Archive for the ‘Amos 3’ Category

Threefold Summons to Hear the Word of the Lord, with Three Woes   Leave a comment

Above:  Orion

Image in the Public Domain

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READING AMOS, PART IV

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Amos 3:1-6:14

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Evening Prayer, Rite II, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), opens with a range of options of opening sentences from the Bible.  One of these is:

Seek him who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth:  The Lord is his name.

–115

It sounds rather pleasant, does it not?  Consider the full passage, O reader:

The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,

who turns darkness into dawn,

and darkens day into night;

Who summons the waters of the sea,

and pours them out upon the surface of the earth;

Who makes destruction fall suddenly upon the stronghold

and brings ruin upon the fortress,

the LORD is his name.

–Amos 5:8-9, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Two lines not omitted change the complexion of those two verses, do they not?  Oh, well.

Amos 3:1-6:14 is replete with poetic images.  Instead of explaining references this time, I cut to the chase:

  1. Worship at Bethel was inferior to worship at Jerusalem.
  2. In the context of Amos 2:6-16, this worship at Bethel mocked God because of the ubiquitous violation of the ethical core of the Law of Moses.
  3. The people either knew better or should have known better.
  4. Divine judgment was about to befall the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  5. In the context of subsequent editing of the original text of the Book of Amos, the (southern) Kingdom of Judah was also guilty, even though it had the Temple at Jerusalem.

If the derogatory term “social justice warrior” had existed at the time of the prophet Amos, many people would have dismissed him as being one.  The imperative of social justice–especially economic justice–and the ubiquity of social injustice–especially economic injustice–pervades the book.  The Bible, by count of verses, says more about about greed, wealth, and economic exploitation than about sexual practices.  One would not know this, based on the reversal of priorities in the preaching (if not the bedrooms) of certain ministers, some of them extremely wealthy televangelists who practice conspicuous consumption and espouse conservative political agendas.

They should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Book of Amos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMILITY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMITESS AND ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA RITA LÓPES DE SOUZA BRITO, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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The Superscription and First Epigram of the Book of Amos   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel during the Reigns of Kings Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART I

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Amos 1:1-2

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The superscription (1:1) provides information useful in dating the original version of the Book of Amos.  Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) was the King of Israel.  Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:1-17; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  In a seismically-active region, the “big one” of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. was apparently a memorable natural disaster.  (Ironing out wrinkles in the chronology of the era from Uzziah to Hezekiah has long been difficult, as many Biblical commentaries have noted.  For example, reputable sources I have consulted have provided different years, ranging from 742 to 733 B.C.E., for the death of King Uzziah.)  Centuries later, after the Babylonian Exile, Second Zechariah recalled that cataclysm in the context of earth-shaking events predicted to precede the Day of the Lord–in Christian terms, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God:

And the valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.–And the LORD my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.

–Zechariah 14:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original version of the Book of Amos, then, dates to circa 772 or 762 or 752 B.C.E.

The final version of the Book of Amos, however, dates to the period after the Babylonian Exile.  The prophecies of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, in their final forms, all do.  So do the final versions of much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to the two Books of Kings.  The final version of the Book of Amos indicates a pro-Judean bias, evident first in the listing of Kings of Judah before King Jeroboam II of Israel.

“Amos,” the shorter version of “Amasiah,” derives from the Hebrew verb for “to carry” and means “borne by God.”

Amos was a Judean who prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  He was, by profession, a breeder of sheep and cattle, as well as a tender of sycamore figs (1:1, 7:14).  The prophet was wealthy.  In 2 Kings 3:4, King Mesha of Moab was also a sheep breeder.  Amos hailed from the village of Tekoa, about eight kilometers, or five miles, south of Bethlehem, and within distant sight of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:2; Jeremiah 6:1).  King Rehoboam of Judah (r. 928-911 B.C.E.; 1 Kings 12:1-33; 1 Kings 15:21-31; 2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23) had ordered the fortification of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 11:6).  Although Amos prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, “Israel” (Amos 1:1) was a vague reference.

