Archive for the ‘Daniel 4-5’ Category

Humility Before God, Part V   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

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Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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Waiting for Divine Deliverance   1 comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by John Martin

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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Daniel 5:1-7, 17, 25-28

Psalm 62:1-2

Revelation 15:2-4

Matthew 24:15-22

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

–Psalm 62:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for this Sunday contain grim material.  Indeed, the theme of judgment is strong, but so is the theme of divine deliverance after waiting for it.

Two main thoughts come to mind:

  1. Deliverance for the oppressed is frequently condemnation for the oppressors.  In a real sense, both the oppressors and the those they oppress are both oppressed populations, for whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  If we seek to benefit ourselves at the expense of others, we harm ourselves.  If we seek the common good, be work for the best interests of others as well as ourselves.  Furthermore, when we insist on oppressing others, we set ourselves up to be on the bad side of God when the deity initiates deliverance.
  2. Waiting for God can prove to be quite difficult.  I do not pretend to have mastered this discipline.  The reality that God’s schedule is not ours does frustrate us often, does it not?  The fault is with mere mortals, not God.

Waiting for divine deliverance can be frustrating.  May that deliverance, when it comes, be good news, not a catastrophe.  Whether one will welcome it or find it catastrophic is up to one, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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Proclaiming God Among the Peoples   1 comment

Above:  The Fiery Furnace

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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Daniel 3:19-30

Psalm 57:8-11

Revelation 11:15-19

Luke 1:5-20, 57-66

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Wake up, my spirit;

awake, lute and harp;

I myself will waken the dawn.

I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;

I will sing praise to you among the nations.

For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,

and your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

–Psalm 57:8-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Revelation 11 we read the announcement that

Sovereignty over the world has passed to our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever.

–Verse 15b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Nevertheless, we must wait until Chapter 21 for that sovereignty to become apparent.

The sovereignty of God is indeed a challenging concept.  In the Gospels the Kingdom of God is already partially present.  The Roman Empire and its agents, one of whom goes on to order the execution of St. John the Baptist, born in Luke 1, is fully present.

Truly bad people who wield authority always seem to present somewhere.  Nebuchadnezzar II, hardly a nice man, is a figure of ridicule in the Book of Daniel.  He is fickle and seems unaware of the extent of his authority at times.  He is willing to send people to die for refusing to serve the gods, so how nice can he be? He, as monarch, can change the law, too.  Later in the Book of Daniel (Chapter 4) he goes insane.  Also troubled and in one of the readings (sort of) is King Saul, a disturbed and mentally unwell man.  The not attached to Psalm 57 contextualizes the text in 1 Samuel 22-24 and 26, with David leading a group of outlaws while on the run from Saul.  In the story David saves the life of the man trying to kill him.  (Aside:  Chapters 24 and 26 seem to be variations on the same story.  The Sources Hypothesis explains the duplication of material.)

One might detect a certain thread common to three of the readings:  The lives of the faithful are at risk.  That theme is implicit in Luke 1.  God will not always deliver the faithful, hence the martyrs in Revelation 14.  The sovereignty of God will not always be obvious.  But we who claim to follow Christ can do so, by grace, and proclaim God among the peoples in a variety of circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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Being Good Soil, Part II   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

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:

Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24 or Daniel 4:1-37

Psalm 7

Matthew 14:10-17 (18-33) 34-35 or Mark 4:1-25 or Luke 8:4-25; 13:18-21

Ephesians 4:17-24 (26-32; 5:1-2) 3-7 or 2 Peter 2:1-22

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Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

–Ephesians 4:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Much of the content of the assigned readings, with their options, functions as commentary on that summary statement.  To borrow a line from Rabbi Hillel, we ought to go and learn it.

