Archive for the ‘Exodus 7’ Category

The Sounding of the Seven Trumpets   Leave a comment

Above:  The Locusts of the Apocalypse

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART XI

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Revelation 8:1-11:9

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Symbolism is going full-throttle in Revelation 8-11.  I choose not to decode every symbol, but do opt to make some textual and historical sense of these chapters.

THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS

Revelation 8:1-6 depicts the opening of the seventh seal, which sets the stage for the sounding of the seven trumpets.

The first four trumpets round out Revelation 8.  The natural disasters–depicted as divine judgment–relate to human sins.  Actions have consequences.

Let us be careful, O reader.  May we not blame victims.  Those who live in Kansas will have to deal with tornadoes because tornadoes occur in Kansas.  Hurricanes and tropical storms strike the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  Earthquakes occur at fault lines.  Some events occur for natural reasons.  But sometimes collective human actions make matters worse.  Industrial pollution of a certain variety leads to acid rain.  Global warming/climate change makes weather more extreme, and severe storms more frequent.  Actions have consequences.

Revelation 8:8-9 contains echoes of Exodus 7:14-25, 1 Enoch, and the Sybilline Oracles.  In 1 Enoch 18:13, seven stars like great, burning mountains fall into the sea.  These are fallen angels (1 Enoch 21:3-10).  The Sybilline Oracles refer to stars (swords, figuratively) that will fall into the sea (3:672-684), as well as to a great star that will fall into the sea (5:158-161).  The great star will destroy Rome and Italy for Roman persecution of Jews.  In Revelation 8:8-9, the burning mountain represents a fallen angel expelled from Heaven to wreak destruction on the world.

THE DEMONIC LOCUSTS

The demonic locusts (Revelation 9;1-12) represent the Roman Empire, historically.  Echoes of the plagues on Egypt continue.  One may also detect allusions to Joel 1 and 2.

Revelation 9:1 depicts evil as functioning in the service of divine will.  This is not evil’s intention.  Yet the sovereignty of God makes evil work for good.

Members of each generation may identify contemporary demonic locusts.  Locusts come and go; the motif repeats.

ROMAN IMPERIAL PERSECUTION

The historical reference in Revelation 9:13-21 is the Roman Empire, persecuting Christians.  Recall, O reader, that “Babylon” is code for Rome in Revelation.  Again, the motif repeats with variations in the evil power of the time.

Also, the failure to learn lessons that history should have made abundantly clear is, depressingly, predictable.  Never underestimate human obliviousness, O reader.

EATING THE SCROLL OF DOOM

John of Patmos eating the scroll of doom ought to remind a serious student of the Bible of Ezekiel 1-3.

Revelation 10:1-11 contains many allusions to the Hebrew Bible.

SYMBOLISM AND NUMEROLOGY

Symbolism and numerology drench Revelation 11:1-14.  Imagine, O reader, being a Roman censor reading these verses.  You would experience confusion.  Cracking the code requires understanding parts of the Hebrew Bible.  Having a grasp of 1 Enoch 61:1-5 also helps.  In that text, angels with cords measure the righteous and the faithful, for protection against spiritual dangers.

Without getting lost in the proverbial weeds (easy to do), the time God will permit the Roman Empire to continue to rule will be like the time Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and persecuted Jews (Daniel 9:27; 12:7).  Three and a half years–forty-two months–is a mystical and symbolic timeframe.  Emperor Domitian is like King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Revelation says.  Evil’s days of governing are numbered.

The Church will outlive its oppressors.  The Church–the seemingly dead two witnesses–will triumph.  God will destroy the oppressive powers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT E. R. BRAUER, AUSTRALIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTINE THEVARPARAMPIL, INDIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “GOOD SHEPHERD OF THE DALITS”

THE FEAST OF GASPAR CONTARINI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CARDINGAL AND AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT HEDWIG OF ANDECHS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRINCESS AND NUN; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT GERTRUDE OF TRZEBNICA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF JANKOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

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Divine Judgment Against Egypt, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Ezekiel, the Biblical Prophet, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XIV

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Ezekiel 29:1-32:32

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I have read and written about the oracles against Egypt in Isaiah 18:1-20:6 and Jeremiah 46:2-28.