Since the prophetic office as manifested in Amos was a function of Yahweh’s lordship over his people, the political boundary that had been set up between Judah and Israel was utterly irrelevant.  Amos was concerned with Israel in their identity as the people of the Lord; the sphere of his activity was the realm of the old tribal league, all Israel under Yahweh, and not the state cult with its orientation to the current king and his kingdom.

–James Luther Mays, Amos:  A Commentary (1969), 19

I wonder if the vagueness of “Israel” in Amos 1:1 is original or if it is a product of subsequent amendment and editing.  The later editing and amendment do present questions about how to interpret the edited and amended texts.  Anyhow, I recognize that the message of God, via Amos of Tekoa, received and transmitted faithfully in a particular geographical and temporal context, remains relevant.  That message remains germane because human nature is a constant force, often negatively so.

The reference to the cataclysmic earthquake (Amos 1:) may do more than help to date the composition of the first version of the book.  One may, for example, detect references to that earthquake in Amos 2:13, 3;14f, 6:11, and 9:1.  One may reasonably speculate that the Book of Amos, in its final form, at least, may understand the earthquake of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. as divine punishment for rampant, collective, persistent, disregard for the moral demands of the Law of Moses.  This presentation of natural disasters as the wrath of God exists also in Joel 1 and 2 (in reference to a plague of locusts) and in Exodus 7-11 (in reference to the plagues on Egypt).  This perspective disturbs me.  I recall certain conservative evangelists describing Hurricane Katrina (2005) as the wrath of God on New Orleans, Louisiana, allegedly in retribution for sexual moral laxity.  I wish that more people would be more careful regarding what they claim about the divine character.  I also know that earthquakes occur because of plate tectonics, swarms of locusts go where they will, and laws of nature dictate where hurricanes make landfall.

Amos seems to have prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel briefly, perhaps for only one festival and certainly for less than a year, at Bethel, a cultic site.  Then officialdom saw to it that he returned to Tekoa, his livestock and sycamore figs, and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

[Amos] proclaimed:

The LORD roars from Zion,

Shouts aloud from Jerusalem;

And the pastures of the shepherds shall languish,

And the summit of Carmel shall wither.

–Amos 2:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theological understanding in Amos 2:2 holds that God was resident in Zion.  The reference to Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean coast and in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel makes plain that the message was, immediately, at least, for the Northern Kingdom.  Looking at a map, one can see the geographical setting.  For the divine voice, shouted in Jerusalem, to make the summit of Mount Carmel writhe, poetically, God really is a force with which to reckon.

God is near, but he is also far–immeasurably exalted, inexpressively different.  He is the king who does not die.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 121

How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God depends largely on our theological and social contexts–how well we understand science, how we define moral parameters, and how wide or narrow our theological imagination may be.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God must also include much poetry, even prose poetry.  If we are theologically, spiritually, and intellectually honest, we will acknowledge this.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God may or may not age well and/or translate well to other cultures.

Despite certain major differences from the pre-scientific worldview of the eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos and the world of 2021 B.C.E., the social, economic, and political context of the Book of Amos bears an unfortunate similarity to the world of 2021.  Economic inequality is increasing.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the numbers of poor people while a relative few already extremely wealthy people have become richer.  God still cares deeply about how people treat each other.  God continues to condemn institutionalized inequality.  Many conventionally pious people–religious leaders, especially–are complicit in maintaining this inequality.

Amos of Tekoa continues to speak the words of God to the world of 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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Mutuality in God V   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Amos

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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Amos 3:1-8 or Proverbs 1:1-19

Psalm 115:1-11

1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-17

John 1:35-42

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The Humes lectionary provides two options for the First Reading.  I will write about both of them.

Amos 3:1-8 includes a variation on the old saying that great responsibility accompanies great privilege.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One can never purchase it, but accepting it entails taking on duties.  To tie Proverbs 1:1-19 into that principle, one has a duty to show love for God by doing love to one’s fellow human beings.  Elsewhere in Amos, we read of greedy, exploitative people, as we do in Proverbs 1:8-19.

