Archive for the ‘Ezra’ Category

Moral Renewal   Leave a comment

Above:   Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, in a world of change you have placed eternity in our hearts

and have given us power to discern good from evil:

Grant us sincerity that we may persistently seek the things that endure,

refusing those which perish, and that, amid things vanishing and deceptive,

we may see the truth steadily, follow the light faithfully,

and grow ever richer in that love which is the life of the people;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Ezra 1:2-4; 3:10-13

Psalm 51

Jude 17-21, 24-25

Luke 13:22-24, 34-35

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The readings from Mark 13 and Jude share the warning to avoid following false teachers and to remain in eternal life, which, according to John 17:3, is knowing God via Jesus.  In Mark 13 and Jude this warning comes in the context of apocalyptic expectations.  Mark 13 also occurs in the context of the imminent crucifixion of Jesus.  The question of how to identify false teachers is an important one.  This is frequently a difficult matter, given the reality of the existence of theological blind spots.  If one backs up just one verse to Jude 16, however, we read a description of false teachers:

They are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts.  Bombast comes rolling from their lips, and they court favour to gain their ends.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That helps somewhat.

False teachers distract us from God, in whom we can have new beginnings.  The new beginning in Ezra 1 and 3 (Chapter 2 is a list of returning exiles.) culminates in the laying and dedication of the foundation of the Second Temple at Jerusalem.  The narrative of the construction of that Temple continues through Chapter 6.  In The Episcopal Church we read Psalm 51, a prayer for healing and moral renewal, on Ash Wednesday.  Moral renewal is of the essence.

That is also a frequently disputed project.  What constitutes moral renewal?  I know enough about history to be able to speak or write extemporaneously about “moral” defenses of offenses including serfdom, chattel slavery, Apartheid, Jim Crow laws, and the economic exploitation of industrial workers.  Anyone who defends any of those sins in any circumstance needs moral renewal.  All of those sins violate the law of love, which is a helpful guide for determining what is moral.

The truth is that all of us need moral renewal.  The most pious and kind-hearted person has the need of moral renewal in some parts of his or her life.  We can find that renewal by turning to God and avoiding false teachers, many of whom offer easy answers to difficult questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Psalms 30 and 31   1 comment

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POST XI OF LX

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

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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The theme of calling out to God amidst severe illness unites these two texts.  The author of Psalm 30 fears that he might be near death, actually.  Psalm 31 indicates a human, external source of the affliction in question in that prayer.  In each case the author concludes by blessing God.  In Psalm 30 yet not in Psalm 31 is a superscription noting the dedication of the Temple and reinterpreting the text to indicate national sickness and recovery from it.  Traditions point to the rebuilding of the Temple (520-516 B.C.E.; see Ezra 6:15-18) and the rededication of the Second Temple in 164 B.C.E. (see 1 Maccabees 4:36-59).  Thus Psalm 30 is a reading for Hanukkah.

The link between the individual and the collective interests me.  My North American culture, with its emphasis on rugged individualism, does not handle matters of the collective as well as it should.  Furthermore, rugged individualism is incompatible with the ethics of Judaism and Christianity.  We all depend on God and each other.  As John Donne expressed so eloquently,

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Whatever we do, we affect the lives of others.  We are responsible to and for each other.

We let each other down routinely, but we can trust in the fidelity of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

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

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Posted August 8, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 Maccabees 2-16, Ezra, Psalm 30, Psalm 31

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Kyrie Eleison, Part II   1 comment

christ-on-the-cross

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

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:

Ezra 9:5-15 or Jeremiah 25:15-38 or 2 Chronicles 7:1-22

Psalm 88

Luke 23:(1-12) 13-49

1 Peter 4:(1-8) 9-11 (12-14) 15-19

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The readings for this day speak of fiery ordeals.  In 2 Chronicles 7, Jeremiah 25, Ezra 9, and Psalm 88, they occur because of faithlessness to God.  These ordeals–divine punishment–lie in the future for the first two readings and in the past and the present in the last two lections.  In the first three readings he sins are collective, but they are individual in Psalm 88.  When we turn to Luke 23 and 1 Peter 4 we find that the suffering does not constitute divine punishment.  Faith tells us that Jesus did not sin, and the predicted fiery ordeals in 1 Peter 4 result from one’s righteousness and the lack of righteousness of others.