The commission of (First) Isaiah might seem odd.  Does the text indicate that God is commanding Isaiah to preach to the population but not to help them avoid the wrath of God?  Or, as many rabbis have argued for a long time, should one read imperative verbs as future tense verbs and the troublesome passage therefore as a prediction?  I prefer the second interpretation.  Does not God prefer repentance among sinners?  The pairing of this reading with the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation seems to reinforce this point.  I recall some bad sermons on this parable, which is not about the sower.  The sower did a bad job, I remember hearing certain homilists say.  To fixate on the sower and his methodology is to miss the point.  The name of the story should be the Parable of the Four Soils, a title I have read in commentaries.  One should ask oneself,

What kind of soil am I?

Am I the rocky soil of King Zedekiah (in Ezekiel 17:11-21) or the fertile soil of the betrayed man in Psalm 7?  A mustard seed might give rise to a large plant that shelters many varieties of wildlife, and therefore be like the Davidic dynastic tree in Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Nebuchadnezzar II in Daniel 4, but even a mustard seed needs good soil in which to begin the process of sprouting into that plant.

One might be bad soil for any one of a number of reasons.  One might not care.  One might be oblivious.  One might be hostile.  One might be distracted and too busy.  Nevertheless, one is bad soil at one’s own peril.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-6-year-d/

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Humility Before People and God, Part I   1 comment

Belshazzar's Feast

Above:   Belshazzar’s Feast, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Monday)

Daniel 5:1-12 (Tuesday)

Daniel 5:13-31 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84:8-12 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (Monday)

1 Peter 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:28-32 (Wednesday)

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O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

–Psalm 84:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Do not be arrogant, the readings for these three days tell us.  Trust in God instead, we read.  Daniel 5 tells us of Belshazzar, viceroy under this father, King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  God, the story tells us, found Belshazzar wanting.  Furthermore, we read, God delivered the empire to the Persians and the Medes, and the Babylonian Exile ended shortly thereafter.

Cease your proud boasting,

let no word of arrogance pass your lips,

for the LORD is a God who knows;

he governs what mortals do.

Strong men stand in mute dismay,

but those who faltered put on new strength.

Those who had plenty sell themselves for a crust,

and the hungry grow strong again.

The barren woman bears seven children,

and the mother of many sons is left to languish?

–1 Samuel 2:3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a timeless lesson.  We read of Jesus telling certain professional religious people that penitent tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede them in the Kingdom of God.  Later in 1 Peter, we read of the imperative to clothe ourselves in humility, when dealing with each other and God.  As Proverbs 3:34-35 tells us,

Toward the scorners he [God] is scornful,

but to the humble he shows favor.

The wise will inherit honor,

but stubborn fools, disgrace.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Persecution might come, but one must remain faithful.  That is a recurring message in the Bible, from Jeremiah to the Books of the Maccabees to the Gospels to 1 Peter to Hebrews to the Revelation of John.  It can also be a difficult lesson on which to act, as many chapters in the history of Christianity attest.  Fortunately, God is merciful than generations of Donatists (regardless of their formal designations) have been.  That lack of mercy flows from, among  other sources, pride–the pride which says,

I persevered.  Why did you not do likewise?  I must be spiritually superior to you.

We all need to acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins.  We all need to change our minds and turn around spiritually.  We all need to be humble before God and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-25-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Humility and Arrogance, Part I   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)

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FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.

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Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Daniel and Revelation, Part III: The Proper Center   1 comment

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Above:  The New Jerusalem

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:1-37/3:31-4:34 (November 24)

Protestant versification varies from the Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox pattern in places.

Daniel 5:1-30 (November 25)

Daniel 6:1-28/5:31-6:29 (November 26)

Protestant versification varies from the Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox pattern in places.

Psalm 110 (Morning–November 24)

Psalm 62 (Morning–November 25)

Psalm 13 (Morning–November 26)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–November 24)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–November 25)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–November 26)

Revelation 21:1-8 (November 24)

Revelation 21:9-22 (November 25)

Revelation 22:1-21 (November 26)

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Some Related Posts:

Daniel 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-wednesday-year-1/

Daniel 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

Revelation 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

Revelation 22:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge among the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

He shall drink from the brook beside the way;

therefore shall he lift high his head.

