Archive for the ‘Ecclesiastes 3’ Category

Faithful Servants of God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Chapel of the Beatitudes, Galilee, 1940

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-20815

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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 3:1-14, 20-22 or Ezekiel 18:1-9, 25-32

Psalm 5

Galatians 2:14-21

Matthew 5:1-12

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I, as a member of a monthly book group, have been reading Jonathan T. Pennington’s Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew, a volume that overturns more than a century of scholarly consensus.  Pennington rejects the idea, ubiquitous in sermons, Sunday School lessons, commentaries, and study Bibles, that “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution–a way to avoid saying “God.”  He posits that “Kingdom of Heaven” actually refers to God’s rule on the Earth, that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is essentially the New Jerusalem, still in opposition to the world.  God will, however, take over the world, thereby resolving the tension.

The Kingdom of Heaven, we read in the Beatitudes, belongs to those who know their need for God and who experience persecution for the sake of righteousness.  They would certainly receive the kingdom, I agree.

Justification is a theme in Galatians 2.  There we read an expression of the Pauline theology of justification by faith, not by works or the Law of Moses.  This seems to contradict James 2:24, where we read that justification is by works and not by faith alone.  It is not actually a disagreement, however, given the different definitions of faith in the thought of James and St. Paul the Apostle.  Both of them, one learns from reading their writings and dictations, affirmed the importance of responding to God faithfully.  The theme of getting one’s act together and accepting one’s individual responsibility for one’s actions fits well with Ezekiel 18, which contradicts the theology of intergenerational guilt and merit found in Exodus 20:5.

How we behave matters very much; all of the readings affirm this.  Thus our actions and inactions have moral importance.  Do we comfort those who mourn?  Do we show mercy?  Do we make peace?  Do we seek to be vehicles of divine grace to others?  Hopefully we do.  And we can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Interim Times   1 comment

Above:  New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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Koheleth advises us to eat, drink, and find happiness in work, for doing all of the above is a divine gift.  And what is that work?  Regardless of the particulars of vocations and avocations, that work, when it is what it should be, entails meeting the needs of people, to whom God has granted inherent dignity.  The divine commandment of hospitality, as in Matthew 25:31-46, is part of Judeo-Christian ethics.  Only God can save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

The end of Revelation (no “s” at the end of that word, despite Biblically illiterate additions of that letter) describes the aftermath of God’s creative destruction.  By this point in the Apocalypse of John God has destroyed the old, corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order built on ego, might, and artificial scarcity.  Then John sees a new heaven and a new earth.  Then the Kingdom of Heaven described in the Gospel of Matthew becomes reality.

That event remains in the future tense.  Until then we have work to do, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.  May we go about it faithfully and find happiness in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time,

and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love.

Grant that in the new year we may know your presence,

see your love at work,

and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever

–the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 63

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalm 8

Revelation 21:1-6a

Matthew 25:31-46

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-new-years-day-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Gracious Speech Seasoned With Salt   1 comment

Salt Shaker

Above:  A Salt Shaker

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:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-17 (Monday)

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:8 (Tuesday)

Psalm 127 (Both Days)

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (Monday)

Colossians 4:2-6 (Tuesday)

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If Yahweh does not build a house

in vain do its builders toil.

If Yahweh does not guard a city

in vain does its guard keep watch.

–Psalm 127:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The key word from the readings from Ecclesiastes is “futility.”  The quest for wealth is futile.  Seeking happiness in wealth is futile.  At least one can obtain some enjoyment from possessions, not that one can take them along for the journey after death.

Colossians 3:18-4:6 offers some uncomfortable material.  First we encounter the verse about wives being subject to their husbands.  The next verse mitigates it somewhat by speaking of a husband’s obligation to love his wife and never to be harsh with her.  At least in Ephesians 5, when these topics arise, they do so in the context of

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–5:21, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

The next difficult topic is slavery, which the New Testament condemns nowhere.  Slavery in the Roman Empire was different from race-based chattel slavery, of courrse, but I posit that all forms of slavery are wrong at all times and at all places.  The expectation that Jesus would return soon and inaugurate social justice informed the absence of a condemnation of slavery, but (A) that was nearly 2000 years ago, (B) Jesus did not return, and (C) the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself applies in all places an at all times.  At least the text noted that there is no partiality with God.

