Archive for the ‘Exodus 12’ Category

Insensitivity to Human Needs   1 comment

Agape Feast

Above:  Agape Feast

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:33-42 (Thursday)

Exodus 12:43-13:2 (Friday)

Exodus 13:3-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 78:23-29 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 (Friday)

Matthew 16:5-12 (Saturday)

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So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

–Psalm 78:25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Passover meal, from which we Christians derive the Holy Eucharist, originates from the context of divine liberation of slaves from an empire founded upon violence, oppression, and exploitation.  The Passover meal is a communal spiritual exercise, a rite of unity and a reminder of human dependence on God.

The readings from 1 Corinthians 11 refer to abuses of the agape meal, or the love feast, from which the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist evolved.  There was a sacred potluck meal inside house churches.  The idea was that people gave as they were able and received as they had need to do so.  There was enough for everybody to have enough–a spiritual principle of the Kingdom of God–when all went was it was supposed to do.  Unfortunately, in the Corinthian church, some of the wealthy members were eating at home prior to services, thus they chose not to share with less fortunate, who did not have access to enough good meals.  This bad attitude led to the love feast becoming a means of division–especially of class distinctions–not of unity, and therefore of unworthy consumption of the sacrament by some.  Is not becoming drunk at a love feast an example of unworthy consumption?  And is not partaking of the sacrament with a selfish attitude toward one’s fellow church members an example of unworthy consumption?

“The leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6) refers to forms of piety which depend upon wealth, thereby writing off the poor “great unwashed” as less pious and defining the self-proclaimed spiritual elites as supposedly holier.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees, who collaborated with the Roman occupiers, could afford to pay religious fees, but most people in Judea lived a hand-to-mouth existence.  The combination of Roman and local taxes, fees, and tolls was oppressive.  And keeping the purity codes while struggling just to survive was impossible.  Jesus argued against forms of piety which perpetuated artificial inequality and ignored the reality that all people depend entirely on God, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.

To this day teaching that we depend entirely upon God, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other will get one in trouble in some churches.  I recall some of the congregations in which I grew up.  I think in particular of conversations between and among parishioners, many of whom considered such ideas too far to the theological and political left for their comfort.  Many of them labored under the illusion of rugged individualism and embraced the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality.  Those ideas, however, were (and remain) inconsistent with the biblical concepts of mutuality and recognition of total dependence upon God.  May we put those idols away and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-13-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jesus and Scapegoating   1 comment

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Above:  The Dogma of the Redemption, by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133671

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The Collect:

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal,

Jesus gave us a new commandment,

to love one another as he loves us.

Write this commandment in our hearts,

and give us the will to serve others

as he was the servant of all, your Son,

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 30

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:1-4 [5-10] 11-14

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31-35

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

1 Corinthians 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-2/

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Prayer for Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-holy-thursdaymaundy-thursday/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

That Solemn Night:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/that-solemn-night/

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O Lord, I am your servant,

your servant, the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 116:14-15, Common Worship (2000)

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The greatest title of the Bishop of Rome is “Servant of the Servants of God.”  That model of servanthood comes from Jesus himself, who affirmed by words and deeds the dignity of human beings and called we mortals to respectful community.  In serving each other we seek and find our own best interests, for what affects one person has an impact on others.

The Passover and the Exodus marked the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, delivered them from the sins of their oppressors, and set them on the way to hearing an ideal of responsibility to and for each other.  In the Law of Moses people, all slaves of God, have no right to exploit or oppress each other.  We humans have yet to fulfill that ethic in our social, economic, and political systems, unfortunately.

Ironically, the reading from the Gospel of John is set on Wednesday, for, in the Fourth Gospel, our Lord and Savior dies on Thursday, while the sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  He is, in other words, the Passover Lamb.  He was, for many, a scapegoat in a difficult political situation.  Yet the wrath of the Roman Empire fell hard in time anyway.

Scapegoating anyone violates the ethic of mutuality in the Law of Moses.  May we, in reverence for Jesus and because it is the right thing to do, refrain from scapegoating people.  May we respect their dignity actively and effectively instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

THE FEAST OF KAMAHAMEHA AND EMMA, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAII

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/devotion-for-maundy-thursday-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace and Mutual Responsibility, Part I   1 comment

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Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28 (Monday)

Isaiah 53:1-12 (Tuesday)

Psalm 40:6-17 (both days)

Acts 8:26-40 (Monday)

Hebrews 10:1-4 (Tuesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

Acts 8:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/devotion-for-june-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Isaiah 53:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/proper-24-year-b/

Hebrews 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-ninth-day-of-lent-good-friday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-third-day-of-easter-tuesday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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O Lord my God,

great are the wonderful things you have done,

and the things you have in mind for us:

there is none to be compared with you.

