Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 1’ Category

The Vision of the Temple and the Return of the Divine Presence to Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XVIII

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Ezekiel 40:1-48:35

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The last section of the Book of Ezekiel (40-48) contains a long vision of the return of the Divine Presence/Glory to the (Second) Temple and a transformed Judea.  One may recall that Ezekiel 1-7 and 9-11 concern themselves with the destruction of the (First) Temple and the departure of the Divine Presence to Jewish exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  One may recall the end of the previous chapter:

I will no longer hide my face from them once I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel–oracle of the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 39:29, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The vision that opens Ezekiel 40 provides a date–in terms of the Gregorian Calendar, April 28, 573 B.C.E.  The plethora of details regarding the future Temple (dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) can prompt the glazing over of many eyes.  Therefore, I focus on themes:

  1. Many of these details differ from those of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 25-30 and 35-40), the First Temple (1 Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 3-4), and the actual Second Temple.  This is a matter upon which certain detail-oriented Jewish exegetes have fixated, to argue that Ezekiel 40:1-43:12 describes the (future) Third Temple.  However, if one does not interpret the description in 40:1-43:12 as a set of blue prints, one may recognize a description of a divinely reordered sacred space that sets the standard for the envisioned society.
  2. The separation of the sacred from the profane is complete (42:20), as in the separation of priests from non-priests (42:1-14).
  3. With the completion of the Temple, God returns to dwell in Jerusalem (43:1-12).  God’s chariot throne (Ezekiel 1-2 and 8-11) recurs.  The divine enthronement ritual resembles that of Marduk, the chief deity of the Babylonian pantheon.  God even takes over the rites of pagan deities.
  4. In 43:10-12, Ezekiel functions as the new Moses, delivering divine law to the people.
  5. Chapter 44 pertains to the roles of Levites and Zadokite priests.  One may recall that the Zadokite priests were Levitical priests who traced their ancestry back to the priesthood during the time of the Kings of Israel (pre-division) and Judah (post-division).  The chapter specifies the different functions of the Levites and the Zadokite priests.  In the new order, the rules will be different than they were during the monarchical period, we read.
  6. Consistent, with the ethos of ritual purity and impurity, God dwells among the among the people yet is remote.  Getting too close to God can prove hazardous to one’s health, especially if one is ritually impure.
  7. God is the source of life (Ezekiel 47).  Practically, even the Dead Sea becomes fresh water (47:8) because of the river of life flowing from beneath the Temple.
  8. The priests are superior to kings, called princes in the new divine order (Ezekiel 45).  The king enforces justice.  He, for example, mandates uniform weights and measures to prevent the cheating of customers.  (See Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Amos 8:5-6; Hosea 12:7; Micah 6:10-11).  Justice is a defining characteristic of God’s new order.
  9. God is central in the final vision in the Book of Ezekiel.  Each tribe–except Levi–receives an equal strip of land.  Equitability is the rule, with some interesting reversals from the past order.  For example, the descendants of Rachel and Leah, wives of Jacob, get closer to the sacred area (48:7, 23).  Within equitability, a hierarchy exists.  The purpose of that hierarchy is to protect the sanctity of the divine dwelling in the middle of the sacred area (48:14).  The priests and the Levites dwell in the central, divine allotment.
  10. Jerusalem belongs to everyone, not any one tribe (48:19).  God dwells there, after all.

After all the divine judgment in the Book of Ezekiel, divine mercy is the final word.  We read that God will act decisively and put the world right.  Then all will be wonderful.  We who live in 2021 wait for that day as much as Ezekiel and his generation did.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Ezekiel.  I invite you to remain by my side, so to speak, as I move along to Second Isaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GEORGE NICHOLS AND RICHARD YAXLEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1589; SAINT HUMPHREY PRITCHARD, WELSH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589; AND SAINT THOMAS BELSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589

THE FEAST OF GEORGES BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NEIBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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Ezekiel’s Vision of the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VI

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:23

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:13, the product of more than one person, contains some unusual editorial choices and odd shifts of attention.  I mention that matter to get it out of the way, so that nobody can legitimately claim that I do not know it.  Now that I have gotten that matter out of the way, I focus on themes, details, and the application thereof.

