Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 28’ Category

The Battle of Gilboa and the Death of Saul and Jonathan   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Saul

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 XXVIII

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1 Samuel 31:1-13

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

2 Samuel 1:1-27

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For my enemies are talking against me,

and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.

They say, “God has forsaken him;

go after him and seize him;

because there is none who will save.”

–Psalm 71:10-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of 1 Samuel.  Chronologically, the correct order at the end of the book is:

  1. 27:1-28:2
  2. 29:1-11
  3. 30:1-11
  4. 28:3-25
  5. 31:1-13

Saul had become the King of Israel with a charge to free the Israelites from the Philistine threat.  He had failed.  After his death, most of Israel came under Philistine domination.  Saul, early in his reign, had rescued the people of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Samuel 11).  Ironically, Saul was beyond rescue in Chapter 31.  Residents of Jabesh-Gilead rescued his corpse, however.  Saul had chosen honorable suicide over captivity.  His story had a sad ending.

Saul’s dynasty continued, though.  One son, Ishbosheth, survived.  He became the King of Israel in 2 Samuel 2.

Notice, O reader, the consistency between 1 Samuel 31:1-13 and 1 Chronicles 10:1-14.  Both of them state that Saul committed suicide.  Then, O reader, contrast that version with with the tale the Amalekite told David in 2 Samuel 1.  One lesson a person can learn from reading certain portions of the Hebrew Bible is never to trust an Amalekite.  Also remember that not everybody in the Bible speaks honestly.

The unnamed Amalekite, I suppose, sought a reward from David for having allegedly killed Saul, even allegedly at Saul’s request.  The Amalekite lied to the wrong man.  Saul, as David acknowledged, was God’s anointed.

David also mourned for Jonathan, his friend and brother-in-law.  Jonathan had good character.  He was also loyal to his father to the end.  Jonathan had been honest about Saul’s failings as a man, a ruler, and a military commander.  Jonathan had spoken up on David’s behalf and incurred Saul’s verbal wrath.  Jonathan had helped David while the latter was on the run from Saul.  Yet Jonathan had never been disloyal to the kingdom and the monarchy.

The germane texts depict Jonathan as a decisive military commander and a man of good character.  I wonder about a counterfactual scenario in which Jonathan succeeded his father.  I wonder what the Biblical evaluation of King Jonathan would have been.  That, of course, is not the story we have.  The death of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 31 and 1 Chronicles 10 may be sadder than that of King Saul.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

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King Saul and the Witch of Endor   Leave a comment

Above:  Saul and the Witch of Endor, by Edward Henry Corbould

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 XXVII

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1 Samuel 28:3-25

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My spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

–Psalm 143:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of 1 Samuel.  Chronologically, the correct order at the end of the book is:

  1. 27:1-28:2
  2. 29:1-11
  3. 30:1-11
  4. 28:3-25
  5. 31:1-13

Just in case we had forgotten that Samuel had died (1 Samuel 25:1a), 1 Samuel 28:3 reminds us.

The Philistine war mentioned in 28:1-2 had started.  King Saul, greatly concerned, inquired of God, who was silent.  The monarch, who had outlawed necromancy, disguised himself to consult a necromancer.  The disguise did not work for long.

Samuel, in popular belief, was in Sheol, an early notion of the afterlife in the Bible.  Sheol was the underworld, without reward or punishment.  Sheol was “the Pit,” slimy and mucky.  Sheol was a mire.

Samuel was irritated, Saul was in a terrible spiritual and emotional state, and the necromancer was concerned for the monarch’s well-being.

The focus in this reading is the depth to which Saul, rejected by God, had fallen.  One should contrast Saul with David, on the ascendancy and favored by God, the germane texts tell us.

I wish that those (especially despots) not on God’s side would meet with more frustrations.  Yet I know the past too well to believe that they do not succeed, at least for a time.  Genocidal dictators are not strictly figures of the past.  Those who transform republics into dictatorships are also figures of current events.  Such people explain much of the appeal of belief in reward and punishment in the afterlife.  Sheol proves unsatisfactory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

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The Burning of Ziklag and David’s Pursuit of the Amalekites   Leave a comment

Above:  Ziklag

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 XXVI

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1 Samuel 30:1-11

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Have mercy on me, O God,

for my enemies are hounding me;

all day long they assault and oppress me.

–Psalm 56:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of 1 Samuel.  Chronologically, the correct order at the end of the book is:

  1. 27:1-28:2
  2. 29:1-11
  3. 30:1-11
  4. 28:3-25
  5. 31:1-13

King Achish of Gath had granted Ziklag to David in 1 Samuel 27:5-7.

