Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 15’ Category

God Concepts and Violence   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)

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In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther I: Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

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The daily lectionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as found in their service book-hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), is the one attached to the Revised Common Lectionary.  For the Thursday before Proper 12 through the Wednesday after that Sunday in Year C the first readings come from the Book of Esther, starting with 2:19 and continuing through 8:17.

The Book of Esther exists in two versions–Hebrew and Greek.  The Hebrew version, which does not even mention God, probably dates to 400-300 B.C.E., at the end of the Persian Empire or the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.  The 107 additional verses in the version from the Septuagint bring the word “God” into the story and elaborate on certain details.  The Greek version of the Book of Esther is canonical in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

As I read the Book of Esther again I will consult Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles.  My plan is to read the Greek version fully in English-language translation.  The New American Bible labels the Greek additions conveniently as Chapters A-F, a system I will cite.

The Book of Esther is a satire, comedy, burlesque, and work of religious fiction.  Jewish exegetes have known this for a long time.  Some characters are buffoonish, our heroes (in the Hebrew version) are strangely less dimensional than other characters, and exaggeration abounds.  One should not, out of piety, become so serious as to misread a book of the Bible.  There are various contexts in which one should read scripture; genre is among them.  Furthermore, the internal chronology of the Book of Esther (in either version), like that of the Book of Daniel, makes no sense.

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In the Greek version the book begins with what The New American Bible calls Chapter A, containing 17 verses.  We meet Mordecai, a Jewish member of the court of King Ahasuerus (sarcastically “the great,” according to A:1) at Susa.  Ahasuerus is a fictitious monarch of the Persian Empire.  Sources I have consulted indicate elements from the actual Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 B.C.E.) and Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.).  Mordecai has a dream in which, on a gloomy day amid “tumult, thunder, and earthquake,” two dragons prepare to go to war.  The just live in fear of what might happen to them.  They cry out to God, a mighty river arises, sunlight breaks through, and the lowly rise up and devour the boastful.  Mordecai awakens and attempts throughout the day to comprehend the dream and what God intends to do.

We read in A:1 that Mordecai is not only of the tribe of Benjamin but a descendant of Kish.  This makes him a relative of King Saul (whose father was Kish), who conquered Agag the Amalekite in 1 Samuel 15:1-9.  Haman, Mordecai’s foe, is an Agagite.

Mordecai overhears two eunuchs plot to assassinate Ahasuerus.  The loyal courtier alerts the monarch directly.  Ahasuerus orders the arrest, interrogation, and execution of the eunuchs.  Mordecai receives a reward for his fidelity, but Haman, who had conspired with the eunuchs, begins to plot to harm him.

Chapter 1 depicts Ahasuerus as less than great.  The text states that the king ruled over 127 provinces, or satrapies, but historical records indicate the existence of between 20 and 32 satrapies during the duration of the Persian Empire.  Ahasuerus is wealthy, living in luxury.  He is also mostly powerless, for people manipulate him easily.  The king is also too fond of alcohol in excess.  Ahasuerus orders Queen Vashti to degrade herself  by displaying her beauty to his courtiers .  She refuses the command, thereby disgracing the drunken Ahasuerus.  Thus an imperial incident occurs.  Can the monarch restore his honor?  Vashti loses her position and possibly her life, for he proceeds to choose a new queen from his harem.  Among the virgins in the harem is one Esther, cousin and foster daughter of Mordecai.  This is a secret relationship, however.  He coaches her in how to become the next queen.  She succeeds Vashti.

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What are we supposed to take away from this material and apply to life?  God works behind the scenes in the Book of Esther.  God even works through drunk and easily manipulated monarchs.  Vehicles of grace come in many shapes and sizes; many of them will surprise us.  Many of them do not even know that they are vehicles of grace, but that does not prevent God from working through them, does it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/prologue-to-posts-scheduled-around-proper-12-year-c-revised-common-lectionary/

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Excuses   1 comment

Saul Rejected as King

Above:  Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Monday)

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 86 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (Monday)

Acts 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to the theme of commitment to God.

The lessons from 1 Samuel tell us of King Saul of Israel.  We read first of God choosing him and Samuel anointing him.  In Chapter 15 we find one account of God and Samuel rejecting the monarch for violating the rules of holy war.   Saul’s army did not kill enough people and destroy enough property, apparently.  (1 Samuel 15 does not reflect my understanding of God.)  Two facts attract my attention:

  1. Saul simultaneously seeks forgiveness and shifts the blame.
  2.  1 Samuel 13 contains a different account of God and Samuel rejecting Saul.  There the monarch’s offense is to usurp the priest’s duty.  Making an offering to God properly was a major issue in the Old Testament, for some people died because they made offerings improperly.