These men lie in wait for their own blood,

they set a trap for their own lives.

This is the fate of everyone greedy of loot:

unlawful gain takes away the life of him who acquires it.

–Proverbs 1:18-19, The New American Bible (1991)

Whatever we do to others, we do also to ourselves.

The audience in Amos 3 is collective; it is the people of Israel.  To be precise, it is the people of Israel during the reigns of King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (785-733 B.C.E.) and King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 B.C.E.).  The  Deuteronomic theology of the Book of Amos teaches that actions have consequences.  Obey the Law of Moses, please God, and reap the benefits.  Alternatively, disobey the Law of Moses, displease God, and reap the negative consequences.  Many of those commandments pertain to social justice, especially economic justice.

Our Western culture, with its pervasive individualism, easily overlooks collective responsibility.  Politically, the Right Wing emphasizes individual responsibility.  Meanwhile, the Left Wing stresses collective responsibility.  Both sides err in so far as they give short shrift to or ignore either type of responsibility.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do individual and collective responsibility.  Mutuality holds them in balance.

Psalm 115 condemns idolatry.  The real idols are ideas, not objects.  A statue of a god, for example, can be a work of art to display in a museum.  Idolatry is about misplaced, disordered love, to go Augustinian on you, O reader.  In the case of the greedy people in Proverbs 1, their idol was attachment to wealth.

The reading from 1 Timothy 1 reminds us that God embraces repentance.  Remorse is an emotion that enables repentance, a series of actions.

Regardless of who wrote or dictated the First Letter to Timothy (probably not St. Paul the Apostle), St. Paul seemed unlikely to have become what he became in God.  Saul of Tarsus certainly did not expect it.  And, to turn to John 1:35-42, calling St. Simon “Peter,” or “Rock,” may have seemed ironic at first.  But Jesus recognized potential in him.  St. Simon Peter eventually grew into that potential.  St. Paul the Apostle grew into his potential, as well.

If we are to grew into our potential individually, we need the help of God and other people.  St. Paul had Ananias.  St. Simon Peter had Jesus.  Who do you have, O reader?

Likewise, if we are to grow into our potential collectively, we need the help of God and other groups of people.  We live in a web of mutuality.  We know this, do we not?  Globalization, at least, should have taught us that the communities and nation-states can affect the fates of our communities and nation-states.  

Will we work for the common good?  Or will we persist in delusions of amoral rugged individualism and isolationism?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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The Reigns of Kings Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah of Israel   5 comments

Above:  King Menahem of Israel

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 XCVII

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2 Kings 15:14-31

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If you pursue justice, you will attain it

and wear it as a glorious robe.

Birds flock with their kind;

so truth returns to those who practice it.

A lion lies in wait for the workers of iniquity.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 27:8-10, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (Reigned 785-733 B.C.E.)

King Jotham of Judah (Reigned 759-743 B.C.E.)

King Menahem of Israel (Reigned 747-737 B.C.E.)

King Pekahiah of Israel (Reigned 737-735 B.C.E.)

King Pekah of Israel (Reigned 735-732 B.C.E.)

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As I read the brief accounts in 2 Kings 14-21, I cannot help but replay the Book of Amos in my head.  I also note the fall of the fifth dynasty in the northern Kingdom of Israel.  Furthermore, I notice the kingdom’s diminished status, relative to its neighbors, especially the rising Neo-Assyrian Empire, which devoured the Kingdom of Aram in 732 B.C.E.  And I wonder why any sane man would seek to become the King of Israel.

The Kingdom of Israel was in its death spiral.  Two men fighting who would be the King of Israel was like to quote a line from a different context,  

like two bald men fighting over a comb.

But fight they did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHÜTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF HALFORD E. LUCCOCK, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDELEINE OF JESUS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JESUS

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The Reigns of Kings Jeroboam II, Zechariah, and Shallum of Israel   7 comments

Above:  King Jeroboam II of Israel

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 XCVI

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2 Kings 14:23-29; 15:8-16

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Do not invite death by the error of your life,

nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;

because God did not make death,

and he does not delight in the death of the living.

