Archive for the ‘Amos 7’ Category

The Wrath of God and the Ruin of Zion   Leave a comment

Above:  Lamentations in Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART III

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Lamentation 2:1-22

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Two voices speak in Lamentations 2.  The Poet speaks in verses 1-19, followed by Fair Zion in verses 20-22.

The text requires some explanation:

  1. The Temple is the “majesty of Israel” and the footstool of God in verse 1.  We read that God has made the Temple an abomination because of idolatry.
  2. The imagery of the Temple as God’s footstool occurs also in Isaiah 60:13; Ezekiel 43:7; Psalm 132:7; and 1 Chronicles 28:2.
  3. The “might of Israel” (verse 3) is literally the “horn of Israel.”  It signals power and pride (Jeremiah 48:25; Psalm 75:11; et cetera).
  4. The right hand of God (verse 4) is a symbol of divine power in Exodus 15:6, 12.  We read that God intentionally withheld that right hand, thereby permitting the Fall of Jerusalem and the despoilment of the Temple.
  5. The Temple is the “booth,” “shrine,” “shelter,” or “tabernacle” in verse 6.
  6. We read in vers 8 that God used a plumbline to calculate how to destroy the walls of Jerusalem.  One may recall the imagery of a plumbline in Amos 7:7-9, but for a different purpose.
  7. Cannibalism, an extreme result of famine during a siege, is a topic in verse 20.  It is a punishment for violating the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:53-57).

The disturbing imagery in Lamentations 2 portrays devastation and destruction.  Fair Zion concludes the chapter by begging God to see the terrible state of affairs and to consider it.  This anger at God is understandable.

Those who deny that anger at God has a legitimate place in the faith life of individuals and communities are wrong.  The place of Lamentations 2 in the canon of scripture testifies that such anger has a proper role in faith life.  Honest anger is better than dishonest denial.  Honest anger is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND CONVERT IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1896

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Five Visions of Divine Judgment Against Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Nature Morte au Vase de Porcelaine, by Pierre-Antoine Lemoine

Image in the Public Domain

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READING AMOS, PART V

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Amos 7:1-9:10

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The prophecies against King Jeroboam II (reigned 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) of Israel, his dynasty (842-747 B.C.E.), and the (northern) Kingdom of Israel were unpopular at Bethel, predictably.

One scholarly hypothesis holds that the original draft of the Book of Amos came into existence after the prophet (who humbly denied being a prophet in 7:14) had to return to the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  If so, the existence of the Book of Amos constitutes an example of irony.  In 2021, many people can hear and/or read an expanded, amended version of what Amaziah, the priest at Bethel in the middle-to-late 700s B.C.E., tried to quash.

The first vision of judgment (7:1-3) was that of a swarm of locusts consuming late-sown crops after the royal reaping.  (King Jeroboam II had claimed a portion of the earlier harvest for his herds and horses to consume.)  God was not in a forgiving mood.

The second vision of judgment (7:4-6) was that of a rain of fire that, having devoured “the great abyss,” consumed these locust-devastated fields.  In the germane ancient cosmology, that of the creation myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, the Earth was flat, with waters below and a dome above.  (Do Creationists think that the planet is like this?  Do they belong to the Flat Earth Society?)  In this apocalyptic scene, God was really not in a forgiving mood.

The third vision of judgment (7:7-9) was that of a plumb line, or a plummet (depending on translation).  One used this tool to determine how far out of line a wall or building had become, if repair was possible, and if demolition was necessary.  The verdict on the kingdom of Jeroboam II was that the realm was beyond salvage.

The fourth vision of judgment (8:1-14) was that of a basket of fruit (or figs) from the end of summer.  (The Hebrew word for “summer” puns on the Hebrew word for “end.”)  God declared doom on the kingdom that had forsaken the covenant.  Rife, systemic social injustice, especially of the economic variety, was evidence of this abandonment of the covenant.  God was indeed distant from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  The people had spurned God, anyway.

The language of the fifth vision (9:1-10), the vision of the destruction of the sanctuary, is bleak, evocative, and apocalyptic.  The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had, in laymen’s terms, “torn it.”  The proverbial gig was up.  The fulfillment of this prophecy was simply a matter of time–about a quarter of a century.