David, recently liberated from being a vassal of the Philistine king, returned to Ziklag, his base of operations.  David found Ziklag burned, and the women, sons, and daughters gone.  Amalekites had raided the town and taken captives.  David, facing a revolt by his armed men, sought strength in God.  God answered.  David and most of his forces attacked and defeated the Amalekites, rescued all the captives, and took booty–stolen livestock.  Those troops no longer wanted to rebel against David.  The other troops, guarding supplies at Wadi Beson, also received a share of the booty, spoils of war. They were also on David’s side, of course.

This story supports the legitimacy of David’s claim to kingship.  The narrative depicts his legislating as a king did.

1 Samuel 30:6b-8, in which David consulted God and God replied, contrasts with 28:6, in which King Saul consulted God and God did not answer.  Again this passage supports the legitimacy of David’s kingship.

The following may seem heterodox; so be it.  Saul, according to my reading of the germane Biblical texts, comes across as being better than most of his successors.  In some ways, I prefer Saul to David.  I read of David’s excesses and errors, as well as of Saul’s excesses and errors.  David causes me to cringe morally more than Saul does.  The relevant texts depict Saul as a flawed man who was in over his head and was frequently tentative when he needed to be decisive.  I suspect that Saul may also have had psychiatric problems.  The germane texts emphasize David, I know.  The reputation of Saul, therefore, suffers because of that agenda.

I set off on this tangent because I noticed that both Saul and David consulted God at about the same time, but that God answered only David.  My parents taught me that God answers prayers, sometimes with “no.”  Yet, in 1 Samuel 28:6, Saul got the divine cold shoulder–not even an active “no.”

I do not know what to make of that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

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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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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Saul and the Witch of Endor, by Benjamin West

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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1 Samuel 28:1-20 or Lamentations 2:1-13

Psalm 113

Romans 14:1-13, 17

Luke 18:9-14

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You must not let what you think good be brought into disrepute; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but justice, peace, and joy, inspired by the Holy Spirit….Let us, then, pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.

–Romans 14:16-17, 19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The context of Romans 14 is a communal one.  Food is a major topic.  Rather, what and how people think food–which food is acceptable to eat, for example–is a major topic.  Within that context, we read counsel to refrain from judging one another in faith community.  The cultural context of Romans 14 may not apply to one’s life, but the timeless principle does.

God commands us to care for and build up each other, especially the vulnerable, the poor, and the distressed.  If one keeps reading in 1 Samuel 28, one may notice that the necromancer/witch is concerned about King Saul, depressed.  The Law of Moses forbids exploiting people and teaches mutuality.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile is that consistent disregard for the Law of Moses led to the exile.  Psalm 113 tells us that God raises the poor from the dust and needs from the dunghill then seats him with princes.

When we turn to the Gospel lesson, we may ask ourselves which character we resemble more.  So we think more highly of ourselves than we should?  Are we so busy judging others that we do not see our true character?  Or do we know exactly what our character is and beg for divine mercy?  Conventional piety can function as a set of blinders.  Appearances can deceive.  Self-defense mechanisms that guard our egos can be difficult to break down.

God’s standards and categories are not identical to ours, despite some minor overlapping.  Many who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders, and visa versa.  That should inspire us to be humble before God and to avoid looking down our noses at others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/devotion-for-proper-27-year-c-humes/

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Good and Bad Fruit, Part II   2 comments

Above:   An Olive Tree

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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1 Samuel 28:7-8, 11-25

Psalm 6

2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-22

Matthew 7:13-17

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Psalm 6, with its references to death, fits well with the reading from 1 Samuel 28, in which King Saul, in violation of Jewish law, consults a necromancer.  She is actually a somewhat sympathetic character, for she cares about the monarch’s well-being.  Meanwhile, one gets the impression that Saul has neglected his duties.  I do not agree, however, that committing genocide is a king’s duty.

With great power comes great responsibility, as an old saying tells us.  This is true in both secular and sacred settings.  In 2 Peter 2, for example, we read condemnations of certain early Christian leaders who, out of embarrassment, sought to reconcile Christianity with pagan permissiveness.  As we read in Matthew 7, good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit.

And committing genocide is definitely bad fruit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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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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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part I   1 comment

Witch of Endor--Nikolai Ge

Above:  Witch of Endor, by Nikolai Ge

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:20-25

Psalm 34:1-8

Romans 15:1-6

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I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

–Psalm 23:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That verse from Psalm 34 functions as a counterpoint to King Saul’s situation in 1 Samuel 28:20-25.

