Archive for the ‘Ecclesiastes 1’ Category

The Kingdom of Heaven   Leave a comment

Above:  Lion with Lamb

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world

may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance,

that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 190

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Isaiah 65:17-19, 24, 25

Psalms 20 and 21:1-7

Galatians 3:1-9

Matthew 5:7-12

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Isaiah 65 comes from Third Isaiah.  The text’s immediate context is the disllusionment of exiles who returned to their ancestral homeland and found a heap, not a paradise.  Isaiah 65 predicts the messianic age, when God will transform society and creation itself.  The familiar text, with the image of the wolf and the lamb grazing together, seems so wonderful as to be unrealistic, from a particular perspective.  Isaiah 65’s vision of an ideal world is consistent with the Kingdom of Heaven (the fully-realized Kingdom of God on earth) in Matthew.  The Beatitudes describe the new, renewed social order.

We still wait for that time.  Psalms 20 and 21 reflect the context of combat, inconsistent with the Kingdom of Heaven.  Combat remains a reality, of course.  And the foolishness of the Galatians has contemporary parallels.  We live in a broken world.  Social media amplify our brokenness and increase the number of opportunities to reveal our cruelty, stupidity, shallowness, and ignorance for many to witness.  The only things new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) are circumstances.

I long for the day when the wolf and the lamb will graze together, the lion will eat straw like the ox, and the serpent will eat soil.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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Faithful Servants of God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

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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Ecclesiastes 1:2-18 or Ezekiel 11:14-20

Psalm 3

Galatians 2:1-13

Matthew 4:12-25

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If one begins to read Ecclesiastes and gives up quickly, one might mistake the theme of the book to be that all is futility and vanity.  One might ask,

Why bother doing anything?

If, however, one keeps reading and pays attention, one will arrive at the précis of the book, present at its conclusion, in 12:13-14:  The duty of a human being is to stand in awe of God and keep divine commandments, for God is the judge of everything, whether good or evil.

That ethic is consistent with Ezekiel 11:14-20 and Psalm 3.  Fidelity to God does not ensure a life full of ease, wine, ad roses, but it is one’s duty.  It is the duty to which Jesus, who called his Apostles, continues to call people and for which the Holy Spirit continues to equip the saints.

Sometimes, however, in the name of obeying God, well-meaning people establish or maintain barriers to would-be faithful people who are different.  This segue brings me to the reading from Galatians and to the question of circumcising Gentile male converts to Christianity.  On one level it is a matter of a commandment as old as the time of Abraham.  On another level it is a question of identity.  On yet another level it is, for many, a matter of obedience to God.

For St. Paul the Apostle it was a stumbling block to Gentiles.  He was correct.  Fortunately, St. Paul won that debate.

Fidelity to God is supposed to help others come to God, not to make that more difficult than it is already.  May we who follow Christ never be guilty of standing between God and other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

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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Ecclesiastes 2:11-26 or Ezekiel 2:1-3:4

Psalm 1

Galatians 1:1-24

Matthew 4:1-11

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The theme of fidelity to God unites these readings.

Fools and wise people die.  One works hard then dies; others inherit.  At least one can be faithful to God and enjoy one’s work during one’s life filled with pain.  That description certainly applies to Ezekiel, Jesus, and St. Paul the Apostle.  Relying on God while surrounded by faithless people, as well as away from the faithless, maddening crowd, one can resist the temptations to seek the easy way out, to be spectacular, to glorify oneself, not to depend on God, to serve evil, to make peace with injustice, et cetera.

As Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote in 1930,

Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;

Let the search for Thy salvation

Be our glory evermore.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

Serving Thee whom we adore,

Serving Thee whom we adore.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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The Light of God   1 comment

Above:   Candle Flame

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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Ecclesiastes 1:3-11

Psalm 119:145-152

James 1:2-11

John 10:31-42

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Much of life consists of familiar and transitory details.  They are familiar because they are similar to what has come before.  Since we they are transient, we ought not to become too attached to them.  Yet we do.  They become idols and psychological crutches.  Possessions will eventually cease to belong to us, even as we belong to them.  They might have value, but the crucial issue is perspective.  That which has the greatest value is intangible–is God.  Relationships also have great value, but they are also temporary, unlike God.