We read seven oracles against Egypt.  The arrangement is not chronological.

The first oracle (29:1-16) dates to 588-587 B.C.E.  The context is Pharoah Hophra’s failed attempt to rescue Jerusalem from the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.)  Hophra’s sin, we read, is arrogance–specifically, boasting that he had created the Nile River, therefore, the world.  The prophecy of the fall of Egypt holds up if one interprets the Persian conquest (525 B.C.E.).  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt, historical records tell us.  We also read that, in time, God will restore Egypt, but as a minor kingdom, not a major empire.

The second oracle (29:17-21) dates to 571-570 B.C.E.).  It accurately predicts the fall of Egypt to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Other inaccurate prophecies of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt occur in Jeremiah 43:8-13 and 46:2-28.

The third oracle (30:1-19), undated, uses the imagery of the Day of the LORD in a lament for conquered Egypt.

The fourth oracle (30:20-26) dates to 587-586 B.C.E.–specifically, about four months before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  Pharoah Hophra’s broken arm refers to the failed Egyptian effort to lift the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

The fifth oracle (31:1-18) dates to 587-586 B.C.E.–specifically, about two months before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This oracle predicts the the downfall of Egypt.  Egypt is, metaphorically, a fallen cedar of Lebanon.

The sixth oracle (32:1-16) dates to 585 B.C.E., one year or so after the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (586 B.C.E.).  This oracle cites mythology–specifically, the divine defeat of the sea dragon Leviathan at creation (Exodus 15; Isaiah 11-15; Psalm 74:12-17; Psalm 104:7-9; Job 38:8-11).  The oozing blood in verse 6 recalls the plague of blood (Exodus 7:19-24).  The theme of darkness recalls the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-29) and the Day of the LORD (Joel 2:1-2; Joel 3:15; Zephaniah 1:15).  God really does not like Pharoah Hophra (r. 589-570 B.C.E.), we read:

I will drench the earth 

With your oozing blood upon the hills

And the watercourses shall be filled with your [gore].

When you are snuffed out,

I will cover the sky

And darken its stars;

I will cover the sun with clouds

And the moon shall not give its light.

All the lights that shine in the sky

I will darken above you;

And I will bring darkness upon your land

–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 32:6-78, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Ezekiel 32:11 repeats the inaccurate prophecy of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt.

The seventh oracle (32:17-32) dates to 585 B.C.E.  This oracle depicts Egypt and the other enemies of Judah as being in Sheol, the underworld.  Once-great nations, having fallen, are in the dustbin of history in the slimy, mucky, shadowy Pit.  The use of Sheol, a pre-Persian period Jewish concept of the afterlife, in this way intrigues me.  My reading tells me that Sheol was an afterlife without reward or punishment.  Yet the text in Ezekiel 32:17-32 brims over with divine judgment.

Nations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires rise and fall.  Many last for a long time.  Yet God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WASHINGTON GLADDEN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR HENRY MESSITER, EPISCOPAL MUSICIAN AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FERDINAND QUINCY BLANCHARD, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JACQUES FERMIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

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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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The Superscription and First Epigram of the Book of Amos   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel during the Reigns of Kings Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART I

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Amos 1:1-2

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The superscription (1:1) provides information useful in dating the original version of the Book of Amos.  Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) was the King of Israel.  Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:1-17; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  In a seismically-active region, the “big one” of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. was apparently a memorable natural disaster.  (Ironing out wrinkles in the chronology of the era from Uzziah to Hezekiah has long been difficult, as many Biblical commentaries have noted.  For example, reputable sources I have consulted have provided different years, ranging from 742 to 733 B.C.E., for the death of King Uzziah.)  Centuries later, after the Babylonian Exile, Second Zechariah recalled that cataclysm in the context of earth-shaking events predicted to precede the Day of the Lord–in Christian terms, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God:

And the valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.–And the LORD my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.