God is unpleasant in the assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps the most concise passage to this effect is Jeremiah 25:27 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.

I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus died for my sins.  That theory of the atonement portrays God as one in whom to stand in terror, not to love and respect.  It depicts God as one who says,

I will not be content until some people torture and execute my innocent Son.

No, I am closer to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor, of the Conquest of Satan.  This theory of the atonement emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus.  This makes sense to me because, without the resurrection, Jesus is dead.  Dead Jesus cannot save anyone from anything–sins or damnation, especially.  Actually, I propose that the entire earthly life of Jesus was the means of atonement.  I prefer to leave the mechanics of the atonement vague, in full Eastern Orthodox style.

Good Friday is among the holiest days of the year.  It is an occasion to reflect on the atonement and on social structures and institutions that kill the innocent.  Good Friday is an especially appropriate day to pray for forgiveness for the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.  Innocent people still suffer at the hands of other people.  Scapegoating continues.  State-sponsored violence is not just a matter of the past.  The prayer of our Lord and Savior (“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23:34a, The Jerusalem Bible, 1966) remains relevant.  Furthermore, sometimes they (we) do not know what they (we) are doing.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-good-friday-year-d/

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For the Glory of God and the Benefit of Others   1 comment

Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls Dore

Above:   Nehemiah Viewing the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 1:1-11

Psalm 5

Acts 3:1-10

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I wonder if the formerly lame man (the one lame from birth) in Acts 3 thought of a passage from Psalm 5 as he entered the Temple leaping and praising God:

But, so great is your faithful love,

I may come into your house,

and before your holy temple

bow down in reverence of you.

–Verse 7, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

That structure in Acts 3 was the Second Temple, erected during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah then expanded by order of King Herod the Great.

Nehemiah and the lame man received more than they sought.  Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, served his community, and endured severe challenges to do so.  Yet he helped to stabilize his community.  Sts. Peter and John made the man lame from birth whole and gave him new dignity.  Certainly he did not expect that much.  Furthermore, his adaptation to his new reality must not have been entirely easy, but he was much better off than he had ever been.  Nehemiah would have led an easier life as a royal cupbearer than he did as a Persian satrap, but he did what God called him to do.  Fortunately, the monarch facilitated that vocation.

May each of us become what God has called us to become.  May we understand that vocation and pursue it.  May those in positions to facilitate that calling do so.  Then may we do our best and succeed, by grace.  May we do this for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNHARDT SEVERIN INGEMANN, DANISH LUTHERAN AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HOPPER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, DESERT FATHER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/devotion-for-tuesday-after-proper-4-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Doing the Right Thing, Part II   1 comment

Cyrus II of Persia

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 1:1-11

Psalm 120

2 Corinthians 1:12-19

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Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from the deceitful tongue.

–Psalm 120:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Some people seem to live to criticize.  They are not content to be happy, so they carp.  St. Paul the Apostle knew this well.  After a painful visit to the Corinthian church, he had planned to visit them again yet changed his mind not out of spite (as some in Corinth alleged), but out of consideration.  The reading from 2 Corinthians (actually part of the fourth letter to them) is an exercise in easing ruffled feathers.  That pericope is similar in tone to 2 Corinthians 10, the beginning of his third letter to the Corinthians.  (For your information, O reader, 1 Corinthians was St. Paul’s second letter to that church, and the first letter is lost.)

Regardless of all the motivations of King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.), his decision to send Jewish exiles to their ancestral homeland was God’s work.  Cyrus II might have been a nice person, but he certainly had some political reasons.  So be it.  He was as benevolent a foreign ruler as Jews could expect at the time.

People do the right things for a variety of reasons.  Motivations count, of course, but how many beneficiaries care about the reasons?  The actions themselves count also.  The best combination of motivation and action remains doing the right thing for the proper reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Legalism and Judgmentalism   1 comment

Ezra

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 9:5-14

Psalm 115

John 16:16-24

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But we will bless the LORD

from this time forth for evermore.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 115:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.