Given that commentaries inform me of subsequent editing of the original version of the Book of Amos, I wonder how well some religious figures in the (southern) Kingdom of Judah handled these prophesies as that kingdom went into decline and vassalage, and as the threat of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire loomed.  I also wonder how much of the content in the texts in Amos 7-9 dates to after 722 B.C.E. and before 586 B.C.E.

Anyhow, a timeless lesson applies.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine patience is not infinite.  Neither is divine judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN CARR, ANGLO-AMERICAN COMPOSER AND ORGANIST

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AUGUSTUS BENNETT, FIRST MAORI ANGLICAN BISHOP IN AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JÓZEF KURGAWA AND WINCENTY MATSUZEWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1940

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM OF PERTH, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BAKER AND MARTYR, 1201

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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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Salvation and Damnation, Part III   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

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 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Adapted from these posts:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-proper-4-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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Good Society, Part III   2 comments

Above:  Jeroboam II

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who art God and Father of all:

give us, we pray, an awareness of our common humanity

so that whether we are weak or strong, rich or poor,

we may share what we have with those who have not,

following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Amos 7:10-15

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Matthew 5:27-37

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Amos, like St. Paul the Apostle, did not attempt to curry favor with people, especially powerful ones.  Amos ran afoul of King Jeroboam II, who had the authority to expel the prophet from the Kingdom of Israel and back to the Kingdom of Judah (Amos’s home) yet not to change the course of prophecy.

Amos and St. Paul the Apostle committed themselves completely to serving God.  The main message of Matthew 5:20-48–to commit fully, not to be too clever by half, to play games with God, and to try to get away with the least one can do–has never ceased to be relevant.  Perfection (verse 48)–actually suitability for one’s purpose, which is to follow God–has always been a realistic goal via grace.  Moral perfectionism has always been unrealistic, given human nature, but striving to be the best one can be in God has never ceased to be proper.

Amos 7 offers a sobering lesson for all who imagine vainly that good times will continue unabated.  Consider, O reader, that during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam II, the Kingdom of Israel was economically prosperous and militarily powerful.  Consider also, O reader, that the kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.  Nationalism is a poor substitute for devotion to God.  Kingdoms, empires, and countries rise and fall, but God is forever.  Potentates leave office one way or another; most of them are of little historical significance.  Many who are historically significant are negatively so.  God, however, is the ultimate force for righteousness.

The condemnation of the Kingdom of Israel went beyond idolatry; it included institutionalized economic exploitation (Amos 2:6).  The condemnation of the Kingdom of Israel has never ceased to be germane, for its sins were not unique to it.

The Law of Moses contains a strong element of social justice–of looking out for each other, of being responsible to and for each other.  Do we, in our societies, really look out for each other?  Do we acknowledge that we are responsible to and for each other?  If we do not, we are sowing the seeds of our collective destruction.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT, AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBRG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Integrity and Spiritual Crutches   Leave a comment

Above:  Crutch

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, who by your word works out marvelously the reconciliation of mankind:

Grant, we ask you, that following the example of our blessed Lord,

and walking in such a way as you choose,

we may be subject to you with all our hearts, and be united to each other in holy love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 96

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Amos 7:7-10, 14-16a

Psalm 41

Romans 6:15-23

Mark 10:17-27

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The reading from Mark 10 is about recognition of complete dependence on God, not about material wealth.  I argue that if the man had been poor, he would still have had a spiritual crutch Jesus would have told him to throw away.  Material wealth is inherently spiritually neutral.  Spiritual attachment to it is negative, however.  If we do not have that crutch, we have another one, to which we enslave ourselves.  If we insist on remaining so negatively attached, we pronounce judgment on ourselves.

Integrity (Psalm 41:12) is indeed laudable, but it does not always save us from troubles.  In fact, it gets us into difficulties sometimes.  That unfortunate reality informs the Book of Tobit.  Although our integrity cannot save us from our sins, we should never abandon ourselves to the base elements of our nature.  To be a good person is positive; it leads to much that is praiseworthy in the world and improves many lives.  What is not to like about that?  It can constitute faithful response to God, something lacking in much of the reading from Amos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Our Decision to Make   1 comment

Shipwreck

Above:   Shipwreck

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 7:1-6

Psalm 73

1 Timothy 1:18-20

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You will guide me by your counsel,

and afterwards receive me with glory.

