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, 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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