bible have read the interpretation of Nebudachnezzar II’s dream and detected references to his Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire plus the Persian Empire, the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire, and the Roman Republic/Empire.  The Persians conquered the Chaldeans, but Alexander defeated the Persians.  The Seleucid Empire arose from the ashes of Alexander’s Macedonian Empire, but the Romans conquered the weakened Seleucids.  Rome, of course, divided east-west, with the Western Empire fading away by 476 C.E. and the Ottomans putting the remains of the Eastern Empire out of their misery in 1453.  All of these were mighty empires, each in its own day, but are no more.

Proper 29, the Last Sunday after Pentecost (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/), was Christ the King Sunday.  A few days ago, I wrote the following post (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-wednesday-year-1/), in which I dwelt on the theme that “God is the ruler yet.”  The mountain of God (to borrow an analogy from Daniel 2) shatters kingdoms and stands forever.  Yet cults of personality have arisen and persisted.  Members of the German military swore loyalty to Adolf Hitler, not the German state or constitution.  To this day many virulent racists celebrate the Fuhrer’s birthday.  There is a bizarre cult of personality surrounding the deceased founder of the ruling Kim family in North Korea.  And the cult of personality surrounding Joseph Stalin, despite some setbacks, has never died, unlike Stalin.  Yet “God is the ruler yet.”  May we remember this always, ordering our priorities accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

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One response to “Empires and Nation-States Rise and Fall, But God Reigns Supreme Always

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 29: Tuesday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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