Archive for the ‘2 Chronicles 15-28’ Category

Suffering, Part V   2 comments

Above:  The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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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2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21 or Joshua 6:16-21

Psalm 78:1-4, 9-18, 30

Ephesians 4:1-16

Luke 5:12-26

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I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called….

–Ephesians 4:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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That is the theme uniting the assigned readings.  The call is both individual and collective, and always in the context of community.

The righteous and the unjust suffer.  Does God afflict faithless people with physical ailments.  My theology answers, “no.”  Much of the Hebrew Bible disagrees with me, of course.  My disgust with bigoted televangelists who have have attributed diseases and natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina, 2005) to the wrath of God informs my opinion.  Sometimes people are merely unfortunate.  On other occasions. some people suffer the consequences of their actions.  I do not that interpret that as God smiting people.  No, I understand that as people smiting themselves.

We will suffer as surely as we breathe.  May we, by grace, not suffer because of our sins, individually.  Given that we live in community, each of us will suffer because of the actions and inaction of others.  Not one of us can change that reality.  Each one of us can, however, trust God and follow Jesus.  Each of us can use our spiritual gifts properly, for the glory of God and for the common good.  Each of us can be a conduit of divine love.  If we do not think doing so will prompt certain others to target us, we deceive ourselves, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 202; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR, 760

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/devotion-for-proper-3-year-c-humes/

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God’s Ways and Thoughts   2 comments

Above:  The Exorcism at the Synagogue in Capernaum

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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2 Chronicles 21:5-20 or Joshua 4:19-5:12

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Ephesians 2:1, 11-22

Luke 4:31-44

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We human beings like barriers, literal and metaphorical.  We like walls, categories, and other ways of establishing who is an outsider and who is an insider.  Usually, of course, we define “insider” to mean “like ourselves.”

God’s categories are not ours.  God’s ways and thoughts differ from our ways and thoughts.  We may seek to keep blessings for ourselves and those similar to ourselves, but we err in doing so.  We will still suffer if we are faithful to God; I should not have to write that.  Yet even when we suffer because of faithlessness, we do not suffer in the absence of God.

In my individualistic culture, collective suffering is frequently a difficult topic.  In 2 Chronicles 21 we read of a kingdom (innocent subjects) suffering because of royal decisions and actions.  Fewer kings populate the Earth in 2020, but the principle that a leader’s decisions and actions have consequences for many other people remains relevant.  It seems unfair.  It may be unfair.  Yet it is reality, the way of the world.

God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts.  If our ways and thoughts were more similar to those of God, the world would be a much better place.  We can, at least, marvel at God and admit how far we fall from that high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God   1 comment

Above:   St. Joseph, by William Dyce

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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Isaiah 7:10-17

Isaiah 12 (at least verses 2-6)

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

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Ahaz, King of Judah (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was hardly a pious monotheist.  In fact, he practiced idolatry openly.  2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 gave him scathing reviews.  Ahaz, confronted with an alliance of Israel and Aram against him, chose to rely on Assyria, not God.  That was a really bad decision.  Nevertheless, God sent a sign of deliverance; a young woman of the royal court would have a baby boy.  God would not only protect Judah but judge it also.

Surely God is our salvation, but how often do we take the easy way out and not trust in God?  When God arrives in the form of a helpless infant, as in Matthew 1, one might not recognize the divine presence.  What we expect to see might prevent us from seeing what is in front of us for what it is.  God approaches us in many guises, many of them unexpected.

At first reading Romans 1:4 might seem surprising, perhaps even similar to the Adoptionist heresy.

…and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One might think of John 1:1-18, which declares that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.  One might also ponder the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) as well as the preceding testimony of St. John the Baptist in each Gospel.  One might even recall the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

The proclamation mentioned in Romans 1:4 need not contradict those other proclamations.  No, one should interpret it as a subsequent proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God.  One should notice the theological context in Romans 1:  Easter as the beginning and foretaste of the prophesied age of divine rule on Earth.

“Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the New Testament.  Usually, though, it indicates divine rule on Earth.  This kingdom is evident in the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, written after the death of St. Paul the Apostle.  The Kingdom of God is both present and future; it is here, yet not fully.

As we, being intellectually honest readers of scripture, acknowledge the existence of certain disagreements regarding the dawning of the age of God, according to St. Paul and the authors of the canonical Gospels, may we also never cease to trust in God, regardless of how much evil runs rampant and how much time has elapsed since the times of Jesus and St. Paul.  God keeps a schedule we do not see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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The Communion of Saints, Part I   1 comment

icon-of-all-saints

Above:  Icon of All Saints

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:

Haggai 1:1-15a or 2 Chronicles 19:4-20:30

Psalm 107:(1-3) 10-16 (23-27) 38-42 (43)

Matthew 27:(45-49) 50-56 (57-61)

3 John 1-15

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This is a seemingly odd set of readings for the Feast of All Saints.  One of the purposes of Timothy Matthew Slemmons in proposing Year D as a supplement to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is to include passages the RCL overlooks, so that makes sense.