–Zechariah 14:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original version of the Book of Amos, then, dates to circa 772 or 762 or 752 B.C.E.

The final version of the Book of Amos, however, dates to the period after the Babylonian Exile.  The prophecies of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, in their final forms, all do.  So do the final versions of much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to the two Books of Kings.  The final version of the Book of Amos indicates a pro-Judean bias, evident first in the listing of Kings of Judah before King Jeroboam II of Israel.

“Amos,” the shorter version of “Amasiah,” derives from the Hebrew verb for “to carry” and means “borne by God.”

Amos was a Judean who prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  He was, by profession, a breeder of sheep and cattle, as well as a tender of sycamore figs (1:1, 7:14).  The prophet was wealthy.  In 2 Kings 3:4, King Mesha of Moab was also a sheep breeder.  Amos hailed from the village of Tekoa, about eight kilometers, or five miles, south of Bethlehem, and within distant sight of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:2; Jeremiah 6:1).  King Rehoboam of Judah (r. 928-911 B.C.E.; 1 Kings 12:1-33; 1 Kings 15:21-31; 2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23) had ordered the fortification of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 11:6).  Although Amos prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, “Israel” (Amos 1:1) was a vague reference.

Since the prophetic office as manifested in Amos was a function of Yahweh’s lordship over his people, the political boundary that had been set up between Judah and Israel was utterly irrelevant.  Amos was concerned with Israel in their identity as the people of the Lord; the sphere of his activity was the realm of the old tribal league, all Israel under Yahweh, and not the state cult with its orientation to the current king and his kingdom.

–James Luther Mays, Amos:  A Commentary (1969), 19

I wonder if the vagueness of “Israel” in Amos 1:1 is original or if it is a product of subsequent amendment and editing.  The later editing and amendment do present questions about how to interpret the edited and amended texts.  Anyhow, I recognize that the message of God, via Amos of Tekoa, received and transmitted faithfully in a particular geographical and temporal context, remains relevant.  That message remains germane because human nature is a constant force, often negatively so.

The reference to the cataclysmic earthquake (Amos 1:) may do more than help to date the composition of the first version of the book.  One may, for example, detect references to that earthquake in Amos 2:13, 3;14f, 6:11, and 9:1.  One may reasonably speculate that the Book of Amos, in its final form, at least, may understand the earthquake of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. as divine punishment for rampant, collective, persistent, disregard for the moral demands of the Law of Moses.  This presentation of natural disasters as the wrath of God exists also in Joel 1 and 2 (in reference to a plague of locusts) and in Exodus 7-11 (in reference to the plagues on Egypt).  This perspective disturbs me.  I recall certain conservative evangelists describing Hurricane Katrina (2005) as the wrath of God on New Orleans, Louisiana, allegedly in retribution for sexual moral laxity.  I wish that more people would be more careful regarding what they claim about the divine character.  I also know that earthquakes occur because of plate tectonics, swarms of locusts go where they will, and laws of nature dictate where hurricanes make landfall.

Amos seems to have prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel briefly, perhaps for only one festival and certainly for less than a year, at Bethel, a cultic site.  Then officialdom saw to it that he returned to Tekoa, his livestock and sycamore figs, and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

[Amos] proclaimed:

The LORD roars from Zion,

Shouts aloud from Jerusalem;

And the pastures of the shepherds shall languish,

And the summit of Carmel shall wither.

–Amos 2:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theological understanding in Amos 2:2 holds that God was resident in Zion.  The reference to Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean coast and in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel makes plain that the message was, immediately, at least, for the Northern Kingdom.  Looking at a map, one can see the geographical setting.  For the divine voice, shouted in Jerusalem, to make the summit of Mount Carmel writhe, poetically, God really is a force with which to reckon.

God is near, but he is also far–immeasurably exalted, inexpressively different.  He is the king who does not die.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 121

How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God depends largely on our theological and social contexts–how well we understand science, how we define moral parameters, and how wide or narrow our theological imagination may be.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God must also include much poetry, even prose poetry.  If we are theologically, spiritually, and intellectually honest, we will acknowledge this.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God may or may not age well and/or translate well to other cultures.