One might deepen a relationship with God during times of hardship, perhaps oppression or merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  God is always with us, but we are more receptive on certain occasions than on others.  It is also possible that the greater the need, the greater the grace.  Either way, the light of God seems brighter at night than in broad daylight.  That reality is itself a manifestation of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/devotion-for-proper-24-ackerman/

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Attachments, Part I   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 23:1-11 (Thursday)

Proverbs 24:1-12 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 49:1-12 (All Days)

Romans 11:33-36 (Thursday)

Ephesians 4:17-24 (Friday)

Mark 10:17-22 (Saturday)

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In prosperity people lose their good sense,

they become no better than dumb animals.

So they go on in their self-assurance,

right up to the end they are content with their lot.

–Psalm 49:12-13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The assigned readings, taken together, caution against becoming attached to temporal and transitory things, trusting in one’s imagined self-sufficiency, and endangering the resources of orphans.  We should, rather, focus on and trust in God, whose knowledge is inscrutable and ways are unsearchable.  One of the timeless principles of the Law of Moses is complete human dependency upon God.  Related to that principle are the following ones:

  1. We are responsible to each other,
  2. We are responsible for each other, and
  3. We have no right to exploit each other.

In Mark 10 Jesus encounters a wealthy man who has led a moral life.  He has not killed, committed adultery, stolen, borne false witness, defrauded anyone, or dishonored his parents.  Yet the man is attached to his money and possessions.  Our Lord and Savior tells him to detach himself by ridding himself of his wealth.  The man, crestfallen, leaves.

I ponder that story and ask myself how it would be different had the man been poor.  He still would have had some attachment of which to rid himself.  The emphasis of the account, therefore, is attachments, not any given attachment.  These attachments are to appetites, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.

The challenge is, in the words of Ephesians, to clothe ourselves

with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

–4:24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Fortunately, we have access to grace.  We also have a role model, Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Kyrie Eleison, Part I   1 comment

Kyrie

Above:  A Scan from The Gregorian Missal for Sundays (1990)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

Jeremiah 13:12-19 (Thursday)

Jeremiah  13:20-27 (Friday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

Acts 13:26-34 (Thursday)

1 Peter 1:17-2:1 (Friday)

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

–Psalm 1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 1 might be overly optimistic, but it functions as a fine counterpoint to the other readings.  Those readings address groups.  Jeremiah spoke to the Kingdom of Judah.  St. Paul the Apostle, addressing Jews in Antioch in Pisidia (in Asia Minor), spoke of the actions of religious authorities in Jerusalem.  St. (Simon) Peter the Apostle or someone writing in his name addressed congregations in Asia Minor.  Those three pericopes fit well together, for they diagnose societal problems.  Hubris is the main ill in Jeremiah 13.  From that pride flow other sins.  Such a diagnosis fits the pericope from Acts 13 well, for hubris contributed to the execution of an innocent man.  The readings from 1 Peter takes as its theme obedience to God.

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind!

–1 Peter 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

So much for a great deal of politics, talk radio, celebrity news, and Internet content!

The words of these days’ pericopes indict as strongly today as they did when they were fresh.  Human nature has not changed over time.  As Koheleth wrote,

Only that shall happen

Which has happened,

Only that occur

Which has occurred;

There is nothing new

Beneath the sun!

–Ecclesiastes 1:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Time passes, technology changes, and political and economic systems come and go, but we are really playing out variations of old themes, are we not?  Hubris remains current, malicious gossip has never ceased, and people in power continue to cause innocents to die.

May God have mercy on us all!

