Enemies, Divine Judgment, and Divine Mercy   1 comment

Ancient Jerusalem with Solomon's Temple

Above:  Ancient Jerusalem with Solomon’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 33:10-16

Psalm 119:97-104

John 15:16-25

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How I love your law!

All day long I pore over it.

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies

for it is available to me for ever.

Psalm 119:97-98, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might have enemies for a wide range of reasons.  Being godly is one of them.  That helps to explain hostility to Jesus, who made evident defects in the political (including religious) and economic systems of First Century C.E. Judea.  (One function of much of the language of the Kingdom of God was to make clear the contrast between human and divine orders.)  Many other faithful people have encountered hostility and/or violence and/or death because of their fidelity to God and their lived applications of divine commandments relative to social justice.  Often those who have despised them and/or condoned or committed violence against them have imagined themselves to be righteous.  Their attitudes and actions and/or inactions have belied that conceit.

Sometimes, however, one has enemies for reasons separate from righteousness.  Such is the case in Isaiah 33.  The unidentified foe (probably the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire) will ultimately perish, as will the sinful people fo the Kingdom of Judah.  Yet a remnant of Judah will survive, for Jerusalem is like a ship floating on a sea of divine love.  The Kingdom of Judah will fall to the conquerors, but God will remain undefeated.  God, never conquered, will restore Judah, for judgment does not preclude love in relation to those whom God has chosen.

Concepts of God are inherently inadequate, for God is infinite and our minds cannot grasp the nature of God.  I have sought to become increasingly aware of the limits of my God concept, which is broader than those many others harbor.  The most workable solution at which I can arrive is to acknowledge limitations of human knowledge relative to God, affirm that what I can know will have to suffice, make the most faithful statements I can, and admit that I am certainly mistaken about a great deal.  My statements of faith are like the song of the bird in a story Anthony De Mello (1931-1987) told in The Song of the Bird (1982).  Yes, every statement about God is a distortion of the truth, but speak and write about God for the same reason the bird sings:

Not because it has a statement, but because it has a song.

–Page 4

The nature of God is a mystery I will never solve, and that is fine.  Where divine judgment ends and divine mercy begins is another mystery I will never solve.  That is also fine.

One lesson I feel comfortable stating unambiguously concerns having enemies.  Whenever I have a foe or foes, I should not assume that God is on my side.  No, I need to ask if I am on God’s side.  I might even arrive at an answer (hopefully an accurate one) to that questions.  Nationalism often gets in the way on this point for many people.  The British national anthem, “God Save the King/Queen,” includes the following frequently omitted stanza:

O Lord, our God, arise,

Scatter his/her enemies

and make them fall.

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix,

God save us all.

Yet, as Irishman Monsignor Hugh O Flaherty (1898-1963) liked to say,

God has no country.

God created human beings in the divine image.  We have reciprocated.  Perhaps it is something we cannot help but to do, for we must think and write of God in human terms, or not at all.  Nevertheless, if we use our metaphors in the knowledge that they are metaphors, perhaps we will avoid falling into certain theological errors.

As for divine judgment and mercy, they are in the purview of God, where they belong and have always been.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-16-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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One response to “Enemies, Divine Judgment, and Divine Mercy

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 16, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary) | ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS

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