When we turn to the New Testament readings we find fatal lack of commitment in Acts 5 and a stern Pauline warning regarding human relationships in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  The unified message of the pericopes is to commit to God–not to be content with half measures.  We should, I propose, feel free to ask questions about people dying because of deception in Acts 5 and why Saul’s offense in 1 Samuel 15 was such a bad thing to have done, for asking intelligent questions is not a faithless act.  Nevertheless, I recall the words of Jesus to a man who used an excuse to refuse our Lord and Savior’s call to discipleship.  Christ said:

Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

–Luke 9:62, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

At that point in the Lukan narrative Jesus was en route to Jerusalem for the climactic week of Passover.  He was neither offering nor accepting excuses.  Who dares offer one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Light Shining in the Darkness   1 comment

kind_en_kaars

Above:  Lighting a Votive Candle

Image Source = AutoCCD

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kind_en_Kaars.jpg)

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The Collect:

Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us.

By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness

of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign

with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 15:10-21 (20th Day)

1 Samuel 15:22-31 (21st Day)

1 Samuel 15:32-34 (22nd Day)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-32 (20th Day)

Ephesians 5:1-9 (21st Day)

John 1:1-9 (22nd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-28-29-and-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-christmas-christmas-day/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/seventh-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/devotion-for-february-4-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/devotion-for-december-25-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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You revive my spirit:

and guide me in right pathways

for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 23:3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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1 Samuel 15 confuses me.  The readings from Ephesians tell me to follow Christ as an example, to forgive people, to love them, and to deal generously with them.  But 1 Samuel 15 tells a story in which King Saul falls out of favor with God for not committing enough violence.  In a holy war an army was supposed to destroy and kill completely, but Saul’s forces did not do that.  The concept of God in that chapter is not the one in my head.

No, I follow Jesus, who did not slaughter yet whom Roman imperial forces crucified.  I follow Christ—victim and victor, sacrifice and priest.  I follow Jesus, the light of the world, the light which

shines in the darkness.

Yet

…the darkness has never mastered it.

–John 1:5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I read the Bible through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called

Gospel glasses.

Thus I acknowledge the superiority of the four canonical gospels to the rest of the canon of Scripture.  And I recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the template to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/devotion-for-the-twentieth-twenty-first-and-twenty-second-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Vindication and Faithfulness   1 comment

Brugghen,_Hendrick_ter_-_The_Calling_of_St._Matthew_-_1621

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Friday)

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Galatians 1:11-24 (Thursday)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/proper-28-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Samuel 9-10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/devotion-for-july-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Samuel 15-16:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/proper-6-year-b/

Galatians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/proper-5-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-twelfth-and-thirteenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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One thing I have asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

to behold the fair beauty of then LORD,

to seek God in the temple.

–Psalm 27:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The readings for these three days tell of faithfulness to God, of faithlessness, and of vindication.  Along the way we read of two different Sauls.

Hannah was childless.  For this her husband’s other wife mocked her.  But Elkanah loved Hannah, his wife.   And God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, giving her the great prophet Samuel.  He, following divine instructions, anointed two kings of Israel–Saul and David, both of whom went their own sinful ways.  Yet Saul, no less troublesome a figure than David, faced divine rejection.  Saul’s attempts at vindication–some of them violent–backfired on him.

Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul the Apostle, had to overcome his past as a persecutor of the nascent Christian movement as well as strong opposition to his embrace of the new faith and to his mission to Gentiles.  Fortunately, he succeeded, changing the course of events.

And Jesus, who dined with notorious sinners, brought many of them to repentance.  He, unlike others, who shunned them, recognized the great potential within these marginalized figures.  For this generosity of spirit our Lord and Savior had to provide a defense to certain respectable religious authorities.

Sometimes our quests for vindication are self-serving, bringing benefit only to ourselves.  Yet, on other occasions, we have legitimate grounds for vindication.  When we are in the right those who cause the perceived need for vindication–for whatever reason they do so–ought to apologize instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALLAN CRITE, ARTIST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOTT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part VI: Rejection and Violence   1 comment

antonius-felix

Above:  Antonius Felix

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 13:1-18 (July 28)

1 Samuel 14:47-15:9 (July 29)

1 Samuel 15:10-35 (July 30)

Psalm 67 (Morning–July 28)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 29)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 30)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–July 28)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 29)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 30)

Acts 23:12-35 (July 28)

Acts 24:1-23 (July 29)

Acts 24:24-25:12 (July 30)

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A Related Post:

1 Samuel 13-15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-2/

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In 1 Samuel we read two accounts of how Samuel and Saul fell out with each other. (These things happen in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures due to the editing together of different sources.)  The first story tells of Saul making an offering Samuel should have performed.  The other version entails Samuel and his soldiers not killing enough people and livestock.  How making an offering or not killing more people and livestock is supposed to offend God eludes me beyond a purely historical-literary critical level of understanding texts and traditions, for I am a liberal Christian and a generally peaceful person.  Violence offends me and ritual sacrifices are foreign to me.

But the rejection of Saul by God occupies the readings from 1 Samuel.  The story of Saul, which ended badly, began with Samuel warning the people that they really did not want a monarch.  Saul’s reign seems to have proven Samuel’s case.  And the reigns of subsequent kings did likewise.