–Psalm 73:24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  The reading from Amos 7 emphasizes mercy, but, just a few verses later, God promises to destroy the dynasty of King Jeroboam II of Israel (reigned 788-747 B.C.E.), without relenting.  Judgment and mercy are collective in Amos 7, but judgment is individual in 1 Timothy 1.

By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.

–verse 19b, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In both instances rejecting divine counsel leads to negative consequences.  God might relent in, for example, sending fire or a plague of locusts, as in Amos 7, but consequences will arrive consequently.  On the other hand, we can love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves.  That will not mean that nothing bad will happen to us, but we will please God and help many people.

The choice is ours, for we have the free will to decide.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-19-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Compassion and Scandal   2 comments

good-samaritans-inn

Above:  The Good Samaritan’s Inn

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005000314/PP/)

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 7:7-14 and Psalm 82

or 

Deuteronomy 20:9-14 and Psalm 25:1-9

then 

Colossians 1:1-14

Luke 10:25-37

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 10, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/proper-10-year-a/

Proper 10, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/proper-10-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Amos 7:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/proper-10-year-b/

Deuteronomy 30:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/first-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

Colossians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/week-of-proper-17-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/week-of-proper-17-thursday-year-1/

Luke 10:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

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The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously difficult due to its geography and the reality that robbers used it as site of frequent crimes.  Did only fools travel it alone?  If so, everyone except the inn keeper in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was foolish.  Those who passed by the crime victim probably did so for more than one reason.  Safety was a concern, for sometimes bandits preyed on compassionate responses.  Other reasons for moving along included apathy and a concern for maintaining ritual purity.  But the unlikely hero was a Samaritan–a heretic, a half-breed, and a marginalized person.

The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan has at least two layers.  Even the possibility of a Good Samaritan proved scandalous to many people originally.  Unfortunately, the parable has become hackneyed for many modern Christians, so I propose pondering who our “Samaritans ” are then paraphrasing the story to restore its fully scandalous nature.  The “Samaritan” should always be the most “other ” person one can name.  So, for one hates Gypsies, the Samaritan might be a Gypsy.  For a xenophobe the Samaritan might be an immigrant.  For an ultra-orthodox person the Samaritan might be a the most relatively heretical individual.  For someone with an especially strong political point of view the Samaritan might be a person from the opposite end of the spectrum.  For a homophobe the Samaritan might be a homosexual.  For a homosexual the Samaritan might be a homophobe.  For an Orangeman the Samaritan might be a Roman Catholic.  The more provocative the paraphrase, the more accurate it is.

Another layer of scandal in the parable is the lesson that sometimes respectable religious concerns and practices obstruct active compassion.  I am convinced that most religious people seek to obey the divine will as they understand it.  But too often many of us do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Too often we make excuses for those who exploit the weak and the vulnerable, including widows, orphans, and the poor.  Too often we seek God’s ways and follow other paths.  Too often we therefore sow the seeds not only of the destruction of others but also of ourselves.  Yet, as Deuteronomy 30:9-14 reminds us, the law of God is very near us–inside us, in fact.  Too often we look for this law in the wrong places.

This law is as simple and difficult as following our Lord and Savior’s instruction:

Go, and do the same yourself.

–Luke 10:37b, The New Jerusalem Bible

In 2001 or 2002 I listened one evening to a public radio program about Hanukkah.  My memory of one story from that program is partial, but the summary of that tale remains with me.  In ancient times there was a rabbi who lacked most of what he needed to observe Hanukkah properly.  He was an especially pious yet closed-minded man at the beginning of the story.  At the end, however, he was pious and open-minded, for a succession of especially unlikely outsiders provided all that he needed.  A Greek wrestler even gave the necessary oil.  That tale, a wonderful piece of Jewish wisdom, is consistent with the readings for this Sunday.  The “other” might be a means of grace, and neighborliness crosses a variety of human-created barriers.

Go, and do the same yourself.

Indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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