Despite certain major differences from the pre-scientific worldview of the eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos and the world of 2021 B.C.E., the social, economic, and political context of the Book of Amos bears an unfortunate similarity to the world of 2021.  Economic inequality is increasing.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the numbers of poor people while a relative few already extremely wealthy people have become richer.  God still cares deeply about how people treat each other.  God continues to condemn institutionalized inequality.  Many conventionally pious people–religious leaders, especially–are complicit in maintaining this inequality.

Amos of Tekoa continues to speak the words of God to the world of 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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The Philistine Army Captures the Ark of the Covenant   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART V

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1 Samuel 4:1b-22

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O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

–Psalm 60:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Military defeat (which God allowed, according to the text) of the Israelite forces did not constitute the defeat of God.  Philistine capture of the Ark of the Covenant (in lieu of the statue of a deity, the conventional booty) did not constitute the defeat of God.  Military defeat of Israelite forces did, however, constitute a crisis.

The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence of God.  The Ark’s unprecedented presence on the battlefield indicated the belief that the Ark was a talisman.

The deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (per 1 Samuel 2:24) and of Eli (once he heard of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, not the deaths of his wayward sons) added to the seriousness of the situation.  Had the glory of God departed from Israel?  The mother of Ichabod thought so.

I wonder how Ichabod felt going through life with a name meaning “no glory.”

This story, in context, contains no hint of pervasive national wickedness for which God punished Israel via the Philistines.  One must, therefore, wonder why the defeat occurred.  A prosaic answer would entail an explanation of military strategies, of course.  That, however, is not the point of this story.  No, the point relates to the sovereignty of God.

The defeat was ironic.  The Philistines were polytheists who misquoted the history of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-11:10), placing them in the wilderness, oddly.  Yet, according to 1 Samuel 4, these Philistines were agents of God.  They were about to learn how little they understood about the God of the Israelites.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Qualifying the Called, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Sts. Simon Peter and Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 5:22-6:13; 7:1-6

Psalm 18:1-6

Acts 3:1-10

Matthew 28:11-15

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God is more powerful than any empire or state–in this case, ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire.  Furthermore, human stubbornness is no obstacle for God.  Consider, O reader, the Pharaoh (whichever one he was) and Moses.  In the narrative of the Book of Exodus God overpowers the Pharaoh and sends Aaron to be the spokesman for Moses.

This segue brings me to my next point:  We can trust God, who will empower us to fulfill our divine vocations.  As an old saying tells us, God does not call the qualified.  No, God qualifies the called.  Consider, O reader, Sts. John the Evangelist and Simon Peter in Acts 3.  Compare them in that passage to their depictions in the Gospel of Luke, the first volume of Luke-Acts.  Also compare them in Acts 3 to their depictions in the Gospel of Mark, in which they were more clueless than in Luke.  As of Acts 3 the two had eaten their spiritual Wheaties, so to speak.

What is God calling and qualifying you, O reader, to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT FREDERICK OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR; AND SAINT ODULF OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN MORISON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/devotion-for-the-second-season-of-easter-ackerman/

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The Kingdom of This World, Part I   1 comment

Seventh Plague John Martin

Above:  The Seventh Plague, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 7:14-24 (Monday)

Exodus 9:13-35 (Tuesday)

Psalm 65 (Both Days)

Acts 27:13-38 (Monday)

Acts 27:39-44 (Tuesday)

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You still the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of the waves,

and the clamor of the peoples.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth

will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and dusk to sing for joy.

–Psalm 65:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God, the biblical authors affirmed, controls nature.  This theme occurs in the plagues upon Egypt, Jesus walking on water, droughts in ancient Israel and Judah, et cetera.  The pericopes from Exodus, in which the theme of God being in control of nature occur, constitute a narrative which contrasts with the storm at sea then the shipwreck in Acts 27.  Innocent Egyptians suffered and/or died in the plagues, but all hands survived in Acts 27.  The plagues led to the freedom of the Hebrew slaves, but the voyage of the prison ship took St. Paul the Apostle to his trial, house arrest, and execution at Rome.  I can only wonder about the fates of the other prisoners.  Drowning at sea might have been a more merciful way of dying.