–Jesus in John 16:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Having pain (as in grief) described in the scene from Ezra 9 and 10 well.  Ezra was leading returned exiles in a public prayer of confession of sins, during which many people wept bitterly.  Yet there was hope in the form of keeping the divine commandments faithfully from that day forward.  Unfortunately, that zeal turned into legalism in many people quickly.  Such legalism contributed to the crucifixion of Jesus, imminent in John 16.

We humans tend to swing from one extreme to another, thereby missing the sensible, more moderate zone.  If we have paid insufficient attention to God and holy living, we might become unpleasant, legalistic, and judgmental individuals in reaction to a conversion experience.  I know of one person in particular whom I liked better before she became a Christian.

May we, by grace, follow God in such a way as to draw others to God, not to drive them away and cause others to rue the day we became Christians.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Ezra, John 16, Psalm 115

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Faults of the Temple   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  Temple of Solomon

I scanned the image from a Bible salesman’s sample book from the late 1800s.  The volume is falling apart, unfortunately, but it is quite nice to have nevertheless.

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The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only through 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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 6:1-4, 21-22 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 16-19 (Tuesday)

Ezra 6:1-6 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 (Monday)

Hebrews 9:23-28 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:15-19 (Wednesday)

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How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing to enter the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was the heart of Judaism for a long time.  There, for centuries, was the Ark of the Covenant.  The Temple was where one had an especially palpable sense of the presence of God, although God dwelt everywhere.  King Solomon, using forced labor (see 1 Kings 5:27-30), oversaw the construction of the first Temple, an elaborate structure.  Forces of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 587 B.C.E., but the Persian Empire provided support for the construction of the Second Temple.  King Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire, expanded the Second Temple greatly, creating the Temple of which we read in the Gospels.  That Temple was the seat of Judean collaboration with the Roman occupiers.  It was also the site of the sacrifices of animals which poor people had purchased with currency they had exchanged for a fee; Roman currency was technically idolatrous.  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer in the name of piety.  The Temple system was corrupt.

This was why our Lord and Savior criticized that system and competed with it.  Thus many of his staunchest opponents benefited from that system.  Regardless of the number of purifications and rededications of the Temple, the flaw therein remained, for the upkeep of the Temple depended greatly upon money from people who could not afford to pay.

Thus Jesus, in the New Testament, replaces the Temple and the accompanying system.  In him are no political conflicts of interest related to collaboration with an occupying power.  In him are no demands for fees the poor cannot afford to pay.  In him there is no corruption.  He is the Passover lamb, whose blood, death, and Resurrection have atoned for sins.  (The Passover lambs in the Book of Exodus protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, not themselves, by the way.)  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is, in the words of 1 Corinthians 3, the foundation of the Church, God’s building.

And Judaism has done quite well without a Temple since 70 C.E., not that one should celebrate the Roman destruction of Jerusalem during the First Jewish War.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Legalism Versus Compassion   1 comment

Above:  Bypass Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia (So Non-Muslims Will Not Enter Mecca)

Image Source = Saicome

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christian_Bypass.jpg)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezra 9:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At the time of the evening offering I ended my self-affliction; still in my torn garment and robe, I got down on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, and said,

O my God, I am too ashamed and mortified to lift my face to You, O my God, for our iniquities are overwhelming and our guilt has grown high as heaven.  From the time of our fathers to this very day we have been deep in guilt.  Because of our iniquities, we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to foreign kings, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to humiliation, as is now the case.

But now, for a short while, there has been a reprieve from the LORD our God, who has granted us a surviving remnant and given us a stake in His holy place; our God has restored the luster of our eyes and furnished us with a little sustenance in our bondage.  For bondsmen we are, though even in our bondage God has not forsaken us, but has disposed the king of Persia favorably toward us, to furnish us with sustenance and to raise again the House of our God, repairing its ruins and giving us a hold in Judah and Jerusalem….

then:

Canticle 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19, followed by the Trinitarian formula:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land;

deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise,

and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light,

and kings to the brightness of our dawning.

Your gates will always be open;

by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord,

The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land,

ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,

and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day;

by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light,

and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

or this:

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

then:

Luke 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I suppose that the planners of this lectionary paired the Ezra and Luke readings with the intention that the reader would focus on depending on God and giving thanks for divine patience in the face of protracted human disobedience.  Following that plan is not my intention today.