I would proclaim them and speak of them:

but they are more than can be numbered.

–Psalm 40:6-7, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The laws of God which are written on hearts and minds are laws of grace, love, and responsibility for and to each other.  They are laws of love for and responsibility to God.  The essence of them is to love God fully and others as ourselves.  The rest is commentary–mostly culturally-specific commentary–examples (bound by time, space and circumstances) of universal principles.  Therefore to become so fixated on examples as to ignore or minimize the universal principles is to miss the point and fall into legalism.

This internalized covenant is for all people, not that everyone embraces it or will do so.  It is for Hebrews and Gentiles alike.  It is for those like us and those quite different from us.  It is as much as for Hebrews as it was for a confused Ethiopian eunuch who needed a good catechist.  Fortunately, God sent him one.

The reading from Exodus speaks of the Passover meal instructions and of the importance of blood in deliverance–the latter being a theme in other readings for these days.  In the case of the Passover, the blood protected the Hebrews not from their own sins, but those of Egyptians.  This is a point which one might overlook out of imagined familiarity with the text.  Anyhow, the metaphor of the Passover as applied to Jesus (perhaps most explicitly applied to Jesus in the Gospel of John, where he dies on Passover itself–is the sacrificial lamb) carries meaning beyond just saving us from ourselves–from our sins.

A traditional American hymn speaks of

What wondrous love

that

caused the Lord of bliss

to

lay aside his crown for my soul.

May we–you, O reader, and I–respond favorably to that grace with heart and mind engaged fully, giving neither short shrift.  May we understand correctly and act accordingly, helping others to whom God sends us and others whom God sends to us, to do likewise.  For we are all responsible to and for each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted September 6, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 8, Exodus 12, Hebrews 10, Isaiah 53, Psalm 40

Tagged with

Numbers and Luke, Part II: In It Together   1 comment

parable-of-the-unjust-steward

Above:  The Unjust Steward

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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:

Numbers 9:1-23

Psalm 98 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening)

Luke 16:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-cities-neighborhoods-communities-and-those-who-serve-them/

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Biblical nuances interest me.  In Exodus 12 we read regarding the Passover meal:

No foreigner shall eat of it.

–verse 43a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and

If a stranger, who dwells with you would offer the passover to the LORD, all his males must be circumcised; then he shall be as a citizen of the country.  But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.  There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.

–verses 48-49, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Then, in Numbers 9,  observing the Passover meal (the first one in the wilderness) is mandatory (delayed for reasons of ritual impurity).  Then we read:

And when a stranger who resides with you would offer a passover sacrifice to the LORD, he must offer it in accordance with the rules and rites of the passover sacrifice.  There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country.

–verse 14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Unfortunately, there was a death penalty attached to not obeying the mandate.  This is the Law of Moses, after all; there is a death penalty attached to many offenses.  On the other hand, however, resident aliens (as opposed to mere strangers) were equally subject with Israelites to the Law.  And why not?  The Israelites and the resident aliens were, as we say in North America,

in it together.

We humans are all

in it together,

are we not?  We do not have to like each other, socialize together, understand each other, or be similar to each other, but we must understand that what one person does affects others.  One main fault of extreme libertarianism is its excessive individualism, its failure to give due weight to mutual dependence, the actual state of the human race.  Sometimes I need to curtail my appetites for the benefit of others.  Yet the collective has no right practice the tyranny of the majority or of the vocal, screaming, hysterical, minority which might control some part of state machinery.  The individual and the collective need to exist in balance:  rights and liberties, in the light of natural law and the fact that the dissident might be correct, at least partially.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward preventing violations of civil liberties and rights.

The unjust steward of the parable knew that he needed others immediately and urgently.  So, for selfish reasons, he brought his master into compliance with the anti-usury parts of the Law of Moses.  His reasons did not matter to those he helped.  Money was a means to several ends, some of them righteous in spite of the person’s motivation.  And money was crucial to being able to afford a style of piety which Jesus condemned.  Poverty, Jesus said, ought not to mark one as incapable of living faithfully.  And those poor people (many of them, anyway) financed the lifestyles of the rich and overtly pious.  How just was that?