The Exodus pericopes remind me that sometimes a divine rescue operation comes with a body count.  When oppressors insist on oppressing the end of their oppression is good news for their victims yet bad news for them.  Sometimes innocent people become casualties in the conflict, unfortunately.

I wish that all were joy, love, and happiness.  I wish that nobody would ever oppress anyone.  Violence would be absent from my utopia.  Yet Utopia is nowhere, potentates are often prideful and not concerned with the best interests of their people, and circumstances escalate to the point that some people will suffer from violence one way or another.  This proves (as if anyone needs confirmation) that the Kingdom of God is not fully realized in our midst.

May we pray for the day that it will become fully realized on this plane of existence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-7-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good Society, Part I   2 comments

03128v

Above:  March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003654393/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmcsa-03128

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself.

Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy,

we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim

the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 4:18-23 (Thursday)

Exodus 4:27-31 (Friday)

Exodus 6:28-7:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (Thursday)

Acts 7:35-43 (Friday)

Mark 7:1-13 (Saturday)

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Know that the Lord is God;

it is he that has made us and we are his;

we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

–Psalm 100:2, Common Worship (2000)

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Moses was a great man. His brother Aaron, a better speaker, joined Moses on a mission from God. Alas, the forces of the Egyptian Empire were not the only foes Moses faced, for he had to contend with his own people also. The miracle of the Exodus was that God freed the Hebrews. The text attempted a scientific explanation of the parting of the waters. Indeed, one can probably explain the plagues and the parting of the waters of the Sea of Reeds scientifically; I have heard attempts to do so. Assuming that these are accurate, they do not address the main point of the story: God freed the people.

Then the people rebelled. And they continued to do so, even creating a powerful monarchy which featured economic exploitation. In the time of our Lord and Savior religious authorities even accepted gifts which they knew placed the donor’s relatives at a financial disadvantage. How was that for complicity in dishonoring one’s parents?

As for ritual washing, I am somewhat sympathetic in attitude. Study of the past informs me that Medieval European Jews, who washed ritually, were cleaner than their Gentile fellow nationals. Such cleanliness contributed to a lower rate of transmission of the Bubonic Plague among Jews during the Black Death in the 1300s. This, ironically, became an excuse for anti-Semitic Gentiles to blame, attack, and kill Jews, some of whom confessed to false stories of poisoning wells to make the torture stop.

I embrace public cleanliness and health. Those are not the issues in Mark 7:1-13, however. No, the main issue there is persnickiness in minor matters and disregard for major ones. Contenting ourselves with low-hanging fruit and not addressing issues which challenge us where it hurts—as in money and status—is not a formula for true piety. Yet I read in history of people blaming women for the sin of prostitution when (A) these women had to choose between that and starvation, and (B) these critics did nothing to address the social structures of gender inequality which created the problem. We are reluctant to challenge a system which benefits us. We might even live in blindness to our sin of complicity due to our socialization.

Moses tried to create a society in which everyone was interdependent and mutually responsible. He attempted to forge a society which did not allow for exploitation. But the society, being people, became what the majority of its members preferred.

Society in my nation-state, the United States of America, has changed, as in the case of civil rights. It is changing—for both better and for worse. It is an ever-changing thing. May it change in the direction of mutuality, interdependence, and the rejection of exploitation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-6-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace and Obligations   1 comment

mosesandsnake

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world 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:

Numbers 21:4-9 (11th Day)

Isaiah 65:17-25 (12th Day)

Psalm 128 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (11th Day)

Romans 4:6-13 (12th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 21:

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/proper-28-year-c/

Hebrews 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Romans 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/devotion-for-january-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/week-of-proper-23-friday-year-1/

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Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in the ways of the LORD!