I do not like the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah books, for they are too nationalistic and prone to whitewashing for my comfort.  In contrast, the books of Samuel and Kings are brutally honest. There we read about the sins of King David, for example.  And there we learn of a civil war between the forces of Saul (and his successor) and those of David.  But there is no civil war after Saul’s death, at least in Chronicles.

And then there is the matter of intermarriage in the Book of Ezra.  This is why Ezra is beside himself.  And, after the reading ends, the expulsion of Gentile wives and children ensues.  This is a profoundly disturbing episode in the Bible, and the Book of Ezra presents it in a positive light.

Maybe my current preoccupation with the importance of family, due in part to my awareness of my family and the fragility of some of members thereof, accounts primarily for the extent of my objection to the episode from Ezra.  Yet I have long been uncomfortable with this text, and I refuse to think that I must believe certain ugly ideas because somebody who wrote part of the Bible espoused them.  Compassion, as I have written before on the blog, is the trump card.  And, if we cannot show compassion for our relatives, for whom can we do this?

In other words, what about the feelings and needs of the expelled wives and children?

Do not misunderstand me.  I grasp the concept that family ought to be where one hands down the faith.  If ever I leave my bachelorhood behind, I will seek a woman with spiritual values similar to my own.  But God loves Jews and Gentiles, people like “us” and people different from “us,” domestic-born and foreign-born–all alike.  Jesus, our Lord, cut through pure-impure distinctions during his ministry, making enemies along the way.  I seek to follow in his footsteps, not those of Ezra.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT THE MOOR, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF EMILY AYCKBOWN, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SISTERS OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBALUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezra, Isaiah 60, Islam, Luke 9, Psalm 48

Tagged with ,

Hearing and Doing   1 comment

Above:  Darius I of Persia

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezra 6:1-8, 12-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written:

Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of God in Jerusalem:  ’Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high.  Let it be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone.  The expenses shall be paid by the palace.  And the gold and the silver vessels of the House of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Jerusalem where it belongs; you shall deposit in in the House of God.’

“Now you, Tannenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.  Allow the work of this House of God to go on; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this House of God:  the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped….And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem.  I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.  So the elders of the Jews progressed with the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lamps, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They appointed the priests in their courses and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to the prescription in the Book of Moses.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some dates will prove useful in comprehending the material from Ezra.  So, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), here they are:

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

“Artaxerxes” is Artaxerxes I, in case you were wondering.

Cyrus II had authorized the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem, but politics stopped the process.  The Assyrians had settled other peoples in Judea, and some of the descendants of these ethnic groups obstructed the effort.  The logjam ended during the reign of Darius I.  Thank goodness for archivists!

There is a plethora of Christian theological writing regarding the will(s) of God and the ability of humans to interfere with it/them.  One of the more accessible works on this subject is The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead.  As I have lived, read, and pondered, I have concluded that Weatherhead is correct:  the ultimate will of God will come to pass, regardless of what we mere mortals do.  That said, we have the power, through the abuse of our free will, to derail more than one divine path to fulfilling that ultimate will.  In other words, we can stand in the way of God’s Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C.  Yet, sooner or later, one way or another, God’s ultimate will is going to come to pass.

We function as obstructions when we fail to be both hearers and doers of God’s word and ultimate will.  Yet, when we hear then do, we act as faithful members of the household of God.  Is not that much better than being stubborn, spiteful, and petty?

So, why are we stubborn, spiteful, and petty?  Some of us might not realize what we are doing.  These are those who are so caught up in themselves that they cannot see the detrimental effects of their actions upon others.  Still others of us, if we do know what we are doing, might have distorted values systems which glorify stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness.  Then there are those who try to do the right thing, as they understand it, but get it wrong.  These are not bad people who wake up each day and plot their disobedience.  But perhaps cultural blinders prevent them from seeing clearly.  And, of course, all of us are prone to stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness from time to time.  Stubbornness, in the service of a good cause, is persistence, a virtue.  So context matters here.