When Christ comes to be our judge, may he rule that we acted consistently to raise each other up, to bind up each other’s wounds, to bear each other’s  burdens as able and always and to avoid stomping on each other.  We do, after all, need each other, even if we do not know that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part VI: Remembering This Day   1 comment

orthodox-crucifix

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Crucifix

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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:

Exodus 12:29-32; 13:1-16

Psalm 22 (Morning)

Psalms 107 and 130 (Evening)

Hebrews 6:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

Hebrews 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-good-friday/

Grant, Lord Jesus, That My Healing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/grant-lord-jesus-that-my-healing/

To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/to-mock-your-reign-o-dearest-lord/

Throned Upon the Awful Tree:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/throned-upon-the-awful-tree/

How Can I Thank You?:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/how-can-i-thank-you/

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/o-christ-who-called-the-twelve/

How Wide the Love of Christ:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/how-wide-the-love-of-christ/

Beneath the Cross of Jesus:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/beneath-the-cross-of-jesus/

Darkly Rose the Guilty Morning:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/darkly-rose-the-guilty-morning/

O Jesus, We Adore Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/o-jesus-we-adore-thee/

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/o-sacred-head-now-wounded/

Stabat Mater:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/stabat-mater/

Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/ah-holy-jesus-how-hast-thou-offended/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

My Song is Love Unknown:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/my-song-is-love-unknown/

In the Cross of Christ I Glory:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/in-the-cross-of-christ-i-glory/

Hymn of Promise:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/hymn-of-promise/

O Jesus, Youth of Nazareth:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/o-jesus-youth-of-nazareth-by-ferdinand-q-blanchard/

For the Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/for-the-cross/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

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My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

and are so far from my cry

and from the words of my distress?

–Psalm 22:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Remember this day….

–Exodus 13:3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Today, in the Book of Exodus, we read instructions immediately prior to the title event of that text.  Among them is to remember that day, to speak of it to one’s children.  History tells us of many Passover feasts long after that day.  Among those Passover feasts was the one during Holy Week in 29 CE, when Jesus died.

Ritual has a proper place in religion.  Via ritual we mark time and set aside certain days.  And it is appropriate to observe Good Friday in a manner unlike any other day.  In The Episcopal Church we read a Passion account, distributing parts among members of the congregation.  The liturgy ends on a deafening and somber silence.  The ritual communicates a certain degree of the sadness of the crucifixion.  The silence speaks louder than any words can.

We remember the first Passover in joy and the crucifixion in stunned silence.  Both responses are appropriate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/devotion-for-the-thirty-ninth-day-of-lent-good-friday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part V: The Sins of Others   1 comment

lamb-altarpiece-ghent

Above:  Lamb Altarpiece, Ghent, by Jan van Eyck (circa 1395-1441)

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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:

Exodus 12:1-28

Psalm 38 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 102 (Evening)

Hebrews 5:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

Hebrews 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/proper-24-year-b/

 Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-holy-thursdaymaundy-thursday/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

That Solemn Night:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/that-solemn-night/

At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/at-the-lambs-high-feast-we-sing/

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It is appropriate to read instructions for the first Passover on Maundy Thursday.  Although the Synoptic Gospel narrative sets the crucifixion of Jesus on Friday–one day after the Passover meal, the Gospel of John places the crucifixion on Thursday–the day of Passover.  In simple terms, Jesus dies on the cross as sacrificial animals go to the slaughter at the Temple.  Jesus in the Passover Lamb in the Gospel of John.

The original Passover lambs in the Book of Exodus preserved the Hebrews from the consequences of the sins of others, especially the Pharaoh.  And Christ, as high priest in Hebrews 5, has no need to sacrifice for our sins (as he has none) but only for the sins of others.

The sins of others affect us; how can they not, given the fact that our lives intersect in society?  Likewise, our virtues affect each other for the same reason.  May we therefore, through Christ our sinless High Priest and Passover Lamb, affect each other more positively than negatively.  May we spread love, friendship, empathy, and compassion to each other.  May we not place others in harm’s way needlessly or accidentally.  May we build a better society.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Metropolis (1927)   Leave a comment

metropolis-1927-shift-change

Above:  Shift Change from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture I Took

METROPOLIS (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea von Harbou

To say that Metropolis is a classic and influential film is to understate reality greatly; immediately I recognize echoes of it in the works of James Whale (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), George Lucas (Star Wars, sequels, and prequels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).  Scholars of cinema can and do create long lists of influences and subsequent homages.  And to state that those who butchered the movie (even destroying cut scenes) shortly after the movie’s debut were blooming idiots is to claim the obvious as true.  Fortunately, a nearly complete restored version (finished in 2010) is available.

