Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 21’ Category

Divine Judgment Against Philistia   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXVII

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Jeremiah 47:1-7

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The Philistines were descendants of the Sea Peoples.

Interpretations of the Sea Peoples have changed in recent decades.  The older version of them was that, starting in the fourteenth century B.C.E., the Sea Peoples moved from Greece to Asia Minor then to the eastern Mediterranean region.  They destroyed the Hittite Empire (in Asia Minor).  The Sea Peoples attacked Egypt during the twelfth century B.C.E., but the Egyptian forces defeated them.  Afterward, the Sea Peoples settled on the coast of Canaan, assimilated with the local population, and became the Philistines.

The Sea Peoples’ defeat at Egyptian hands is a matter of the historical record.

However, the former historical consensus regarding the Sea Peoples may have been wrong.  The Bronze Age Collapse (circa 1177 B.C.E.) affected the Mediterranean region.  The powers were interdependent.  Then a combination of climate change and natural disasters, followed by social and economic collapse, may have driven a diverse group of refugees from one land to another, then to another.  Some of the ancient empires may have collapsed from within, not due to the Sea Peoples.  Nevertheless, the Sea Peoples may still have proven disruptive.  Certainly, they were not welcome.

The Philistines were one of the oldest enemies of the Hebrews.  The Philistines oppressed the tribes of Israel for an undefined period of time (Judges 3:31) and again for about 40 years (Judges 13-16).  Hostilities between the Philistines and the Israelites continued into the twilight of the age of the judges and into the time of the Israelite monarchy (1 Samuel 4-31; 2 Samuel 1-5, 8).  In fact, the Philistine military threat was the main justification for creating the Israelite monarchy.

I have already read prophetic oracles against Philistia during this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in historical order.  I have read the oracles in Amos 1:6-8 and Isaiah 14:28-32.

The oracle in Ezekiel 25:15-17 awaits my attention, in due time.

Jeremiah 47:1 establishes a temporal setting for the oracle against Philistia:

before Pharaoh attacked Gaza.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Pharaoh Neco II (r. 610-595 B.C.E.) attacked Gaza in 609 B.C.E.

The Septuagint copy of the Book of Jeremiah lacks 47:1.  The rest of the germane text of Chapter 47 refers to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Philistia circa 604 B.C.E., followed by mass deportations.  The juxtaposition of these facts indicates editing subsequent to the time of Jeremiah the prophet.

Jeremiah 47 depicts God as destroying Philistia.  The prophet pleads:

Ah! Sword of the LORD!

When will you find rest?

Return to your scabbard;

stop, be still!

–Verse 6, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The answer in verse 7 is that the sword of the LORD cannot rest until God commands it to do so.

Walter Brueggemann writes:

Yahweh is not dominated by any of our conventionalities, but acts in sheer freedom, owing no one anything.  Listeners to this poem are invited to face this undomesticated God who may violate our sensitivities, this God who maybe the only hope for the Philistines as for Israel.

A Commentary on Jeremiah:  Exile and Homecoming (1998), 441-442

God refuses to fit into human categories and metaphorical theological boxes.  God does not issue trigger warnings.  God remains undomesticated, despite human discomfort.  So be it.  If we object, we have the problem; God does not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF DAVID LOW DODGE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BUSINESSMAN AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS J. UPLEGGER, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; “OLD MAN MISSIONARY”

THE FEAST OF FRANK LAUBACH, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

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Indictment for Apostasy and Call to Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART III

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Jeremiah 2:1-4:4

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Has any nation changed its gods

Even though they are no-gods?

But My people has exchanged its glory

For what can do no good.

–Jeremiah 2:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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God had liberated the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.  Then the former slaves had quickly started grumbling.  No member of that generation had entered Canaan.  In Canaan, the Hebrews had practiced idolatry.  The practice of idolatry had continued through the time of Jeremiah.  The abandonment of the covenant, with the common good built into it, constituted infidelity to God.  The irony of self-serving religion was that it could “do no good,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) masterfully renders 2:11.