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-thursday-and-friday-before-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #450 of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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Human Folly and Divine Wisdom   1 comment

probably_valentin_de_boulogne_-_saint_paul_writing_his_epistles_-_google_art_project

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Psalm 29

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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Bow down to the LORD in his holy splendour.

–Psalm 29:2, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The author of Ecclesiastes was a realist.  I, as a student and teacher of history, recognize the truth of 1:10-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

Sometimes there is a new phenomenon of which they say, “Look, this one is new!”–it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.  The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

If all is “futility” (to quote TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) and “vanity” (to quote The New Revised Standard Version), to whom should we cling?  Is life a morass of postmodern uncertainty or do we have access to a ground for sound theological epistomology?  The author of Ecclesiastes advised trusting in God.

St. Paul the Apostle agreed with Koheleth.  Human wisdom and power are nothing compared to God, St. Paul wrote.  The power of God is saving those who are not perishing.  The only proper boast is in God, whose wisdom is foolishness to many people and whose foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.  God is reliable.  As Martin Luther counseled, may we rely on the faithfulness of God.

This ethos contradicts much “received wisdom” in the United States of America, where rugged individualism is a perceived virtue.  Reality belies rugged individualism, however.  We rely on each other in society.  For example, I drive my car to work.  I rely on mechanics to keep my car in working order.  (Fortunately, the vehicle is reliable, needing mostly routine maintenance.)  I also rely on those who maintain the roads on which I drive to work.  Beyond that concrete example, the social ethos of the Law of Moses is to acknowledge our total dependence on God, our responsibilities for each other, and our duties to each other.  This ethos precludes exploiting any person.

Only God can inaugurate such a society, but we mere mortals can labor to approach it.  We, after all, are society.  If we were to take more seriously our duties to God, to each other, and for each other, I wonder how much better society would be.  Such visions are not futile, if enough people, trusting in God, act faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Proper Priorities   1 comment

citizen-kane

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane, from Citizen Kane

(A Screen Capture)

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43

or 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23 and Psalm 49:1-11

then 

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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 Related Posts:

Proper 13, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

Proper 13, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecos/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

Hosea 11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-9-friday-year-2/

Ecclesiastes 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-24-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Colossians 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-a-principal-service/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-c-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

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Citizen Kane is a wonderful film, one which many younger viewers, accustomed to a different, faster-paced style of cinema find intolerable.  That is their loss.  The movie ends with Charles Foster Kane having died recently.  His business empire is gone and his mansion is full of material goods which mean nothing to those burning them.

And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

–Luke 12:20b, New Revised Standard Version

Night Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following words near the ritual’s beginning:

It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early,

and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety.

For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.

–page 167

Proper priorities matter.  Appropriate work provides one with an opportunity for self-fulfillment and economic independence while doing something beneficial to others.  It is about the “we,” not just “me.”  Such work is something worth enjoying.  And everything which destroys or damages that which is best in others and in oneself one must not nurture.  Or, as Rumi wrote in A Basket of Fresh Bread:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you who are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads.

Too often

we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey

run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t put a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

–Translated by Coleman Barks; from The Essential Rumi (1995), page 256

God, who loves us, longs to show us mercy.  Yet our actions will have consequences.  What we sow, we will also reap.  May we sow righteousness and focus on that which is positive and long-lasting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, KING OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WAYNE JUSTICE, JURIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/proper-13-year-c/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part I: Futility and Perceptions Thereof   1 comment

crucify-him

Above:  Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (Puck Magazine, March 19, 1913)

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011649479/)

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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:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

John 6:60-71

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Some Related Posts:

John 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-20-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-first-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

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Some parts–such as much of the Book of Proverbs–of the Bible seem overly optimistic to me.  The same rule applies to elements of the Torah.  Obey God, they say, and you (plural or singular) will flourish.  Life will consist of prosperity, safety, and cute, cuddly kittens which scamper about while looking adorable.  (Okay, I invented the part about kittens.)  Yet what about the Book of Job?  And what about the death of Jesus, the martyrdoms of ten of the original Apostles, and the martyrdom of St. Paul of Tarsus?  For that matter, what about the sufferings of faithful Christians since St. Stephen?