Saul was at the end of his reign and at war with Philistine forces.  He had, according to 1 Samuel 28, disguised himself and gone to a necromancer (some translations say “witch”) at Endor, so that she would summon Samuel, who had anointed the monarch then announced God’s rejection of him.  The necromancer was in a difficult situation, for Saul had outlawed her profession.  (So, according to the monarch’s own standards, by what right was he there?)

The story in 1 Samuel 28 reflects an old understanding of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible.  Concepts of postmortem reward and punishment came later, by means of Zoroastrianism, for forces of the Persian Empire ended the Babylonian Exile.  (This does not mean, of course, that Heaven and Hell are figments of imagination, just that Zoroastrians had the concepts before Jews and, in time, Christians.  God’s agents come from many backgrounds.)  The understanding of the afterlife in 1 Samuel 28 is Sheol, the underworld.

In 1 Samuel 28 the necromancer, whose profession was, according to the Bible, forbidden due to its heathen nature, summoned Samuel successfully.  The prophet and judge, who was irritated with Saul, stated that the monarch had no more than a day left on the earth.  Saul took this badly, so he refused to eat for a while, until the necromancer and some countries convinced him to consume food.  The woman, who had risked her life to help Saul, cared about his well-being and fed him and his entourage.

God’s agents come from many backgrounds.  Sometimes they save us from our afflictions.  On other occasions, however, they simply provide aid and compassion until fate arrives.

Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.

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

Our neighbors include those similar to us and different from us.  Some like us, others are hostile to us, and still others are neutral or apathetic.  We like some of our neighbors, despise others, and have little or no knowledge of the existence of still others.  Yet we are all in this life together; that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  We are, in the ethics of the Law of Moses, responsible to and for each other as we stand side-by-side in a state of responsibility to and total dependence upon God.  Certain attitudes, therefore, fall outside the realm of righteousness.  These include greed, bigotry, rugged individualism, self-reliance, and Social Darwinism.  There is no divine law against compassion, however.  And, since whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves, caring for others effectively and selflessly (at least as much as we can) is to our benefit.  Whenever we build up our neighbors, we build up ourselves.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-14-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part V: Food and Fellowship   1 comment

peters_vision_of_the_sheet_with_animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

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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 28:3-25

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 29 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 6:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

1 Corinthians 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-2/

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When [Jesus] had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable.  He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand?  Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer.”  (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles.  For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

–Mark 7:17-23, New Revised Standard Version

The  politics of food in the Bible interests me.  Some foods are unclean in the Law of Moses yet God declares them clean in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Apostle Paul dealt with the issue of food in passing in 1 Corinthians 6 yet at length in the context of food offered to imaginary deities elsewhere.  Paul could not have been aware of Mark 7:19b, in which Jesus declared all foods clean, for he died before the Gospel of Mark came into existence.  But, if he was aware of the oral tradition or a written version of that teaching, he did not indicate that he was.  There is also the matter of whom one eats and refuses to eat (as in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and elsewhere.)  But the witch at Endor offered even the unsympathetic King Saul food.

There is a Russian proverb which states that one’s company, not the menu, makes for a good meal.  By that definition Jesus considered prostitutes, Roman collaborators, and other notorious sinners to be good company.  At least they knew of their need for forgiveness.  And he did not condemn them.

“For me everything is permissible,” maybe, but not everything does good.  True, for me everything is permissible, but I am determined not to be dominated by anything.

–1 Corinthians 6:12, The New Jerusalem Bible

That last clause is crucial.  Any behavior or thing can become addictive under certain circumstances.  Modern scientific knowledge regarding the pleasure center of the human brain explains the difference between the brain of an addict and the brain of someone not addicted.  So we know that addiction is a matter of brain chemistry (affected by life circumstances, quite often), not one’s weak will.  Yet the principle that we ought to master our appetites rather than be mastered by them is a timeless one.  And we should also master our prejudices regarding who constitutes good company for table fellowship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/devotion-for-august-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Kings (2009)   4 comments

Above:  The Royal Family of Gilboa with Captain David Shepherd

Image Source = NBC

KINGS (2009)

Starring

The Royal Family and Close Relations:

Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin

Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose Cross Benjamin

Allison Miller as Princess Michelle Benjamin

Sebastian Stan as Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin

Dylan Baker as William Cross

Macaulay Culkin as Andrew Cross

Sarita Choudhury as Helen Pardis

Other Principal Characters:

Chris Egan as Captain David Shepherd

Becky Ann Baker as Jessie Shepherd

Eamonn Walker as Reverend Ephram Samuels

Wes Studi as General Linus Abner

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The Bible is full of excellent stories ripe for modern adaptations, not just costume dramas.  The former is frequently the best way to go, I am convinced, for such an approach makes the story in question fresher than it would be otherwise.  Consider, for example the power of Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch versions of New Testament books, including Gospels. Transplanting the world of first century CE Roman-occupied Palestine to the U.S. South of the twentieth century works well.