–Psalm 110:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The fictional stories in Daniel 4-6 are morality tales about kings who opposed God, sometimes out of hubris.  Two of the three med bad ends; the other changed his ways.  Hubris, of course, is that which goes before the fall.  It constitutes making oneself one’s own idol.

Glory, of course, belongs to God.  Thus, in Revelation 21-22, God and the Lamb (Jesus) are the Temple and the origin of light.  This is beautiful and metaphorical imagery which should influence how we who call ourselves Christians order our priorities.  God–specifically Christ–should occupy the focal point of our attentions and affections.

We are, as a psalmist said, like grass–grass which bears the Image of God and is slightly lower than the angels–but grass nevertheless.  So may we think neither too highly nor too lowly of ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Then God Acted   1 comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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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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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 5:1-6, 13-31 (Revised English Bible):

King Belshazzzar gave a grand banquet for a thousand of his nobles and he was drinking wine in their presence.  Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the vessels of gold and silver which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple at Jerusalem to be fetched, so that he and his nobles, along with his concubines and courtesans, might drink from them.  So those vessels belonging to the house of God, the temple at Jerusalem, were brought, and the king, the nobles, and the concubines and courtesans drank from them.  They drank their wine and they praised their gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Suddenly there appeared the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster of the palace wall opposite the lamp, and the king saw the palm of the hand as it wrote.  At this the king turned pale; dismay filled his mind, the strength went from his leg, and his knees knocked together.

Daniel was then brought into the royal presence, and the king addressed him:

So you are Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles whom my royal father brought from Judah.  I am informed that the spirit of the gods resides in you and that you are known as a man of clear insight and exceptional wisdom.  The wise men, the exorcists, have just been brought before me to read this writing and make its interpretation known to me, but they have been unable to give its meaning.  I am told that you are able to furnish interpretations and unravel problems.  Now, if you can read this writing and make known the interpretation, you shall be robed in purple and have a gold chain hung round your neck, and you shall rank third in the kingdom.

Daniel replied,

Your majesty, I do not look for gifts from you; give your rewards to another.  Nevertheless I shall read your majesty the writing and make known to you its interpretation.

My lord king, the Most High God gave a kingdom with power, glory, and majesty to your father Nebuchadnezzar; and, because of the power he bestowed on him, all peoples and nations of every language trembled with fear before him.  He put to death whom he would and spared whom he would, he promoted them at will and at will abased them.  But, when he became haughty and stubborn and presumptuous, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.  He was banished from human society, and his mind became like that of an animal; he had to live with the wild asses and to feed on grass like oxen, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he came to acknowledge that the Most High God is sovereign over the realm of humanity and appoints over whom he will.  But although you knew all this, you, his son, Belshazzar, did not humble your heart.  You have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven; his temple vessels have been fetched for you and your nobles, your concubines, and courtesans to drink from them.  You have praised gods fashioned from silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which cannot see or hear or know, and you have not given glory to God, from whom comes your every breath, and in whose charge are all your ways.  That is why he sent the hand and why it wrote this inscription.

The words inscribed were:  ”Mene mene tekel u-pharsin.”  Their interpretation is this:  mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought you to an end; tekel, you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; u-pharsin, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.

Then at Belshazzar’s command Daniel was robed in purple and a gold chain hung round his neck, and proclamation was made that he should rank third in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar king of the Chaldaeans was slain, and Darius the Mede took the kingdom, being then about sixty-two years old.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:10-19 (Revised English Bible):

Then Jesus added,

Nation will go to war against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be severe earthquakes, famines, and plagues in many places, and in the sky terrors and great portents.