The parting advice from Colossians 4 is timeless:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.

4:6, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Graciousness flows from and imparts grace.  Salt preserves and amplifies flavor.  Contrary to the term “salty language,” gracious speech seasoned with salt builds up others.  It edifies them; it does not insult them.  And it is not futile.

May your speech, O reader, be gracious and seasoned with salt more often that it is already.  May mine be likewise.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.  May we function as effective agents of grace.

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-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Upside-Down   1 comment

Fruit of the Christ Passion Icon

Above:  Fruit of the Christ Passion, an Icon

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

John 12:27-36

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Psalm 91 reads in part:

Because you have made the Lord your refuge

and the Most High your stronghold,

There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your tent.

–Verses 9 and 10, Common Worship (2000)

That stands in stark contrast to Jesus’s experience in John 12:27-36, for his time to die was near.  His exaltation was a form of execution the Roman authorities intended to be humiliating.

Often reality contradicts expectations.  Following God faithfully does not necessarily lead to peace and prosperity.  God can transform shame into glory, pain into a means of salvation, death into life, and defeat into victory.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11 and Luke 6:20-23) and Woes (Luke 6:24-26) contradict conventional wisdom.  God steadfastly refuses to fit into our figurative boxes.

One might find that reality maddening or liberating.  The reality of Hod frees us (if we permit it to do so) from illusions and folly dressed up as wisdom.  So yes, the crucifixion proved inadequate to keep Jesus dead.  And the recurring theme of the reversal of fortunes in the Gospel of Luke has challenged readers of that text for nearly 2000 years.  I refuse to avoid discomfort with those passages by distorting their plain meanings.  The Kingdom of God seems upside-down relative to the dominant human order, but the latter is actually upside-down.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 10, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Ecclesiastes 3, John 12, Luke 6, Matthew 5, Psalm 91

Tagged with

Enjoying God Fully   1 comment

Family Record-Marriage Certificate

Above:  Family Record-Marriage Certificate, 1800s

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 2:1-11 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (Friday)

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 (Saturday)

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The LORD’s thunder brings flashes of lightning.

The LORD’s thunder makes the desert writhe,

the LORD makes the desert of Kadesh writhe.

The LORD’s thunder makes the oak trees dance around

and strips the forests bare.

So in his Temple everyone shouts “Glory!”

–Psalm 29:7-9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The Westminster Larger Catechism

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Koheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, discovered that he enjoyed his wealth, but that he got nothing else out of it.  That enjoyment of life’s blessings is a gift from God, he wrote.

Psychological studies have revealed the links between increased wealth and happiness.  Up to a certain amount, more wealth means more happiness.  Past that point increased wealth leads either to no additional happiness or to greater stress.  Often people who are wealthy beyond the point at which more wealth does not increase happiness desire more money.  Yet some of the most content people have had little and some of the most miserable people have been wealthy.  Likewise, some of the poorest people have found poverty to be the cause of great misery and some of the wealthiest people have long known that money can stave off many indignities and sorrows.

The real issue is priorities.  Wealth can insulate one from a sense of total dependence on God and of responsibilities to and for other people.  This reality, I am convinced, explains many of the hard sayings regarding wealth in the Bible.  Furthermore, wealth cannot shield one from all of life’s indignities and sorrows.

Another priority is choosing happiness.  Being happy is a choice, regardless of one’s level of wealth, marital status, health, et cetera.  Establishing the priority to notice the plethora of blessings from God and to revel in them is a positive course of action.

A negative course of action is to fail to recognize divine wisdom.  St. Paul the Apostle wrote that such failure led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Christ was divine love incarnate, but that love proved threatening to human power structures built on violence and on artificial scarcity and exclusiveness.  Those blinders prevented those who killed Jesus and those who consented to his death from recognizing their sin.  Those people could have enjoyed God fully, but they failed to recognize God in their midst.