–Psalm 128:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The story in Numbers 21:4-9 is a good place to start this post.  It sent me scurrying to commentaries.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) tell me of the Rabbinic discomfort with the sympathetic magic in the account.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2011), makes the connection between the bronze serpent and the incident concerning the snake in the court of the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10).  Friedman also refers to 2 Kings 18:4, in which King Hezekiah orders the destruction of the bronze serpent, to which some people had been burning incense.  Volume 2 (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible says that the bronze serpent was an example of spiritual homeopathy or at least an example thereof, one which

rests on a sound basis in human experience

whereby

wounds heal wounds.

–page 243

The best, most helpful analysis, however, comes from Walther Eichrodt, as translated by J. A. Baker:

The terrifying power of God, who will turn his weapons of leprosy, serpent and plague (cf. Ex. 4.1-7, Num. 21:6ff; 11:33) even against his own people leaves men in no doubt that the covenant he has created is no safe bulwark, behind which they can make cunning use of the divine power to prosecute their own interests.  The covenant lays claim to the whole man and calls him to a surrender with no reservations.

Theology of the New Testament, Volume One (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1961), pages 44-45

Thus this post continues a line of thought present in its immediate predecessor in order of composition.  God calls the blessed people to function as blessings to others.  The faithful, redeemed people of God have a mandate to cooperate with God in reforming society for the common good and divine glory.  In the Bible righteousness and justice are the same thing.  Hence we read prophets’ condemnations of economic exploitation and judicial corruption as opposites of righteousness.  To live in the household of God is to have both privileges and duties.

One task for those with a slave mentality is to abandon it and to embrace freedom in God.  I know that eating the same thing repeatedly gets old rapidly, but at least the Israelites were not starving.  God does provide; gratitude is in order, even if manna is crystallized insect feces.  Often our mentalities stand between us and God, whose manna does come with the condition of servitude to the source.  What we receive from God might not be what we want or expect, but it is what we need.  May we accept it gratefully and accept the obligation to serve God and leave our world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Mark, Part V: The Power of God   1 comment

women-at-the-empty-tomb-fra-angelico

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

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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 7:1-25

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 16:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

Mark 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/seventh-day-of-easter-saturday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/eve-of-the-feast-of-saint-francis-of-assisi-october-3/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/prayer-for-saturday-in-the-fifth-week-of-lent/

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The Book of Exodus is open to God working through nature.  For example, in 14:21,

a strong east wind

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

parts the waters.  I have seen a documentary which argues that all the plagues, the parting of the waters, and the return thereof were natural consequences of the volcanic eruption which ended the Minoan civilization of Crete.  Even if the hypothesis does not withstand historical scrutiny by meeting the standard of chronological accuracy, I assume that God has long acted through natural means.  Whether this was one of those occasions is another question.

We read of the first plague.  The Nile River made Egypt bloom.  The annual floods left silt deposits, therefore fertile soil.  So the attack on the Nile River was an assault on the basis of royal power because the health of the river was, according to common assumption, the responsibility of the Pharaoh.  The river did not turn into blood, of course; it did turn red, however.  Volcanic ash would have that effect and caused a major environmental problem.  But God had given the monarch an opportunity to free the Hebrews prior to this.  That, at least, is the narrative.

The Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  Those were Roman soldiers at Calvary.  And some religious leaders were complicit in his death.  What, then, were human authority figures able to do to Jesus after his Resurrection?  Nothing!  I imagine at least three gatherings : one of Temple authorities, another of Herodians, and a third of Romans.  In each case I imagine men who had borne some measure of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus asking each other,

I saw him die!  Why did I see him in public yesterday?

They were powerless to do anything about it, for they had done their worst already.  And God had acted afterward.

We can either work with or against the will of God at any given time.  Yet we cannot thwart the will of God.  We can redirect it by means of the exercise of our free will, but we cannot thwart it.  May we work with God, not against God.  (Credit:  I am channeling the Reverend Leslie Weatherhead in the last paragraph.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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