But before all this happens they will seize you and persecute you.  You will be handed over to synagogues and put in prison; you will be haled before kings and governors for your allegiance to me.  This will be your opportunity to testify.  So resolve not to prepare your defence beforehand, because I myself will give you such words and wisdom as no opponent can resist or refute.  Even your parents and brothers, your relations and friends, will betray you.  Some of you will be put to death; and everyone will hate you for your allegiance to me.  But not a hair of your head will be lost.  By standing firm you will win yourselves life.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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First I must deal with raw, documented history.  Historians from ancient times from the present agree that Cyrus II (“the Great”) became King of the Persians the Medes in the year we call 559 B.C.E., and that his forces conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  Cyrus, being born circa 600 B.C.E., was approximately sixty-two years old at the time of the conquest.  Thus his age matches that of the mysterious “Darius the Mede” from the end of Daniel 5.  In point of fact, the Book of Daniel is the only ancient source to mention “Darius the Mede” as an immediate predecessor of Cyrus II, who succeeded Cambyses I immediately, almost twenty years before the setting of this story.  There is a simple explanation:  The author of this part of the Book of Daniel was confused as to Persian royal succession.

Belshazzar was a son of and the viceroy of Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king.   He (Belshazzar) was a powerful prince and a person with whom to reckon, but not a regnal monarch.  History records that he died when the Persian forces, commanded by General Gobyras, captured Babylon.  Gobyras went on to become Cyrus the Great’s governor in Babylon, so some have speculated that Gobyras was “Darius the Mede.”  This seems like a stretch to me, given my propensity for the historical-critical method and my preference for Ockham’s Razor.  It is, however, one way for those who prefer discredited theories of inerrancy and infallibility to explain away a minor (and irrelevant) inaccuracy in the text.

As Galileo Galilei observed in the 1600s, the Bible is not a science book.  And, in certain minor and occasional historical matters, it gets some quibbling and irrelevant details wrong.  This is to be expected, for people wrote many of these texts down a long time after the events the texts describe.   So some out-of-chronological-order references crept into the narrative.  C’est la vie.  Such inaccuracies do not bother me, for I am far from a Biblical literalist.  I prefer instead to focus on the main point of such texts, not permitting minor historical quibbles to become distractions from great spiritual truths.  As a spiritual mentor of mine asked of any Biblical text,

What is really going on here?

That is where I place my emphasis.

Let us  consider the story from Daniel 5 as it is.  The son and viceroy of the last Chaldean king commits sacrilege with confiscated vessels from the late Jerusalem Temple.  He sees a disembodied hand write a text on a wall.  All the viceroy”s usual advisors cannot interpret the text, but Daniel can.  Belshazzar promises Daniel a promotion in exchange for an accurate reading, but the faithful Daniel says that such a nice act is not necessary; he is willing to interpret the text and retain his current standing.  Daniel delivers the bad news.  Belshazzar, much to his credit, promotes Daniel anyway.  The viceroy dies that night, during the Persian conquest.

This is a story about God acting to deliver his people.  History records that the Jews fared much better under the Persians than they did under the Assyrians or the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  I have covered this ground already, beginning with this post:  http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/week-of-proper-20-monday-year-1/.   It was not always a pleasant political situation, and not all Persian kings were favorably disposed toward Jewish interests, but the Persian Empire did facilitate the building of the Second Temple.

The reading from Luke 21 spoke of circumstances many Christians at the time of the writing that gospel experienced.  Indeed, with a few minor changes in terminology, it speaks of circumstances many Christians face today.  But, Jesus says, persecution is an opportunity to testify to him, himself a persecuted one.  By enduring, our Lord says, we will win our lives, even if we die.  Or, as Paul wrote, if we suffer with Christ, we will reign with Christ.

These are the kinds of passages which cause me to wonder how prosperity theologians can say what they do.  These men and women sell theological snake oil to those who either choose not to investigate their claims or lack enough Biblical knowledge to know where to begin.  It is rather discouraging, is it not?

This day we have two readings which speak of God acting during times of great difficulty.  In the first the good guys live, but in the second they almost certainly die.  Yet they live with God.  The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, is honest:  Sometimes faithfulness leads to persecution, even torture and death.  It is unjust, I grant you, but not entirely unexpected.  If we do not grasp this message, it is not because of false advertising in the sacred anthology we call the Bible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-wednesday-year-1/

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