Sometimes, then, we hear and try to do,  but fail.  Other times we hear and do not try to obey.  Still other times he hear but misunderstand.  And sometimes we do not hear at all, so we cannot obey in such circumstances.  Sometimes instructions from God seem quite clear with the aid of hindsight and tradition.  Yet other times traditions distort those instructions.  What are to do?  How can we know how to discern between correct and distorted messages?

This is not a simple matter, and I have not encountered a burning bush in my life.  I have opinions, many of which I voice on this weblog and others within my blog network.  Yet I try to maintain proper theological humility; I can be wrong.  I stand by my opinions today, but I might change some of them by next year.  I am fallible.

So I try to remain open to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit, to confirm when I am correct and tell me when I am not.  The best I can do is the best I can do.  It is not enough, but it does not have to be, for God is all-powerful.  And, even in my worst moments, the worst I can do is delay the fulfillment of the ultimate will of God.  At best, however, I will be part of the fulfillment of that will.  But God will’s is going to come to fruition, with or without me.  I prefer to be part of the solution, not the problem.  By grace, I will succeed more often than not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF GRAHAM GREENE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/week-of-proper-20-tuesday-year-1/

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Lamps of God–With Oil from Unexpected and Unlikely Sources   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezra 1:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, when the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah was fulfilled, the LORD roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his realm by word of mouth and in writing as follows:

Thus said King Cyrus of Persia:  The LORD God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has charged me with building Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Anyone of you all His people–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem that is in Judah and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, the God that is in Jerusalem; and all who stay behind, wherever he may be living, let the people of his place assist him with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, besides the freewill offering to the House of God that is in Jerusalem.

So the chiefs of the clans of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, all whose spirit had been roused by God, got ready to go up to build the House of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.  All their neighbors supported them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with livestock, and with precious objects, besides what had been given as a freewill offering.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Luke 8:16-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.  So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The united Kingdom of Israel divided in 928 B.C.E., with Jerusalem continuing as the capital city of Judah and a new, northern kingdom, becoming Israel.  The Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom in 722 B.C.E.  Then, in 609 B.C.E., the Assyrians fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, which ended the existence of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E.  The conquerors deported many–but not all–inhabitants of Judah to Babylon.

Decades passed.  Finally, in 539 B.C.E., the Persians and the Medes, led by King Cyrus II, conquered the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  Cyrus had a policy of religious toleration, which he extended to the Jews.  For the Jews he did more, however; he allowed those Jews in Babylon to return to their ancestral homeland. Cyrus also sponsored the construction of the Second Temple.  He was not even a Jew.  The king was a Zoroastrian, an adherent of a faith system that influenced the course of Judaism, and therefore Christianity, in profound ways.  This ought not to bother a Biblical literalist or to give comfort or ammunition to a scoffer prowling around in search of evidence to discredit the Judeo-Christian traditions, for no single human religion has a monopoly on the truth.  Some just possess more of it than others, and Judaism and Christianity contain far more than any other religions–including Zoroastrianism.

The brief reading from Luke speaks of shedding light.  The image in that text is of an oil lamp on a lamp stand in the middle of a small and otherwise dark house.  Light is especially evident in the dark; how far it reaches becomes obvious.  The final lines in that lesson speak of the imperative of growing in faith, for the consequence of a lack of spiritual growth is atrophy.

So, how does Ezra relate to Luke?  Here is my answer:  It took Cyrus, one of the goyim, to help perpetuate the truth of the Jewish faith.  He provided oil for the Jewish lamps, if you will indulge my analogy.  That light continues to burn within Judaism and Christianity today.  Where might you find oil for your spiritual lamp?  The answers might surprise you.  Likewise, you might provide oil for lamps of people the identities of which might shock you.

There is an inclusive message here.  I note this and accent it because one of the unfortunate aspects of post-Exilic Judaism was exclusiveness.  The Book of Jonah is a powerful satire of that attitude.  We will get to that soon enough–in the Week of Proper 22.  So think about these questions:  Whose Cyrus are you?  And who is your Cyrus?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SYRAGIUS OF AUTUN AND ANACHARIUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS, AND SAINTS VALERY OF LEUCONE AND EUSTACE OF LUXEUIT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS, SAINT EUSTACE OF LYON, AND HIS DESCENDANTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/week-of-proper-20-monday-year-1/

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Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezra, Luke 8, Psalm 126

Tagged with , ,