For he created all things that they might exist,

and the creatures of the world ware wholesome,

and there is no destructive poison in them;

and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For righteousness is immortal.

But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death;

considering him a friend, they pined away,

and they made a covenant with him,

because they are fit to belong to his party.

–Wisdom of Solomon 1:12-16, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Amaziah of Judah (Reigned 798-769 B.C.E.)

King Jeroboam II of Israel (Reigned 788-747 B.C.E.)

King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (Reigned 785-733 B.C.E.)

King Zechariah of Israel (Reigned 747 B.C.E.)

King Shallum of Israel (Reigned 747 B.C.E.)

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The Kingdom of Israel seemed to be doing well during the reign of King Jeroboam II.  The military was strong, the borders were secure, Assyria was not yet the threat it went on to become. The Kingdom of Israel was prosperous, but the uneven distribution of wealth meant that the relative few rich people owed their money and status to the exploitation of the impoverished masses.  The devastating and timeless prophecies of Amos came from this time.

A quarter of a century after King Jeroboam II died, the Assyrians conquered Israel.

King Jeroboam II was the fourth of five monarchs of the House of Jehu.  The fifth monarch, King Zechariah, reigned for about half a year before he died in a coup d’état.  The next King of Israel, Shallum, reigned for about a month before he died in another coup d’êtat.

The accounts in 2 Kings 14 and 15 are brief.  I suspect that the author chose not to dwell on these three kings.  

For a fuller flavor of the time of Jeroboam II, read the Book of Amos.  Its moral standards should alarm many people around the world today.  After all, human nature is a constant.  So is God.  

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHÜTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF HALFORD E. LUCCOCK, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDELEINE OF JESUS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JESUS

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The Impiety of Injustice   1 comment

The Prophet Amos Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Amos, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 3:13-4:5

Psalm 90:12-17

Matthew 15:1-9

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The common thread in Amos 3:13-4:5 and Matthew 15:1-9 is the condemnation of defrauding the poor and robbing the needy, especially while maintaining the appearance of holiness.

Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the Temple, for the support of the priests.  Jesus accused some Pharisees and scribes of enriching themselves by accepting such donations.  The problem was that many such donations came at the expense of donors’ relatives, who needed that money.  Korban, therefore, became a means of committing impiety while maintaining the appearance of holiness.  Those who knowingly accepted such gifts were also guilty of a great offense.

A timeless lesson with many culturally specific examples is that attempting to cover up exploitation with the facade of piety neither fools nor impresses God, who commands the equitable treatment of people and condemns the exploitation and oppression thereof.  Rituals can prove to be beautiful and spiritually helpful, but one ought never to make a mockery of them by treating them like talismans in the service of shielding one from the consequences of one’s unjust acts for which one neither apologizes nor repents.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-23-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities II   1 comment

Amos and Obadiah

Above:  An Icon of the Prophets Amos and Obadiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, from you come all holy desires,

all good counsels, and all just works.

Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies,

may live in peace and quietness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 2:6-16 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Colossians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Colossians 4:2-18 (Friday)

Luke 1:57-80 (Saturday)

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I will listen, O LORD God, to what you are saying,

for you are speaking peace to your faithful people

and those who turn their hearts to you.

Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,

that your glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

O LORD, you will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before you,

and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

–Psalm 85:8-13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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At the risk of sounding like Peter Parker’s uncle Ben, I repeat the old statement that great responsibility accompanies great ability.  In the Book of Amos the Hebrew nation had squandered opportunities to be a light to the nations.  They had fallen into idolatry, economic injustice, and attempts to stifle prophecy, among other sins.  As Amos announced, God was quite upset:

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has spoken concerning you,

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt:

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

–Amos 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The hope which Psalm 85:8-13 expressed seemed far removed from reality.

Turning to the pericopes from the New Testament, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. John the Baptist lived up to their responsibilities.  St. Paul (who might have even written or dictated the Letter to the Colossians) and St. John the Baptist gave their lives for God.  Our Blessed Mother raised the Son of God properly with the able help of St. Joseph and experienced great heartache prior to her Assumption into Heaven.