A habit I remind myself to nurture is to identify five blessings every day.  (I should do better at this practice than I do, but often I become distracted.)  To identify five blessings each day and to revel in them is a realistic goal.  So is to do this for many consecutive days without duplicating any items on the daily lists.  The main point of this spiritual exercise is to develop a mindset of gratitude to God and of awareness of the great number of blessings–to enjoy God more fully.  Koheleth and St. Paul the Apostle would approve.

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-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part II: Heirs   1 comment

st-pauls-newnan

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assistant Bishop of Atlanta, with Three Parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newnan, Georgia, July 1, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreSVisitToStPaulSNewnan#5760319237264683970)

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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 2:1-26 (May 25)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 (May 26)

Psalm 104 (Morning–May 25)

Psalm 19 (Morning–May 26)

Psalms 118 and 33 (Evening–May 25)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–May 26)

John 7:1-13 (May 25)

John 7:14-31 (May 26)

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Some Related Posts:

John 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-21-and-22-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-seventh-day-of-lent/

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A wise person and a fool share the same fate:  death.  And, even if one is wise, there is no guarantee that one’s heirs will not be foolish.  One’s actions in life cancel each other out, but at least one can enjoy one’s own work, even if that work is futile.  Such was Koheleth’s perspective in Ecclesiastes 2 and 3.

I perceive in the Gospels many occasions on which Jesus could have felt that this words and deeds were futile.  The Apostles failed to understand–again.  He faced opposition yet again for committing a good deed on the Sabbath.  People kept plotting to kill him.  Followers deserted him after hearing difficult teaching.  I have no doubt that he felt discouraged at times; he was fully human.

But his heirs of a sort started something which has flourished.  So today I am a Christian because of a chain of faith which reaches back to those Apostles.  I am an heir of a sort.  May I be, by grace, a wise one.  And so may you, O reader.

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-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Sovereignty of God   1 comment

Above:  Christ and Pilate, by Nikolai Ge

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven:

A time for being born and a time for dying,

A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;

A time for slaying and a time for a time for healing,

A time for tearing down and a time for building up;

A time for weeping and a time for laughing,

A time for wailing and a time for dancing;

A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;

A time for seeking and a time for losing,

A time for keeping and a time for discarding;

A time for ripping and a time for sewing,

A time for silence and a time for speaking;

A time for loving and a time for hating;

A time for war and a time for peace.

What value, then, can the man of affairs get from what he earns?  I have observed the business that God gave man to be concerned with:  He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass.  Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.

Psalm 144:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

Luke 9:18-22 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one day when he [Jesus] was praying alone in presence of his disciples he put this question to them,

Who do the crowds say I am?

And they answered,

John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.

He said,

But you, who do you say I am?

It was Peter who spoke up.

The Christ of God,

he said.  But he [Jesus] gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

The Son of Man

he said

is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.

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I feel confident in writing that Ecclesiastes is far from the most optimistic book in the Bible.  This fact does not negate the text, which contains profound truths.  Among those truths is this one:  God is in control.  Koheleth tells me that human actions cancel each other out, so we cannot reap real advantage from our deeds.  Yet we can, by grace, at least enjoy our actions.

The other reading in this day’s lectionary assignment is part of one of the Synoptic account of St. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah.  In it our Lord predicts his fate.  If we read Luke 9:18-22 with the main idea of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 in mind, we discover congruency.  God is in charge.  The authorities will do their worst (Let us never minimize the severity of it.), but God will reverse the execution.  Those who plotted the judicial murder of Jesus will not have long to think that they have succeeded.

Neither lection is especially cheerful, but at least the underlying sovereignty of God ought to comfort us.  It will not do so if we are control freaks, but control is more illusion than not.  It is better to live in a state of liberation from illusions, so that we will embrace reality instead.  If we accept that God is sovereign, we will not burden ourselves needlessly with vain and futile pursuits of control.  And what further joys might we discover then?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 25, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-2/

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Posted October 25, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Ecclesiastes 3, Luke 9, Psalm 144