To that column we can add Kings (2009), a short-lived (a two-hour pilot plus eleven other episodes) series from NBC.  The writers and producers rearranged elements from 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel (mostly from the former) and set the series in the Kingdom of Gilboa, based on the Kingdom of Israel yet resembling the United States of America.  Gilboa, in its current form, is a new nation, just three decades old.  Its new capital city, a gleaming metropolis complete with skyscrapers, is the rebuilt Shiloh, which resembles a CGI-altered New York City.  (The series did film in the Big Apple.)  Silas Benjamin, once a general, united three kingdoms–Gilboa, Carmel, and Selah–via war.  He is now the absolute monarch.  Yet he is not all powerful.  His brother-in-law, industrialist William Cross, is a leader in the military-industrial complex and an ardent opponent for peace with the neighboring Republic of Gath.  Peace is bad for business.  Yes, this is the story of Saul and David updated and told with allusions to the Second Iraq War.  There are even allusions to the Israel-Palestine conflict, for a land-for-peace deal is a plot element throughout the series’ brief run.

In the pilot episode, Goliath, we meet David Shepherd, a farm boy whose father died in the Unification War.  David is in military uniform during a follow-up border war with Gath when he rescues the captured Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin from the forces of Gath and destroys a Gath tank, a Goliath, with a well-thrown wrench.  This is a retelling of sorts of 1 Samuel 17.  David, now a national hero, goes to Shiloh and becomes an unwilling pawn in the hands of King Silas, whose glory, he is stealing.  And David falls in love with Princess Michelle (1 Samuel 18:17-30) and even plays the piano.  (The biblical David played the lyre in 1 Samuel 16:14-23.)  The troubled Silas-David relationship in the series ends with David having to flee to Gath (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2) for fear of his life.  The story would have continued had the network not cancelled the series.  (The ratings were low.)

Other interesting parallels occur in the series.  Silas makes an unlawful sacrifice, as in 1 Samuel 13:1-22, but in the show the sacrifice is allowing soldiers to die needlessly.  So the Reverend Ephram Samuels, who helped Silas forge the united Gilboa and install him in power, relates God’s rejection of the monarch.  And Silas has a mistress, Helen Pardis, as Saul had a concubine, Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7).  Instead of the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:3-25) Silas consults the deposed King of Carmel, officially dead yet imprisoned at a location code-named Gehenna.  Furthermore, the head of the military is General Linus Abner, a warmonger who betrays Silas and dies by the monarch’s hand.  (Joab killed Abner in 2 Samuel 3:22-39).

There is a Jonathan analog, but Prince Jack in the series is more like Absalom than the biblical Jonathan in some ways.  This Jonathan, like his biblical counterpart, has a troubled relationship with his father.  In the series he resents his father, who dislikes the fact that the crown prince is a homosexual.  That would be acceptable in a second son, Silas says, but those who would have power must surrender what they want.  And Jack is not willing to do that.  The Prince Jack of the series is also a sulking, back-stabbing character who is willing to kill innocents and to frame David for treason–until he is not.  But the guiding rule for Prince Jack is his perceived best interest.

I encourage you, O reader, to find the series and watch it legally.  So I will not reveal all the plot lines.  I also urge you to think deeply about the moral implications of decisions the characters make.  The characters in Kings are flawed; David Shepherd is especially flawed while being very heroic.  These characters make bad decisions.  Sometimes they reap the consequences of these decisions; on other occasions other people do.  But God still acts through many of these same characters.

King Silas, in the pilot episode, tells Reverend Samuels, who has just announced God’s rejection of the monarch,

To hell with God.

In the last episode Silas informs the ghost of Samuels (Silas does not know that he is speaking to the Reverend’s spirit) that he (Silas) and God are at war.  Silas, the rejected chosen one of God, has embraced his rebellion against God.  He does not even labor under the illusion of being on God’s side.  And, with actor Ian McShane playing the part, the scenes are a pleasure to watch.  Yet that pleasure comes mixed with the knowledge that the monarch’s fate did not have to come down to this.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHAL BAYLON, FRANCISCAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HOBART HARE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TE TAURI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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