I like the translation of Jeremiah 2:11 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  The wordplay of “no-gods” and “no good” is wonderful.  “Do no good” is not a literal translation, though.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses “does not profit,” not “do no good.”  The germane Hebrew verb is ya’al, or “to confer or gain profit of benefit.”  Ya’al also occurs in Jeremiah 2:8:

The priests never asked themselves, “Where is the LORD?”

The guardians of the Teaching ignored Me,

And the prophets prophesied by Baal

And followed what can do no good.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Ya’al sounds like “Baal,” as in Baal Peor, the Canaanite fertility and storm god.  The connotation of ya’al (profit) is almost entirely negative in the Hebrew Bible, and frequently occurs in the context of idolatry.  This verb occurs 23 times:  1 Samuel 12:21; Job 15:3; Job 21:15; Job 30:13; Job 35:3; Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 11:4; Isaiah 30:5-6; Isaiah 44:9-10; Isaiah 47:12; Isaiah 48:17; Job 57:12; Jeremiah 2:8 and 11; Jeremiah 12:13; Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 23:32; and Habakkuk 2:18.

The metaphor of the covenant as a marriage should be familiar to anyone who has read the Book of Hosea attentively.  That metaphor plays our in this portion of Jeremiah, too.  Idolatry is, metaphorically, infidelity to God.  And this infidelity entails economic injustice, hence the reference to “the blood of the innocent poor” (Jeremiah 2:34).  The metaphor of irreversible divorce (Jeremiah 3:105) draws from Deuteronomy 24:1-4, in which the husband may not take back his wife after she has remarried.  Can the sinful population return to YHWH?  (The Book of Jeremiah, with its layers of composition and authorship, is inconsistent in the answer to this question.)  The people, not YHWH, have broken the relationship.  Yes, we read in this part and other segments of the Book of Jeremiah, the sinful population can return if it will repent, we read.  It can return if it will turn its back to its sins and return to God, we read.  The text mixes metaphors.  The adulterous wife becomes rebellious children.  Yet the call to repent remains.

We know that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah fell, however.  Knowing this adds melancholy to our understanding of these verses.  Nevertheless, we also know that the Babylonian Exile ended.  That detail should add some joy to the mix as we read Jeremiah 2:1-4:4.

To return to my opening theme, the irony of idolatry in the name of self-serving religion is that it is in vain.  The Law of Moses, with its ethical core, builds up the common good and teaches mutuality.  Whatever affects one person, affects others.  We are all responsible to and for each other as we stand together, completely dependent upon God.  Selfish gain, the sort that enriches some while impoverishing others, works against the common good and harms the one who benefits the one who benefits from that selfish gain.  This selfish gain turns into a liability in the long term.

God longs to heal our afflictions, even the ones we have inflicted on ourselves.  We must turn back toward God, however.  If we refuse to do so, we judge and condemn ourselves.  This truth applies on more than one level.  There is the individual level, of course.  Yet may we not forget that Jeremiah 2:1-4:4 addresses populations, not individuals or one person.  Sin is both collective and individual.  So are forgiveness and restoration.  We may feasibly apply this call to collective repentance to neighborhoods, families, congregations, denominations, societies, nation-states, et cetera.

God is the source of the best stuff, for lack of a better word.  Do we want the best stuff or inferior stuff?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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David as a Vassal of King Achish of Gath   Leave a comment

Above:  David Returns to Achish, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXV

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1 Samuel 27:1-28:2

1 Samuel 29:1-11

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Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed

who seek after my life to destroy it;

let them draw back and be disgraced

who take pleasure in my misfortune.

–Psalm 40:15, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The editing of 1 Samuel 27-29 is interesting.  1 Samuel 28:3-25 (Saul and the Witch of Endor) interrupts the narrative that spans 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2 and 29:1-11.  Based on geography and troop movements, 29:1 precedes 28:4 chronologically.  Also 1 Samuel 28:3-25 properly precedes Chapter 31 by one day.

David, on the run from King Saul, found safety in Gath, under the authority of King Achish.  David had feigned insanity to flee Achish in Chapter 21.  In Chapters 27, 28, and 29, however, David served Achish (sort of) without fighting Israelite forces.  David lied to Achish about the purpose of his raids. David was a successful military leader who killed potential witnesses to his acts of seizing livestock and clothing.  Saul had seized flocks in Chapter 15, much to Samuel’s chagrin.  Yet David did the same, without (strong) condemnation in the text.  David’s motivations were clear:  survival and enrichment.  Achish’s motivation seemed to have been that the enemy of his enemy was his friend.  The Philistine king trusted David.  Achish’s lords, however, distrusted David.  Perhaps they were good judges of character.  They pressured Achish into giving David and his men the ancient equivalents of honorable discharges.  David, feigning offense, went on his way happily.

What are we supposed to make of David killing potential witnesses?  How should we evaluate that behavior morally.  I cannot justify that behavior morally.  And the more I read about David, the less I like him.  I understand that Saul had pushed him into serving Achish.  I also agree that so much killing was unnecessary.

The narrative depicts God as favoring and aiding David.  I do not know what to make of that.  I know that, according to Genesis, God, favored, adided, and worked via the trickster Jacob, too.  I remain unsure what to make of that.

Grace is not what we deserve.  That is the best I can do, and it feels unsatisfactory to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HRYHORII KHOMSYSHYN, SYMEON LUKACH, AND IVAN SLEZYUK, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS, 1947, 1964, AND 1973

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN KEMBLE AND JOHN WALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1679

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS PERCY, RICHARD KIRKMAN, AND WILLIAM LACEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1572 AND 1582

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David on the Run, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map Showing Israel at the Time of Saul and David

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXI

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1 Samuel 23:1-14

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Fight those who fight me, O LORD;

attack those who are attacking me.

Take up shield and armor

and rise up to help me.

–Psalm 35:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The events of 1 Samuel 23:1-14 flow from those of 1 Samuel 21 and 22.

In 1 Samuel 21, David, on the run, had lied to Ahimelech (great-grandson of Eli), priest at Nob.  David had claimed to be on a mission for King Saul.  Ahimelech had believed David yet not consulted God on David’s behalf.  In the following chapter, Saul had ordered the execution of the priests, all the inhabitants of Nob, and their livestock.  Ahimelech had allegedly consulted God on David’s behalf.

In 1 Samuel 23:1-14, David and his forces defeated Philistines threatening the town of Keilah.  With Saul and his forces on the way, the inhabitants were ready to save themselves from the wrath of the king by turning David over to him.  David fled and continued to live.  Also, Abiathar son of Ahimelech consulted God on David’s behalf.

In 1 Samuel 23:4, David consulted God, who answered.

I like the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light.  As I age, I find myself growing into mysticism and contemplative prayer.  Despite the strong rebuke of a certain fundamentalist Presbyterian I know, I recognize no spiritual error in listening to and for God.  Contemplative prayer is an ancient aspect of Christian tradition.  Contemplative prayer is a positive part of Christian tradition.  Contemplative prayer has great value.  Prayer is more than talking to God; it includes listening, too.  God, I assume, has much to say and says it.  One operative question is, are we listening?  Are we consulting God?  And, when we receive divine replies, how do we respond?  Do we recognize them for what they are?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO ZEMBOL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CAMERIUS, CISELLUS, AND LUXORIUS OF SARDINIA, MARTYRS, 303

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF EDESSA, CIRCA 304

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF ANTIOCH; MARTYR, CIRCA 353; AND SAINTS BONOSUS AND MAXIMIANUS THE SOLDIER, MARTYRS, 362

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David on the Run, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Ahimelech Giving the Sword of Goliath to David, by Aert de Gelder

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XX

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1 Samuel 21:1-22:23

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They go to and fro in the evening;

they snarl like dogs and run about the city.

They forage for good,

and if they are not filled, they howl.

For my part, I will sing of your strength;

I will celebrate your love in the morning;

For you have become my stronghold,

a refuge in the day of my trouble.

To you, O my Strength, will I sing;

for you, O God, are my stronghold and my merciful God.

–Psalm 59:16-20, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David was in open rebellion against King Saul.  Why not?  King Saul had forced the issue by trying to kill David and to have David terminated with extreme prejudice.  There was no indication of David being disloyal to King Saul before the monarch forced fugitive-rebel status upon him.  David, therefore, remained alive the best ways he knew.  The future king, in mortal peril, lied to Ahimelich, great-grandson of Eli, and feigned insanity before Achish, the King of Gath.  According to the text, Achish knew who David, carrying the sword with which he had beheaded Goliath, was.  David’s lie to Ahimelech led to the execution of all but one of the priests at Nob.  Abiathar son of Ahimelech survived, though (1 Samuel 2:33).

The narrative emphasizes the contrast between the characters of Saul and David.  Saul ordered the deaths of innocents–priests, the inhabitants of Nob, and livestock.  When David realized the role he played leading up to those murders, he accepted personal responsibility.  Saul also passed the buck before finally admitting error in 1 Samuel 15.  But was he sincere when he confessed?

You, O reader, may know or know of someone who seldom or never accepts responsibility for his or her actions.  This person may be a neighbor, a boss, a relative, a politician, et cetera.  Such people blame others for their errors, frequently in the manner of projecting their failings onto others.

Those of us who have read the story of David know he was deeply flawed.  We may not like him.  That is fine.  But, if we are honest, we must admit that, according to the story, David admitted errors more than once.  David admitted errors more than once.  I count such honesty as a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO ZEMBOL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CAMERIUS, CISELLUS, AND LUXORIUS OF SARDINIA, MARTYRS, 303

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF EDESSA, CIRCA 304

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF ANTIOCH; MARTYR, CIRCA 353; AND SAINTS BONOSUS AND MAXIMIANUS THE SOLDIER, MARTYRS, 362

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King David’s Jealousy of David   Leave a comment

Above:  Princess Michelle Benjamin with David Shepherd, in Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XVII

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1 Samuel 18:6-30

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Rescue me from my enemies, O God;

protect me from those who rise up against me.

Rescue me from evildoers

and save me from those who thirst for my blood.

See how they lie in wait for my life,

how the mighty gather together against me;

not for any offense or fault of mine, O LORD.

–Psalm 59:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David had become a political threat to King Saul.  Usually, a monarch received credit for his warriors’ successes.  Yet David, not Saul, received credit for David’s successes.  The author understood divine favor to account for David’s successes.  Saul, already unhinged, became jealous.  He tried to arrange David’s death while luring the great warrior into false sense of comfort.  Saul’s plan to kill David by placing him at the head of the troops (verse 13) was like David’s plan (in 2 Samuel 11) to kill Uriah the Hittite.  Saul established a seemingly high bride price for his daughter Michal.  David paid double.

Michal loved David (verses 20 and 28).  In the Hebrew Bible, she was the only woman whom the text described as loving her man.

David, by marrying Michal, received the right of succession, behind Saul’s sons.  Again the promise passed through the younger child–in this case, Michal.

Saul’s strategy in this chapter reminds me of Don Vito Corleone’s advice in The Godfather (1972):

Keep you friends close and your enemies closer.

Even that plan failed, for, as the author wanted the audience to know, God favored David.  Saul, however, was not finished trying to kill David.  The unhinged monarch continued to attempt to terminate David with extreme prejudice in 1 Samuel 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 26,

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Psalms 32-34   2 comments

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POST XII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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Psalm 34 occurs in the context of 1 Samuel 21:12-15.  In that story, David, on the run from King Saul, also fears King Achish of Gath.  Our hero, therefore, acts like a lunatic, so that Achish will expel him.  Psalm 34 extols God for protecting the faithful, but one should not underestimate David’s acting abilities either.

That trust in God exists in Psalms 32 and 33 also.  God is the master of history in Psalm 33.  That text also affirms something previous Psalms have argued:  God, not the military alone, brings about victory in war.  Psalm 32 reflects the belief (contrary to the omniscient voice in the Book of Job) that illness necessarily results from sin.  Thus the text links confession and recovery.  Yes, many illnesses result from one’s bad conduct, but sometimes defects lurk in one’s DNA or we are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or maybe one is simply in the presence of non-hygienic children who spread viruses and diseases.  Or, in the case of Job 1 and 2, one is an unwilling pawn in a heavenly wager.

In each of the three texts assigned we read affirmations of fidelity to and trust in God.  The advice of Psalm 34:15 is timeless:

Shun evil and do good,

seek peace and pursue it.

–Mitchell J. Dahood translation

The translation of that verse in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) reads:

Shun evil and do good,

seek amity and pursue it.

A note in TANAKH informs me that an alternative translation to “amity” is “integrity.”

Of course, many who shun evil commit it anyway, by accident.  Also, many people agree that we should seek and pursue peace/amity/integrity, but what does that mean in practical terms in various circumstances?  May we, by grace, discern that and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Spiritual Blindness, Part II   1 comment

mosaic

Above:  Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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 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 21:1-15 or 2 Kings 4:38-44

Psalm 49:(1-12) 13-20

Matthew 15:29-39; 16:10-12 or Mark 8:1-26

2 Corinthians 8:1-6 (7-15) 16-24

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Stories of a holy person feeding a multitude with a small amount of food and having leftovers rhyme, if you will, O reader, in the Bible.  This day we read an account of Elisha feeding 100 men and parallel stories of Jesus feeding 4000 men (plus uncounted women and children) in Matthew 15 and about 4000 people in Mark 8.  The mechanics of such feelings do not interest me, but the theological importance of them does.  The Kingdom of God is here, and we can perceive that reality, if we are spiritually attuned.  In the Kingdom of God one finds abundance for everyone; artificial scarcity is a human creation.

Meanwhile, in 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul the Apostle is raising funds for the Church at Jerusalem.  This becomes explicit in Chapter 9.  He, quoting Exodus 16:18, originally about manna, makes a point about wealth, monetary and physical:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

–2 Corinthians 8:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

After all, we cannot take our money and possessions with us when we die.  In this life we ought to use them for positive purposes.  So, for example, if a rebel leader (David) pretending to be in the employ of King Saul needs bread for himself and his men takes the display bread reserved for priests to eat, the physical need overrides the ritual rules.  (Yet, in 1 Samuel 22, the lie had fatal consequences for the priests.)

In the Kingdom of God scarcity is absent.  So is the violence of someone such as King Saul.  The ways of God are not the ways of human beings, despite our repeated attempts to make God fit into our categories.  Part of this problem of attempting to make God fit into our categories is unavoidable, for, when we ponder God, we must do so from a human perspective.  It is the only way we can think about God.  Yet we must, if we are wise, recognize that our point of view is rather restricted.  Our perspective might be, for example, the spiritual blindness of the Apostles of the leaven of the Pharisees.  Reality is much broader than our narrow perspectives, we read.  Are we willing to open our spiritual eyes?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Sabbath   1 comment

Church of the Resurrection February 8, 2015

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Sautee, Georgia, February 8, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 15:32-41 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 8:12-15 (Friday)

Nehemiah 13:15-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:1-8 (All Days)

Hebrews 12:13-17 (Thursday)

Acts 17:1-9 (Friday)

Luke 6:1-5 (Saturday)

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Bless Yahweh, my soul,

from the depths of my being, his holy name;

bless Yahweh, my soul,

never forget all his acts of kindness.

–Psalm 103:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Keeping divine commandments is one way of manifesting love for God.  Observing the Sabbath is the dominant issue in these days’ readings, so I focus on it.

Sabbath is an indication of freedom.  When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they had no days off.  Since they were free, however, they had a day off each week.  Violating it carried a death sentence, though.  (That was unduly harsh!)  The reality of the death penalty for that infraction indicated the importance of keeping Sabbath in that culture, which understood that individual violations led to communal punishment.

Our Lord and Savior’s Apostles plucked grain with their hands one Sabbath.  This was permissible in Deuteronomy 23:25 yet not in Exodus 34:21.  Jesus preferred to cite the former, but his accusers favored the latter.  He also understood the precedent David set in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, in which, in an emergency, he and his soldiers consumed holy bread.  Jesus grasped a basic reality–people need the Sabbath, but there should be flexibility regarding the rules of the day.  In this respect he fit in nicely with his Jewish culture, with its various understandings of Sabbath laws.

Life brings too many hardships to endure (often for the sake of righteousness).  Fewer of them would exist if more people would be content to mind their own business.  Why, then, do so many observant people add to this by turning a day of freedom into one of misery?  I suppose that legalism brings joy to certain individuals.

May we keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, relaxation, and freedom, not legalism and misery.  If we must work on our usual Sabbath, may we keep Sabbath another day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-16-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Compassion and Identity   1 comment

Showbread

Above:  Priests Replacing the Showbread

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 21:1-6

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-72

John 5:1-18

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Yet still they tested God Most High and rebelled against him,

and would not keep his commandments.

–Psalm 78:56, Common Worship (2000)

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Falling into legalism is at least as bad as having disregard for divine law.  Both errors arrive at the same destination:  missing the mark, which is the definition of sin.

One must, if one is to be thorough, read the Gospel of John in the context of its composition:  rising tensions between Jews and Christians.  Many of the latter category were also Jews, but they had become marginalized within Judaism.  Thus invective infected the text of the Johannine Gospel.  The “scribes and Pharisees” of the Synoptic Gospels became “the Jews.”  Jews were labeling other Jews “the Jews.”

That does not mean, however, that the Johannine Gospel contains no history.  We ought, however, to read it with an awareness and understanding of the filters.

The story in John 5:1-18, as we have received it, is one of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, identifying God as his (Jesus’s) father, and contending with plots because of these actions and words.  According to the Law of Moses, the penalty for profaning the Sabbath is death, as is the punishment for committing blasphemy.  These were the charges against our Lord and Savior in the story.  The man Jesus healed even had to contend with charges of carrying his mat on the Sabbath (John 5:10).  He got off, though, for accusers found a “juicier” target.

Legalism–born out of respect for divine commandments–is misguided because it transforms the laws into idols.  A legalist is so lost among the proverbial trees that he or she cannot contextualize them within the forest.  Often attitudes and actions lacking compassion flow from legalism, as in the pericope from John 5.  Was joy that a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years was now able-bodied too much to muster?

Part of the socio-economic-political context of the story is the central role of Sabbath keeping in defining Jewish community, especially while living under Roman occupation.  Indeed, the importance of keeping the Sabbath as a way of setting the Hebrew community apart from its neighbors and its recent plight in slavery in Egypt forms part of the background of the Sabbath laws in Exodus 31:12-18.  I am not a rugged individualist, for I affirm that we humans depend entirely on God and rely upon each other and each other’s labor.  Others assembled the car I drive and paved the roads I paved the roads I travel on the way to work, for example.  A community focus in society can be positive, for we are all responsible to and for each other.  But community ought never to crush an individual.

Our Lord and Savior did more than heal on the Sabbath.  He and his twelve Apostles, for example, also gleaned food from fields, for they were hungry.  Some people criticized them for doing that too.  Jesus, in Matthew 12:3-4, Mark 2:25-26, and Luke 6:3-4, cited the precedent of David in 1 Samuel 21:1-6.  David, then fighting a civil war against King Saul, was hungry one day.  He acquired food by lying (claiming to be on a secret mission for Saul) to a priest, who gave him the Bread of the Presence, which only priests were supposed to eat.  To consume that bread was to commune with God, according to theology at the time.  The author of that story did not condemn David, but Saul condemned the priest to death for aiding an enemy.

Our Lord and Savior’s purpose in citing that precedent was to say that breaking ritual law in a time of need is permissible.  If saving a life, according to that standard, how is healing a man paralyzed for 38 years beyond the pale?  And how does anyone have so little compassion (if any) as to complain about the day of the week on which someone commits a good deed?

Identity matters a great deal, but compassion is more important.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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