There are versions of the movie available for home viewing.  I have the 2001 restored version (with about 3/4 of the movie present) and the 2010 restored version (with 99% of the footage included).  Alas, two scenes are, to the best of current knowledge, beyond salvage, so intertitles summarizing them will have to suffice.  Each of these versions–the Restored Authorized Version of 2001 and the Complete Metropolis of 2010–has different and helpful special features, so I recommend owning both if one is a cinephile.  The commentary track on the 2001 version is quite informative, for example, as is the documentary included with the 2010 edition.

This is a religious blog, so I choose to leave most aspects of the movie to already extant websites (such as http://www.metropolis1927.com/ and http://www.filmsite.org/metr.html ), which cover that ground quite well as I ponder some of the movie’s spiritual connections.  A film in which a city leader rules from the New Tower of Babel (a reference to Genesis 11:1-9), people read from the Book of Revelation (with references to the Whore of Babylon from chapters 17 and 19), and the leader’s son must serve as the mediator between the head (the ruler) and the hands (the oppressed workers) calls out for theological analysis.

Thea von Harbou’s story is set in an unnamed European city in 2026.  Urban elites live in skyscraper penthouses and play in the Eternal Gardens.  Meanwhile, those who built the city and who keep it functioning live hard lives, work ten-hour shifts, and occupy subterranean homes.  Joh Fredersen, the ruthless industrialist who governs the city, considers this arrangement just; the workers are, he says,

Where they belong.

His son, Freder, is naively unaware of the plight of the “other half” until Maria, the prophet of the working class, brings some of the workers’ barefoot children, clad in rags, to the Eternal Gardens and shows them their

brothers and sisters.

The butler shoos them away, of course.  But Freder begins to search the city in search of the woman with whom he has just fallen in love.  He does find her eventually, but not before he witnesses and experiences the harsh industrial conditions.  And he begins to realize his destiny to function as the mediator who will avert the violent overthrow of his father’s regime and who will create justice for the workers.

Some characters are inexact analogs for biblical figures.

Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure.  Not only is he the mediator, but he is crucified on a clock in one scene in which he takes a worker’s place.

If Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure, his father Joh is the YHWH figure.  If one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one realizes that YHWH is not always nice.  Joh does approve of the workers’ rebellion so that he can crush it, eliminate troublemakers, and rule with an even more iron fist; he is an unsympathetic character.  Meanwhile, back in the Old Testament, depictions of YHWH are sometimes unpleasant; YHWH does send plagues and pestilences upon innocent populations more than once.  (See Exodus 7:14-12:32 and 2 Samuel 24:10-17, for example.)

Above:  Rotwang shows Joh Frederson the “Machine Man”

Rotwang, the inventor and prototypical cinematic mad scientist, is the Satan figure.  He pursues his own agenda and desires to undermine Joh.  Rotwang almost succeeds.

The movie portrays inhumane industrial conditions as idolatry.  In one scene Freder witnesses an industrial accident which claims human casualties.   He imagines the machine as Moloch/Molech, the Ammonite deity mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7 and 2 Kings 23:10, and experiences a hallucination of the machine consuming willing and unwilling human sacrifices.

Alas, the film’s conclusion does seem like a too-convenient deus ex machina, one which leaves the oppressive Joh Fredersen in charge.  But perhaps he will change his ways; nobody is beyond repentance and redemption, right?

Metropolis, despite its inconsistencies, is a staggering achievement and a masterpiece, one worthy of thoughtful appreciation and analysis beyond its obvious technical excellence.  This is not a story of the violent overthrow of the dictatorial and insensitive regime. Rather, the aborted uprising is the work of Rotwang, the Satan analog, who seeks to overthrow Joh, and of Joh, who wants to use the opportunity for his own purposes, only to find that they backfire on him.  So the politics of the film are inconsistent.  One might guess, based on the early scenes, that the ending might be different:  Freder and Maria overthrow Joh, with the screenwriter’s approval.  But no!

Yet the movie is what it is.  And the theme of social justice, especially that of the economic variety, is consistent with the ethos of the Hebrew prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA