Archive for the ‘Exodus 13’ Category

The Rise and Fall of Judah’s Political Leaders   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART X

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Ezekiel 17:1-24

Ezekiel 19:1-14

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For this post, O reader, we focus on two allegories.

Ezekiel 17 is the allegory of the eagles, the vine, and the cedar.  For background, read 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:1-8, 20-30; Jeremiah 27-29; Jeremiah 34; Jeremiah 52; 2 Chronicles 36; 1 Esdras 1:43-58;

The allegory, by definition, uses symbols.  The allegory tells the story of King Jehoiachin of Judah allying with Egypt against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, losing, and going into exile in 597 B.C.E.  The allegory continues to describe King Zedekiah‘s failed rebellion, and his fate.  The code of the allegory is as follows:

  1. The great eagle = King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  2. Lebanon = Jerusalem (v. 3).
  3. The topmost branch = Jehoiachin (r. 597 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  4. The land of merchants = Babylon (v. 4).
  5. The native seed = Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) (v. 5).
  6. Another great eagle = Pharoah Psammetichus II (r. 595-589 B.C.E.) (v. 7).
  7. The vine = the Davidic Dynastry (vs. 7-8).

Ezekiel 17:18f and 2 Chronicles 36:13 argue that Zedekiah had violated his oath of vassalage by rebelling against King Nebuchadnezzar II, and thereby sinned against God.  These texts also argue that Zedekiah earned his punishment.  This position is consistent with the importance of oaths in the Bible (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3, 28-31; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5, 11; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 5:1-4; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 5:17; Numbers 14:16, 30; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8, 35; Deuteronomy 6:10; Judges 11:11-40; 1 Kings 8:31-32; 1 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Chronicles 6:22-23; Psalm 16:4; Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 144:8; Hosea 4:15; Amos 8:14; Matthew 5:36; et cetera).et cetera

Ezekiel 17 concludes on a note of future restoration (vs. 22-24).  One Jewish interpretation of the final three verses holds that the construction of the Second Temple, under the supervision of Zerubbabel, of the House of David, fulfilled this prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23).  That interpretation does not convince me.  The prophecy concerns the restoration of the Jewish nation.  My sense of the past tells me that one may not feasibly apply this prophecy to the events following 142 B.C.E. and 1948 B.C.E., given the absence of the Davidic Dynasty in Hasmonean Judea and modern Israel.

The emphasis on divine power and human weakness defines the end of Chapter 17.

Ezekiel 19, which uses the metaphors of the lion (the tribe of Judah; Genesis 49:9) and the vine (the nation of the Hebrews), is a lament for the fall of the Judean monarchy.  For Ezekiel, priests properly outrank kings (34:24; 45:7-8), so Kings of Judah are “princes.”  The first cub (v. 4) is King Jehoahaz of Judah (r. 609 B.C.E.).  The second cub may be either King Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah of Judah.  The identity of the second cub is vague, but the prediction of the destruction of the monarchy of Judah is clear.

Leaders come and go.  Kingdoms, empires, and nation-states rise and fall.  All that is human is transitory.  But God lasts forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND MARY WARD, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF CLARA LOUISE MAASS, U.S. LUTHERAN NURSE AND MARTYR, 1901

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS, 202

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA MASTERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FACE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AND JOHN MUNDY, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

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This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Announcement of Judgment, with Confidence in God’s Future   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART VII

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Micah 6:1-7:20

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A motif in Hebrew prophetic literature in God making a legal case against a group of people.  That motif recurs at the beginning of Chapter 6.

Another motif in the Hebrew Bible is that God is like what God has done.  In other words, divine deeds reveal God’s character.  Likewise, human deeds reveal human character.  We read reminders of divine deliverance in Micah 6:4-5.  These verses call back to Exodus 1:1-15:21; Numbers 22:1-24:25; and Joshua 3:1-5:12.  God, who is just, expects and demands human justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God.

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

–Micah 6:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Not surprisingly, no English-language translation captures the full meaning of the Hebrew text.  For example, to walk humbly or modestly with God is to walk wisely or completely with God.  Doing this–along with loving goodness and doing justice–is more important than ritual sacrifices, even those mandated in the Law of Moses.  This theme occurs also in Hosea 6:4-6.  One may also recall the moral and ethical violations of the Law of Moses condemned throughout the Book of Amos.  Micah 6 and 7 contain condemnations of such sins, too.  The people will reap what they have sown.

To whom can they turn when surrounded by corruption and depravity?  One can turn to and trust God.  In the fullest Biblical and creedal sense, this is what belief in God means.  In the Apostles’ Creed we say:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth….

In the Nicene Creed, we say:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

Sometimes belief–trust–is individual.  Sometimes it is collective.  So are sin, confession, remorse for sins, repentance, judgment, and mercy.  In Micah 7:7-13, belief–trust–is collective.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the case of Jerusalem, personified.  The figure is Jerusalem, at least in the later reading of Micah.  The reference to Assyria (7:12) comes from the time of the prophet.

“Micah” (1:1) is the abbreviated form of “Micaiah,” or “Who is like YHWH?”  That is germane to the final hymn of praise (7:18-20).  It begins:

Who is a God like You….

–Micah 7:18a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born and raised in exile, within the borders of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Imagine that you had heard that the Babylonian Exile will end soon, and that you will have the opportunity to go to the homeland of which you have only heard.  Imagine that you have started to pray:

Who is a God like you, who removes guilt

and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;

Who does not persist in anger forever,

but instead delights in mercy,

And will again have compassion on us,

treading underfoot our iniquities?

You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;

You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and loyalty to Abraham,

As you have sworn to our ancestors from days of old.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Imagine, O reader, how exuberant you would have been.

As R. B. Y. Scott wrote regarding the Book of Hosea:

[The prophet] speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final word remains with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Micah.  I invite you to join me as I read and write about First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL GERHARDT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATINALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AMELIA BLOOMER, U.S. SUFFRAGETTE

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHARLES ROPER, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF OTTAWA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOJZE GROZDE, SLOVENIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1943

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Israel’s Punishment and Restoration, Part II: Parenting and Ingratitude   1 comment

Above:  Lion and Lioness

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART IX

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Hosea 11:1-13:16 (Anglican and Protestant)

Hosea 11:1-14:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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Hosea 11:5 and 12:1/12:2 are two verses in this book that refers to Egypt, with Egypt described as the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  “Egypt and Assyria” may be a motif in Hebrew prophetic literature, as some of the commentaries I consult suggest.  Egypt, as part of a motif, recalls slavery in a foreign land.  Returning to Egypt, metaphorically, is abandoning freedom in God and reversing the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17-14:31).  Perhaps the reference to King Hoshea of Israel (r. 732-722 B.C.E.) attempting a last-minute alliance with Egypt (2 Kings 17:4) offers a partial explanation for the motif of returning to Egypt in this portion of the Book of Hosea.  Otherwise, that motif makes no historical sense in the timeframe of the prophet Hosea, when Aram was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  If, however, one acknowledges subsequent Judean editing and updating of the Book of Hosea, this motif does make sense historically, assuming that one replaces “Assyria” with “Babylon.”  An astute student of the Bible may recall that, after the Fall of Jerusalem, some Judean fugitives went into exile in Egypt and took him with them (Jeremiah 42:1-44:30).  Anyway, the people, whether Israelite or Judean, were returning to Egypt, metaphorically, not to God.

Their one hope is the one possibility which they ignore.

–James Luther Mays, Hosea:  A Commentary (1969), 155

The main idea in these verses is that God loves the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, which he has refused to repent, to return to God and the covenant.  Israel has continued to surround God with deceit.  Israel has condemned itself, and God has pronounced sentence.  The people have no excuse and only themselves to blame.

Ephraim was bitterly vexing,

and his bloodguilt shall be set upon him,

and his Master shall pay him back for his shame.

–Hosea 12:15, Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019)

Alternatives to “shame” in other translations include scorn, blasphemy, insults, and mockery.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in both Testaments of the Bible.  This can be a difficult teaching to digest.  I struggle with it sometimes.  Yet I strive to be spiritually and intellectually honest.  God refuses to fit into human theological boxes and categories.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF CANTALICE, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part IV: Idolatry and Degeneration   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Neighbors

Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING HOSEA, PART VII

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Hosea 9:1-17

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I am convinced that references to Egypt in the Book of Amos may date to the Judean editing of the text.  History tells me that, in the days of the prophet Hosea, Aram, not Egypt, was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  History also tells me that, when the (southern) Kingdom of Judah was waning, Egypt was the main rival to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, successor to and conqueror of the Assyrian Empire.  I also recall 2 Kings 23:31f, in which the Pharaoh, having killed King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in battle, selected the next two Kings of Judah–Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Jeconiah and Shallum; reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E.) and Jehoiakim (born Eliakim; reigned 608-598 B.C.E.).  (See 2 Kings 23:31-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:1-8; and 1 Esdras 1:34-42.)  References to returning to Egypt make sense on a literal level after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, given the events of Jeremiah 42:1-44:31.  On a metaphorical level, “returning to Egypt” stands for abandoning freedom in God and returning to captivity, thereby reversing the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17-14:31).

As for eating unclean food in Assyria (9:3), just replace Assyria with Babylonia, and that statement applies to the late Judean reality, too.  2 Kings 24:1-25:30 tells of the fall of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  That portion of scripture also tells us that the last three Kings of Judah were Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassals.

Editing the original version of the Book of Hosea to describe the plight of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah required little effort.  For example, Hoshea (r. 732-723 B.C.E.), the last King of Israel, was a rebellious vassal of Assyria.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17).  Likewise, King Zedekiah (born Mattaniah; reigned 597-586 B.C.E.) was a rebellious vassal of Babylonia.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58)

A sense of divine sadness pervades Hosea 9:1-17.  One can feel it as one reads God, filtered through Hosea and perhaps subsequent editors, asking:

Why did my people make such terrible, destructive choices?

The chapter concludes on a somber note:

My God rejects them,

Because they have not obeyed Him….

–Hosea 9:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Cultures, societies, and individuals have the choice to obey or to disobey the moral mandates from God.  Well-intentioned people who seek to obey God may debate how to do so.  The situation in the Book of Hosea, however, is that the debate does not take place.  The Book of Hosea describes a society in which disregard for those moral mandates was endemic.  Judgment for trying and failing to fulfill these moral mandates differs from judgment for not caring enough to try.

My late beloved was mentally ill.  Immediately prior to the end of her life, I told her that I accepted that I had moral obligations to her, but that I did not know in the moment what they required me to do.  I was attempting, in a terminal crisis, to behave morally.  Perhaps I made the wrong choice.  Maybe I committed a sin of omission by avoiding the difficult and proper course of action.  Perhaps she would have done differently in a counterfactual scenario.  But I proceeded from a morally correct assumption, at least.

I live in a conflicted state.  I tell myself that I sinned by what I did not do, not what I did.  On the other hand, I tell myself that I could, at best, have delayed, not prevented her death by means other than natural causes.  I tell myself, too, that I had already delayed her death by means other than natural causes for years.  I tell myself that I carry survivor’s guilt, and that God has forgiven me for all sins of commission and omission vis-à-vis my late beloved.  I have yet to forgive myself, though.

I wonder what exiles from Israel and Judah felt as they began their captivity and that exile dragged on.  I wonder how many of them “saw the light” and repented.  I know that the Ten Lost Tribes (mostly) assimilated, and that their descendants spread out across the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa.  Knowing this adds poignancy to Hosea 9:14b:

And they shall go wandering

Among the nations.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We human beings condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST; HIS SON-IN-LAW, JOHN HENRY HOBART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW YORK; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM HOBART HARE, APOSTLE TO THE SIOUX AND EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF NIOBRARA THEN SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA VOLPICELLI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE SACRED HEART; SAINT LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, FOUNDER OF THE GRAY FRIARS OF CHARITY AND COFOUNDER OF THE GRAY SISTERS OF SAINT ELIZABETH; AND SAINT GIULIA SALZANO, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE CATECHETICAL SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AND THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEYS AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF DONALD COGGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN ZIATYK, POLISH UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1952

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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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The Challenge of Trusting God   1 comment

01946v

Above:  To Sinai Via the Desert:  The Wilderness of Shur, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/matpc/item/mpc2004004270/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01946

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 13:17-22 (30th Day)

Proverbs 3:5-12 (31st Day)

Proverbs 3:13-18 (32nd Day)

Psalm 102:1-17 (All Days)

Acts 7:17-40 (30th Day)

Acts 7:44-56 (31st Day)

John 8:31-38 (32nd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/devotion-for-the-fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Proverbs 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-29-and-march-1-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-5-and-6-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-first-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon it;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

–Psalm 102:13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Perhaps the most daunting challenge the first generation of post-Exodus Israelites faced was overcoming the slave mentality.  The Book of Exodus is replete with accounts of people murmuring against God and Moses while waxing nostalgic for the days of servitude in Egypt.  But, as Roy Batty said in Blade Runner (1982), to be a slave is to live in fear.  And to have faith in God is to trust God, who never let the Israelites starve or die of thirst in the desert.

As the Christian saints we call the Desert Fathers and the Desert Mothers knew well, life in the barren wilderness takes away all illusions that one does not depend on God for everything.  Learning to accept dependence on God can be a difficult spiritual task, regardless if one is a former slave or if one has grown up in a culture enamored of rugged individualism.  No, in the desert one knows that all comes from God, often via people.  Thus the twin realities of dependence upon God and interdependence of people become inescapable.

God, in one Biblical metaphor, is our gracious parent–usually our father yet our mother on occasion.  Thus those who follow God are metaphorically children of God–heirs, even–and siblings of each other.  May this be the most functional of families!  May we treat each other with the respect and love which comes with the status of child of God.  May we treat God with the respect and love due such a parent.  May we learn how to trust God better and more than we do now.

Whenever someone asks if I believe in God, I assume that he or she seeks to learn if I affirm the existence of God.  The answer to that query is that I do–all of the time, in fact.  Yet, since belief (in the Biblical sense) in God is trust in God, the better question is:

Do you trust God?

My answer to that inquiry is that I do most of the time, but that I seek to improve that frequency, by grace.  The fact that I want to trust God more constitutes a good start–something upon which God can build.  Certainly such a desire is preferable to apathy or hostility to the subject.  Yet my free will alone proves insufficient.

I have learned through living that the most fruitful periods of spiritual growth for me have included difficult passages, times when I have seen dreams shattered and illusions slain, when I have had to depend on others and on God for the most basic necessities in such ways as to injure my ego.  I have emerged a spiritually stronger person, although I have no desire to repeat the process by which I arrived at that state.  Sometimes I have clung so tightly to illusions and idols that I have paid sufficient attention to God only when I have had no distractions.  The ripping away of them was traumatic sometimes, but grace abounded in their absence.   Now, years after those experiences, I seek to live in a way which indicates that I have learned the appropriate lessons.  Any extent to which I have succeeded constitutes evidence of empowering grace.

Where is God leading you, O reader?  May your time in the spiritual wilderness (we all have such times) forge you so that you resemble more closely your potential in God.  And may you emerge better suited to encouraging others to trust God, your mother and father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/devotion-for-the-thirtieth-thirty-first-and-thirty-second-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part VII: Hope Near Yet Seemingly Far Away   1 comment

entombment-of-christ-caravaggio

Above:  The Entombment of Christ, by Caravaggio

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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 13:17-14:9

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 113 (Evening)

Hebrews 7:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 13-14:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-1/

Hebrews 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Prayer:

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

O Christ, Who Called the Twelve:

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

O Thou Who Through This Holy Week:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/o-thou-who-through-this-holy-week/

Thou Art the Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/thou-art-the-way/

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/

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Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to him,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

–Psalm 43:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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We read of

hope that brings us close to God

–Hebrews 7:19b, The New Jerusalem Bible

in the New Testament reading.  This hope occurs in the context of Christ’s high priesthood and superiority to the Law of Moses.  In the Book of Exodus we read that the Pharaoh, having begged Moses to take the Hebrews out of Egypt, changes his mind and sends military forces to prevent their departure.  Hope is at hand yet seemingly far away on the cusp of the Exodus.

This is, of course, a devotion for Holy Saturday, a day which should function as far more than a day to decorate a church building for Easter Sunday.  We ought to let Holy Saturday sink in.  We should let Jesus be dead liturgically for a time.  Easter Sunday will arrive on schedule, and its effect on us will be greater if we give Holy Saturday its proper due.

On this day hope is near yet seemingly far away.  This liminal state is uncomfortable, is it not?  Yet such liminality describes much of our lives:  hope is near yet seemingly far away.  In these moments we might notice God’s presence more palpably than at others.  Maybe God is present more palpably then because the need is greater.  Or perhaps we are merely paying closer attention.  A lamp turned on during both daytime and nighttime emits the same amount of light each time, yet the light is more obvious after sunset.  When hope is near yet seemingly far away may we cling tenaciously to it, for it is all that we have.

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-fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday-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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Posted January 21, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 12, Exodus 13, Hebrews 6, Psalm 107, Psalm 130, Psalm 22

Tagged with , ,

Righteousness, Genuine and Fake   1 comment

Above:  Boaz and Ruth, by Gustave Dore

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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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Ruth 2:1-11; 4:13-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a man of substance, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi,

I would like to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone who may show me kindness.

She replied,

Yes, daughter, go;

and off she went.  She came and gleaned in a field, behind the reapers; and, as luck would have it, it was the piece of land belonging to Boaz, who was of Elimelech’s family.

Presently Boaz arrived from Bethlehem.  He greeted the reapers,

The LORD be with you!

And they responded,

The LORD bless you!

Boaz said to the servant who was in charge of the reapers,

Whose girl is that?

The servant in charge of the reapers replied,

She is a Moabite girl who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.  She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’   She has been on her feet ever since she came this morning.  She has rested but little in the hut.

Boaz said to Ruth,

Listen to me, daughter.  Don’t go to glean in another field.  Don’t go elsewhere, but stay here close to my girls.  Keep your eyes on the field they are reaping, and follow them.  I have ordered the men not to molest you.  And when you are thirsty, go to the jars and drink some of [the water] that the men have drawn.

She prostrated herself with her face to the ground, and said to him,

Why are you so kind as to single me out, when I am a foreigner?

Boaz said in reply,

I have been told of all you that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before….

So Boaz married Ruth; she became his wife, and he cohabited with her.  The LORD let her conceive, and she bore a son.  And the woman said to Naomi,

Blessed be the LORD, who has not withheld a redeemer from you today!  May his name be perpetuated in Israel!  He will renew your life and sustain your old age; for he is born of your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons.

Naomi took the child and held it to her bosom.  She became its foster mother, and the women gave him a name, saying,

A son is born to Naomi!

They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, father of David.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who all fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Matthew 23:1-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples.

The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses,

he told them,

so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions.  But you must not imitate their lives!  For they preach but do not practise.  They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders–yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives and planned with an eye to effect.  They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their robes; they love seats of honour at dinner parties and front places in the synagogues.  They love to be greeted with respect in public places and to have men call them ‘rabbi!”  Don’t you ever be called ‘rabbi”–you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers.  And don’t call any human being ‘father’–for you have one Father and he is in Heaven.  And you must not let people call you ‘leaders’–you have only leader, Christ!  The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others.  For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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“…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king….”

–Matthew 1:5-6a (Revised Standard Version)

I type readings into these posts as part of a spiritual exercise.  Slowing down long enough to enter each word via my fingertips helps me pay close attention to the texts.   Sometimes whimsical thoughts occur to me as I interact with the stories.  So it was, that as I typed part of Ruth 2, I read that Boaz greeted his reapers with,

The LORD be with you!

and that they responded,

The LORD bless you!

If they had answered,

And also with you,

I mused, they might have been Episcopalians.

Seriously, though, good-natured denominational humor aside, I detected a common thread:  How we treat each other is vital in our faith life.  Let us begin with the Book of Ruth.

Boaz was a pious, kind, and wealthy man.  He did not have to permit Ruth to glean in his field, but he chose to do so.  And he, older than Ruth, fell in love with her and married her.  Furthermore, they had a son, Obed (Hebrew for servant or worshiper), who became the grandfather of King David.  I wonder if Boaz’s sensitivity to Ruth’s situation was related to his ancestry, as his mother was the prostitute Rahab, who rescued Hebrew spies in Joshua 2.  He does not seem to have been the kind of man who measured people according their pedigrees.

The genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17, is quite interesting.  Most of the names are male, so the occasional mention of a woman by name requires careful attention.  There is Mary, of course, but one also reads the names Rahab (a prostitute) and Ruth (a foreigner).  Bathsheba is also there, but not by name; she is “the wife of Uriah.”  So this family tree mentions four women, three of whom had dubious sexual reputations during their lifetimes.  The fourth was merely foreign-born, a fact about which some people were sensitive.  Why else would local women associate young Obed with Naomi, not Ruth?

Anyhow, the love match of Ruth and Boaz enriched their lives and that of Naomi.  It also constituted another link in the chain leading to Jesus.  That chain included some seemingly unlikely and not respectable people.

Jesus condemns some respectable people in Matthew 23.  There was nothing wrong with tassels or phylacteries; both are Biblical.  (See Exodus 13:1-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41; and Deuteronomy 22:12.)  But ostentatious displays of religion and quests for social honor attracted our Lord and Savior’s condemnation.  No, he said, one ought to seek opportunities to serve, not to be served.

Obed was the son of Boaz and Ruth.  His name meant “servant” or “worshiper.”  The greatest, Jesus said, was the servant of all.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted.  Or, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, “For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.”  This is the order in the Kingdom of God.  Thanks be to God!  May we learn this lesson, inwardly digest it, and act accordingly.  In so doing may we transform ourselves, each other, our communities, our societies, our politics, and our world.

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A PRAYER OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is despair hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORPHYRY OF GAZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

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