The call of God, with all its responsibilities, carries great risks, joys, sorrows, and rewards.  I, as a Christian, follow Jesus, who gave everything.  Dare I shirk my responsibilities and offer excuses instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-10-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Leaving Judgment to God, Part III   1 comment

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--Albrecht Durer

Above:  The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Durer

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 1:1-2:5 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 70 (All Days)

Revelation 8:6-9:12 (Thursday)

Revelation 9:13-21 (Friday)

Matthew 24:1-14 (Saturday)

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Be pleased, God, to rescue me,

Yahweh, come quickly and help me:

Shame and dismay to those who seek my life!

Back with them! Let them be humiliated

who delight in my misfortunes!

Let them shrink away covered with shame,

those who say, “Aha, aha!”

But joy and happiness in you to all who seek you.

Let them ceaselessly cry, “God is great,”

who love your saving power.

Poor and needy as I am,

God, come quickly to me!

Yahweh, my helper, my Saviour, do not delay!

–Psalm 70, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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As I read the lessons I wondered what I could write that I have not covered many times already.  The tone of the assigned passages fits the them of the church year well, for lectionaries tend to take an apocalyptic turn the last three or four weeks before Advent.  The theme of God destroying the sinful old order before replacing it with the Kingdom of God fully realized is quite old, as is the call to repent.  But how many times can one repeat the theology of repenting–turning around or changing one’s mind–without sounding like the most scratched of records and tiring of saying the same old thing again and again?

Here is something to consider:  we Christians need to accept the reality that Jesus was not always nice.  He seems so nice in illustrations from Bibles for children, but the canonical Gospels attribute many harsh words to him.  And judgment is as much a part of spiritual reality as is forgiveness.  Most of the readings for these days focus on judgment, but the possibility of forgiveness is present in some of them.  A plea for divine judgment against one’s adversaries, such as we find in Psalm 70 and many other psalms, is an understandable and familiar prayer.  I have uttered something like it many times.  Yet such attitudes will not aid or abet the arrival of the fully realized Kingdom of God or the partially realized one.

God is not always nice.  Jesus was not always nice.  And we are not always nice.  Furthermore, we do not understand God or Jesus much of the time, but doing so is not necessary.  We can, however, leave the judging to God and strive, by grace, to live mercifully and compassionately.  That proves quite difficult often, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-27-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Reading and Pondering Amos, Part Two   1 comment

Above:  President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Societal Righteousness

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Amos 3:1-4, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has has spoken concerning you;

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt;

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

Can two walk together

Without having met?

Does a lion roar in the forest

When he has no prey?

Does a great beast let out a cry from its den

Without having made a capture?

Hear [this], and warn the House of Jacob

–says my Lord GOD, the God of Hosts–

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The book of Amos has provided inspiration for those who have pursued social justice out of their faith.  Modern examples include labor activists, civil rights workers, and adherents of Liberation Theology.

Abraham Heschel writes (on page 34 of The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962) that, in Amos,

God’s supreme concern is righteousness and that His essential demand of man is to establish justice.

This is justice, which, for Amos, can exist only in the context of God, who seeks intimacy with human beings.  This reminds me of the Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which includes a promise to respect the dignity of every human being–In other words, to love one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self.

An individual can pursue this goal, which one ought to do.  And, by grace, he or she can succeed more in time.  But what about pursuing this good on a societal level?  Theocracy is not the answer, for (A) it leads to abuses of alleged heretics, and such deeds are inherent violations of the Golden Rule, and (B) there is no way to coerce goodness, which must be voluntary.  In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated a moral revolution, one in which U.S. society would come to value people more than things.  His vision has yet to become reality, unfortunately.

We–you and I–are parts of society.  If we do not like certain aspects of society, we need not resign ourselves and curse the darkness.  No, we can light a candle.  We can shed light in the darkness.  And we need to do so positively.  We might also succeed.  Social mores can change; they have changed; they are changing.  People change them.  May we change them toward economic justice, toward loving our neighbors more generally, and away from coercion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-2/

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