Koheleth, in Ecclesiastes 1, asked

What real value is there for a man

In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

–Verse 3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Jesus lost followers in John 6:66.  I think also of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (the Wonder-Worker), Bishop of Neocaesarea, Pontus, Asia Minor, who died in 268.  He had seventeen members of his flock when he became bishop.  For three decades he shepherded the Christians under his care through hardships, including a plague, a siege, and a Roman imperial persecution.  And, when he died, he still had only seventeen parishioners.  Had his work been in vain?

I think not.  If St. Gregory’s work has been in vain, so had our Lord’s.  But sometimes human concepts of work as leading to certain rewards fail to explain reality accurately.  Honest people scrape by sometimes while high-rolling criminals become wealthier.  Those whose greed tipped economies into globally-related recessions do not suffer financially, but innocents in the working class do.  I wonder what Koheleth would write about skullduggery in the world’s financial capitals and in the corridors of power in contemporary times.

Yet, sadly, Koheleth was partially correct in Chapter 1:  Much work is futile.  And this need not be the case.  Society is what people have made it, so is current reality can change.  May they do so for the benefit of more people, especially those without financial cushions and golden parachutes.  The Hebrew Prophets would approve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-24-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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That Which Has Significance   3 comments

Above:  Herod Antipas, by James Tissot

Image Source = Brooklyn Museum

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_Herod_(H%C3%A9rode)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall.jpg)

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Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Utter futility!–said Koheleth–

Utter futility!  All is futile!

What real value is there for a man

In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

One generation goes, another comes,

But the earth remains the same forever.

The sun rises, the sun sets–

And glides back to where it riese.

Southward blowing,

Turning northward,

Ever turning blows the wind;

On its rounds the wind returns.

All streams flow into the sea,

Yet the sea is never full;

To the place [from] which they flow

The streams flow back again.

All such things are wearisome:

No man can ever state them;

The eye never has enough of seeing,

Nor the ear enough of hearing.

Only that shall happen

Which has happened,

Only that occur

Which has occurred;

There is nothing new

Beneath the sun!

Sometimes there is a a phenomenon of which they say,

Look, this one is new!

–it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.  The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

Psalm 90:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3  You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

Luke 9:7-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Meanwhile Herod the tetrarch had heard all that was going on; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.  But Herod said,

John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this that I hear such reports about?

And he was anxious to see him.

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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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Great ambition without contribution is insignificant.

–William Hundert in The Emperor’s Club (2003)

The Hebrew word often translated “vanity” or “futility” means “air” or “breath,” therefore something transient.  This linguistic background is essential to grasping correctly the passage from Ecclesiastes.  But what is futile?  Does nothing have real meaning and purpose?  A note from page 1606 of The Jewish Study Bible has helped my understanding.  It reads:

Within Jewish commentary, one emphasis applies futility to actions of humans for themselves alone, since actions can last and be worthwhile only if they are involved with Torah and labor for God.

Herod Antipas, of whom we read in Luke 8:19-21, was a bad character.  He, a son of the notorious Herod the Great, had entered into an incestuous marriage, ordered the arrest of John the Baptist for decrying said marriage, and ordered John’s execution to save face at a party.  This man acted for his own self-interest, so his ambitions lacked significance.  John the Baptist, however, acted for God, so his deeds were significant.

The deeds of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth were for God; they were significant.  May we–you, O reader, and I–lead lives of significance, matters lasting and worthwhile.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROSA PARKS, MOTHER OF THE MODERN-DAY CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY CLARET, FOUNDER OF THE CLARETIANS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 24, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/week-of-proper-20-thursday-year-2/

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