Trusting in God, who is faithful, seems to be the unifying theme of the assigned readings.  The inclusion of the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, according to Matthew 27, is consistent with the Passion narrative, with which Slemmons surrounds this feast in his reading plan.  That inclusion also supports the point about the fidelity of God.  Related to divine faithfulness in the human obligation to respond with fidelity.  Grace, which makes this possible, is free yet not cheap; it requires much of one.

Saints come in two varieties: those whom at least one ecclesiastical authority recognizes and those who receive no such recognition.  In the New Testament the definition of a saint is an observant Christian.  Consider the saints who have influenced you positively, O reader.  Thank God for them.  Furthermore, may you be such a saint in the lives of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/devotion-for-all-saints-day-year-d/

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Three Kings and Two Deaths   1 comment

The Death of Ahab--Gustave Dore

Above:   The Death of Ahab, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 18:12-22

Psalm 46

Hebrews 9:23-28

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God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

–Psalm 46:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The account from 2 Chronicles 18, quite similar to one in 1 Kings 22, agrees with that sentiment and emphasizes the impropriety of a military alliance with an evil ally–in this case, King Ahab of Israel (reigned 873-852 B.C.E.).  King Jehoshaphat of Judah (reigned 870-846 B.C.E.) enters into a military alliance with Ahab against Aram, a shared enemy.  Only Micaiah, one prophet in a particular group of prophets, says that the planned attack at Ramoth-gilead is a bad idea.  He resists pressure to claim otherwise.  Micaiah is, of course, correct.  Ahab dies.  Jehoshaphat survives, to hear from one Jehu son of Hanani of God’s displeasure over the alliance:

For this, wrath is upon you from the LORD.  However, there is good in you, for you have purged the land of the sacred posts  and have dedicated yourself to worship God.

–2 Chronicles 19:2b-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One can read of the reign of Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:1-51 and 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37.

Hebrews 9:23-28 concerns itself with the atoning qualities of the crucifixion of Jesus.  I, as a student of Christian history, in particular of the development of doctrine and theology, know of three early theories of the Atonement.  Two of these include the death of Christ.  Penal Substitutionary Atonement does not satisfy me (forgive the double entendre), for it depicts a deity in which to stand in dread, not awe.

I will not be satisfied until people torture and kill my son,

that deity proclaims.  The Classic Theory, or Christus Victor, however, places correct emphasis on the resurrection.  Without the resurrection we have dead Jesus, who cannot save anyone.

Both Ahab and Jesus died.  Ahab, who died foolishly (despite warning) and was idolatrous and evil (consult 1 Kings 16:29-22:40 and 2 Chronicles 18:1-34) had it coming.  Jesus, however, was innocent of any offense before God.  The death of Ahab brought to the throne of Israel his son, Ahaziah, who followed in his father’s ignominious footsteps (consult 1 Kings 22:52-54; 2 Kings 1:1-18).  The death of Jesus, in contrast, played a role in the salvation of the human race from sin.

May we who follow Jesus respond to him, treating him as our savior, not merely another martyr to admire.  Grace is free yet not cheap; ask Jesus.  It demands much of us, such as that we not be as Kings Ahab and Ahaziah were.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-29-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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For the Glory of God and For the Common Good   1 comment

New Jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem and the River of Life

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beautiful God, you gather your people into your realm,

and you promise us food from your tree of life.

Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit

we may love one another and the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 12:16-22 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 15:1-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 93 (Both Days)

Revelation 21:5-14 (Monday)

Revelation 21:15-22 (Tuesday)

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The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and for evermore.

–Psalm 93, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King David, one Biblical tradition tells us, was a man after God’s heart.  That sounds like dynastic propaganda, given the injustices of his reign, as certain Biblical authors recorded them.  The author of 1 Chronicles 11 and 12 was so pro-David that he, unlike 2 Samuel 1-4, omitted the civil war between the House of David and the House of Saul:

The war between the house of Saul and the house of David was long drawn out, David growing steadily stronger while the house of Saul became weaker.

–2 Samuel 3:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

1 Chronicles omits seven and a half years (2 Samuel 5:5) of history of the Kingdom of Israel.

David’s successors were of varying quality, from the excellent to the abysmal.  King Asa (reigned 908-867 B.C.E.) found favor with the author of 2 Chronicles 15 yet lost that approval in the following chapter.

The age of monarchy became an object of nostalgia for centuries.  The “good old days” were never as good as they seemed through the nostalgic lens, of course, but many Jews living in exile or in their homeland yet under occupation derived much comfort from that distorted understanding as they hoped for better times.

We humans still hope for better times, do we not?  We also wax nostalgic for times gone by–times that were not as good as we think they were.  By fixating on an imagined golden age we neglect to pay proper attention to what God is doing in our midst.  Yes, the world is troubled, but God is still sovereign.  The divine throne remains established.

The Kingdom of God, partially present among us, awaits its full realization.  We read part of a vision of that realization in Revelation 21.  We are wise to hope for that glorious day, but we ought never to be so foolish as to neglect our Christian duties to leave the world better than we found it.  God will save the world, but we have obligations in the here and now.  May we, by grace, perceive them and act accordingly, for the glory of God and for the common good.  May we be people after God’s heart.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES JUDSON CHILD, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF LESLIE WEATHERHEAD, BRITISH METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Of Divine Mercy, Divine Judgment, the Narrow Door, and the Closed Door   1 comment

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German,  out of copyright

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German, out of copyright

Above:  Doorway in Meissen (1827), by Caspar David Friedrich

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 20:1-22

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Luke 13:22-31

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Glory in God’s holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:3-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The three assigned readings for this day teach us to turn toward God at all times–in good times, in bad times, and in times between those two poles.  If we have turned away from God, we need to turn back toward God–to repent.  This is still the time of God’s mercy, as our Mennonite brothers and sisters in faith say.  Eventually, however, the narrow door of salvation will become the closed door outside of which will be many frantic and disappointed people who had understood themselves to be spiritual insiders.

The concept of God in hellfire-and-damnation theology terrifies me and does not satisfy me.  Likewise, the teddy-bear God of Universalism seems insufficient to me.  Somewhere in the middle is a balanced God concept which takes into account both judgment and extravagant mercy.  I do not pretend to know the proper balance of judgment and mercy, but I affirm the reality of both factors and reject excessive emphasis on either one to the exclusion or improper minimization of the other.  God, to my understanding, is frequently more merciful than many human beings.  King David was correct:

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great;  but let me not fall into human hands.

–2 Samuel 24:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The context of that passage is divine anger over a military census in the Kingdom of Israel.  Even in the midst of a plague in the realm, the author of that portion of 2 Samuel tells us, David understood God to be more merciful than many people.

I disagree with the theology of 2 Samuel 24 as a whole, for I question understanding a plague affecting innocents as divine punishment for a census they did not order.  God seems to have bad aim in that chapter.  Should not God have punished David, who commanded that the census take place, instead?  Nevertheless, the verse I have quoted stands as a testimony to divine mercy amid divine judgment.  The theology of 2 Samuel 24:14 is impeccable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Two Killings   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod--James Tissot

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 118:26-29

Psalm 27

Matthew 23:37-39

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Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

–Psalm 27:7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 118 is a song of praise to God after a military victory.  Literary echoes of the text are apparent in the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Consider this verse, O reader:

Blessed be who enters in the name of Yahweh,

we bless you in the house of Yahweh.

–Psalm 118:26, The Anchor Bible:  Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), by Mitchell Dahood, S.J.

That allusion fits well, for, when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he did so not as a conquering hero but as one who had conquered and who was en route to the peace talks.  A victorious monarch rode a beast of burden to the negotiations for peace.  Jesus resembled a messianic figure who had won a battle.  He was not being subtle, nor should he have been.

The tone of the assigned reading from Matthew 23 fits the tone of the verse from Psalm 27 better, however.  Psalm 27 consists of two quite different poems with distinct tenors.  Part I is happy and confident, but Part II comes from a place of concern and a context of peril.  The latter distinction is consistent with Christ’s circumstances between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or seeker-sensitive Jesus.  That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed.  His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground.  He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt. 19:14; cf. Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16).  The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort.  He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach.  This Jesus’s hair is untamed.  His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle.  His face and neck are reddened by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused.  There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 39; cf. 23:16).  His message ends not with a head pat to a child and an aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).

When you finish reading Jesus’s tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath.  Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reassess wholesale their idea of Jesus.  At the very least, we can point to the text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.

–Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite:  The Origins of the Conflict (2014), page 5

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You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters!  Damn you!

–Matthew 23:29a, The Complete Gospels:  Annotated Scholars Version (1994)

Literary context matters.  Immediately prior to Matthew 23:37-39, the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, our Lord and Savior, having engaged in verbal confrontations with religious authorities, denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, power plays, impiety, violence, and inner impurity.  Immediately after Matthew 23:37-39 comes Matthew 24, in which Christ speaks apocalyptically, as in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  (The order of some of the material differs from one Synoptic Gospel to another, but these are obviously accounts of the same discourse.)  Jesus is about to suffer and die.

Matthew 23:34-39 echoes 2 Chronicles 24:17-25.  In 2 Chronicles 24 King Joash/Jehoash of Judah (reigned 837-800 B.C.E.), having fallen into apostasy and idolatry, orders the execution (by stoning) of one Zechariah, son of the late priest Jehoiada.  Zechariah’s offense was to confront the monarch regarding his apostasy and idolatry.  The priest’s dying wish is

May the LORD see and avenge!

–2 Chronicles 24:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theology of the narrative holds that God saw and avenged, given the subsequent killing of Joash/Jehoash by servants.

A contrast between that story and the crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear.  Never does Jesus say

May the LORD see and avenge!

or anything similar to it.  One cannot find Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for the crown and those who crucified him in Matthew or Mark, but one can locate it at Luke 23:34, which portrays him as a righteous sufferer, such as the author of Part II of Psalm 27.

The example of Jesus has always been difficult to emulate.  That example is, in fact, frequently counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Love your enemies?  Bless those who persecute you?  Take up your cross?  Really, yes.  It is possible via grace.  I know the difficulty of Christian discipleship.  It is a path I have chosen, from which I have strayed, and to which I have returned.  The goal is faithfulness, not perfection.  We are, after all, imperfect.  But we can do better, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Two Stonings   1 comment

Murder of Zechariah

Above:  The Murder of Zechariah, by William Brassey Hole

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 4:17-24

Psalm 148

Acts 6:1-7; 7:51-60

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Psalm 148 is a song of praise to God, especially in nature.  The text begins with references to the created order then moves along to people in social and political contexts.  Finally we read:

[The LORD] has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Verse 15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the context of this day’s pericopes Psalm 148 functions as a counterpoint to the other readings.  In them holy men of God died for the sake of righteousness.  Zechariah, a priest and the son of Jehoida, also a priest, died because of his condemnation of idolatry.  Zechariah said:

Thus God said:  Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD when you cannot succeed?  Since you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.

–2 Chronicles 24:20b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

His punishment was execution by stoning at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Similar in tone and content is the story of St. Stephen, one of the first seven Christian deacons and the first Christian martyr.  The diaconate came to exist because it was necessary.  Apostles perceived the need to divide labor:

It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.

–Acts 6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So the deacons fed the hungry widows.  St. Stephen died by stoning not because of his participation in an ancient Means on Wheels program but because of his preaching.  He, like Zechariah son of Jehoida, accused his audience of having abandoned God.

These two stories end differently, though.  The dying words of Zechariah son of Jehoida were:

May the LORD see this and exact the penalty.

–2 Chronicles 24:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The interpretation of subsequent events in that book is that God avenged the priest (24:24).  King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (reigned 836-798 B.C.E.) died after becoming wounded in a devastating Aramean invasion.  His servants murdered him on his bed.

In contrast, St. Stephen prayed for his killers:

Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

–Acts 7:60b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The text does not indicate what effects, if any, that had on any of his executioners.  We do know, however, that Saul of Tarsus, who approved of the execution, went on to become St. Paul the Apostle.  One need not stray from the proverbial path of reasonableness to say that St. Paul, pondering his past and God’s grace, to say that he regretted having ever approved of St. Stephen’s death.

The use of violence to rid oneself of an inconvenient person is sinful.  To commit violence for this purpose in the name of God, presumably to affirm one’s righteousness in the process, is ironic, for that violence belies the claim of righteousness.  Furthermore, there are only victims in violent acts.  The person who commits violence harms himself or herself, at least spiritually, if in no other way.  Violence might be necessary or preferable to any alternative sometimes, but nobody should ever celebrate it or turn to it as a first resort.

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we pursue peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, not revenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/devotion-for-december-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Honoring God and Respecting Persons   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 26:1-21 (Monday)

2 Kings 7:3-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 6 (Both Days)

Acts 3:1-10 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,

or discipline me in your wrath.

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;

O LORD, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.

–Psalm 6:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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My comments for the post I wrote prior to this one apply here also, I refer you, O reader, to them and pursue a different line of thought arising from assigned readings.

We ought to glorify God.  We cannot do this while committing idolatry, acting to harm another human being (physically or spiritually) other than in self-defense or the defense of another person, or being oblivious to God, who has done much over time and continues to act.  Likewise, when we act out of respect for others, we honor the image of God in them.

If you love me, keep my commandments,

Jesus said.  He ordered people to love one another and honor God.  He also provided an example to emulate.  That example points out how dangerous loving one’s neighbors can be.  Yet if we are truly to be Christians, we will follow him.

Often we humans designate some of our neighbors as people to look down upon, shun, discriminate against, murder, destroy culturally, et cetera.  This is wrong, for all people bear the image of God and therefore possess inherent dignity.  We might not get along with many of them, but we ought never to question their humanity or equality with us.  The Golden Rule stands.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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