Rejection and violence also figure prominently in the Acts lessons.  Paul evaded plots on his life yet remained in custody for two years.  His offense was, asThe New Jerusalem Bible translates part of 24:5, being

a perfect pest.

That did not justify such extreme measures, though.

Rejection and violence unify the sets of readings.  The God of these lessons is, in the words of Psalm 99:4 (The New Jerusalem Bible), one who

loves justice

and has

established honesty, justice and uprightness.

I recognize that description in Acts 23-25 but not in 1 Samuel 13-15.  That does not indicate a fault within me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-28-29-and-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Primacy of Morality Over Sacrifices   1 comment

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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Micah 6:1-9a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear what the LORD is saying:

Come, present [My] case before the mountains,

And let the hills hear you pleading.

Hear, you mountains, the case of the LORD–

You firm foundations of the earth!

For the LORD has a case against His people,

He has a suit against Israel.

My people!

What wrong have I done you?

What hardship have I caused you?

Testify against Me.

In fact,

I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

I redeemed you from the house of bondage,

And I sent before you

Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

My people,

Remember what Balak king of Moab

Plotted against you,

And how Balaam son of Beor

Responded to him.

[Recall your passage]

From Shittim to Gilgal–

And you will recognize

The gracious acts of the LORD.

With what shall I approach the LORD,

Do homage to God on high?

Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings,

With calves a year old?

Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

With myriads of streams of oil?

Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,

The fruit of my body for my sins?

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God;

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

Psalm 14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;

there is none who does any good.

2  The LORD looks down from heaven upon us al,

to see if there is any who is wise,

if there is one who seeks after God.

3  Every one has proved faithless;

all alike have turned bad;

there is none who does good; no, not one.

4  Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers

who eat up my people like bread

and do not call upon the LORD?

5  See how they tremble with fear,

because God is in the company of the righteous.

6  Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted,

but the LORD is their refuge.

7  Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion!

When the LORD restored the fortunes of his people,

Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

Matthew 12:38-42 (An American Translation):

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees addressed him [Jesus], saying,

Master, we would like to have you show us some sign.

But he answered,

Only a wicked and faithless age insists upon a sign, and no sign will be given it but the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was in the stomach of the whale for three days and nights, the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.  Men of Nineveh will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for when Jonah preached they repented, and there is more than Jonah here!  The queen of the south will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for she came from the very ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and there is more than Solomon here!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son 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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Consider this:

To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

–Proverbs 21:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and this:

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

As much as in obedience to the LORD’s command?

Simply, obedience is better than sacrifice,

Compliance than the fat of rams.

–1 Samuel 15:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

I think also of something U.S. Presbyterian Shirley Guthrie wrote in his book, Christian Doctrine:

One danger of the sacrificial imagery is that the significance of Christ’s work can easily be corrupted in the same way the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was corrupted.  It easily becomes a kind of bargaining with God.  A sacrifice has been offered to satisfy his demands and appease him–so now we are free go go on being and doing anything we like without interference from him.  How did the prophets protest against such a perversion of the sacrificial system?  See Isaiah 1:10-31; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.  Is the prophetic protest against the misuse of sacrifices relevant also to our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ?  Would the prophets allow the split we sometimes make between preaching concerned with social action and preaching concerned with salvation from sin?–Christian Doctrine:  Teachings of the Christian Church (Richmond, VA:  CLC Press, 1968, pages 247-248)

Again and again we read that, although God does not object to rituals and sacrifices, these offend God when we do not accompany them with social justice, especially in the treatment of widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people.  More than one Hebrew prophet made this point plainly.  And yet people claiming to be of God have persecuted populations, discriminated against members of groups, and condoned violence in the name of God.  It continues to this day.

These are not acts of goodness or justice.  An honor killing, for example, is neither good nor just.  Discrimination is neither good nor just.  Terrorism is certainly far from goodness and justice.  But feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the ill, housing the homeless, and comforting the grieving are good and just.  The measurement of how good and just we are is how much better we leave our corner of the world relative to its state when we found it.  Are the lives of those we encounter better because we were part of them?  Are the marginalized included, and the unloved loved?  This, according to prophets, is a standard of righteousness.

I am repeating myself, but that is unavoidable.  The texts continue to beat the same drum, so what am I supposed to do?  There is an old and perhaps apocryphal story about the elderly St. John the Apostle/Evangelist/Divine.  He visited a congregation.  The people gathered at the house where they met regularly.  Expectations were high; what wisdom might the Apostle impart?  When St. John did arrive, all he said was,

Love one another.

A disappointed congregant asked the ancient Greek equivalent of, “That’s it?”  The Apostle replied,

When you do that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another seems quite difficult much of the time, does it not?  This, I think, is why the book repeats itself so much on this theme.  Finally, by grace, may we learn this basic lesson and act on it.  That time cannot arrive soon enough.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW KIM TAEGON, PAUL CHONG HASANG, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF C. H. (CHARLES HAROLD) DODD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. LUTHERAN BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-2/

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