The figurer who looked like a man (or fire, depending on translation) in 8:2 is the divine Presence, Ezekiel’s guide.  This figure recurs in 40:3f.

The date of the vision in 8:1-11:13 is September 592 B.C.E.

Idolatry recurs as a sin of the people of Judah.

We read that, contrary to what many people think, God has not abandoned Judah–yet–and does see what people are doing (9:9).

Above:  Ezekiel’s Vision, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Chapter 10 reads like a redux of Chapter 1, with some differences.

God departs Judah in Chapter 11.

We read of the divine promise of restoration and cleansing of exiles already in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  We read that those still in Judah are doomed (11:41-21).  We read that God has moved to the exiles in Babylon (11:23).

Ezekiel 11:21 cautions that divine renewal of the exiles is not automatic; it requires human vigilance.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 is thematically similar to Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26.  We read that, in an ideal future, by divine action, disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, as well as in the Revelation to John, divine faithfulness is never in doubt, from the author’s perspective.  Also, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Creative destruction by God makes way for the establishment for the new, divine order.  In Christian terms, God must destroy the old, corrupt order before the fully-realized Kingdom of God can become visible on the Earth, from a human perspective.  As C. H. Dodd reminds me from the printed page and his grave, the Kingdom of God is; it does not come.  Yet, from a human point of view, certain events make its presence more palpable than it used to be.

Another idea, frequently repeated in the Bible–especially Hebrew prophetic books–is that human sins have consequences.  We human beings condemn ourselves.  We leave God.  We are the faithless ones.  We are arrogant; we do not stand in awe of God.  We read what he have sown.

Yet grace remains.  As the great Southern Baptist theologian Will Campbell said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

And our only hope is in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Acts Symbolic of Siege and Exile   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART IV

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Ezekiel 4:1-5:17

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Some of the Hebrew prophets were eccentric, to use a polite word.  Hosea married a prostitute (Hosea 1).  Isaiah walked around naked (Isaiah 20).  Jeremiah wore a very dirty loincloth (Jeremiah 13) and a cattle yoke (Jeremiah 27-28).  Ezekiel ate a scroll (Ezekiel 1, 3).

Ezekiel committed more symbolic acts in 4:1-5:17:

  1. He built a model of Jerusalem under siege (4:1-2).
  2. Then he placed an iron plate between himself and the model.  The plate represented the barrier separating God and besieged Jerusalem.
  3. Then Ezekiel reclined on his left side for 390 days (or 190 days, depending on the text one consults) and on his left side for 40 days–one day per year.  A generation was 40 years.  Many Biblical scholars have offered explanations for the 190 or the 390 years.  These explanations, marginally interesting, have not held my attention.  The act of reclining symbolized famine (4:4-8).
  4. Ezekiel combined grains that grow under siege conditions and backed bread.  He ate this bread and drank water in quantities barely capable of sustaining human life (4:9-11).  He baked this bread over cow manure (4:12-15).  This act symbolized the desperate people’s violation of food laws in the Law of Moses during the siege of Jerusalem.
  5. Ezekiel shaved his head and beard with a sword.  Then he burned one-third, representative of a third of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who perished when the city burned in 586 B.C.E.  The prophet struck one-third of the hair with the sword.  This act symbolized the inhabitants of Jerusalem killed around the city in 586 B.C.E.  Then Ezekiel scattered the remaining third to the wind and sheathed a sword at those hairs.  This act symbolized the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian pursuit of those who fled Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  Some of these hairs burned, too.

Ezekiel 5:5-17 explains that the people of Jerusalem had defiled the Temple, and had earned their harsh punishment.  The text also describes catastrophic and desperate conditions in Jerusalem during the siege.  Cannibalism is one of the results of these circumstances.  (See Lamentations 2:20; 4:10, also.)

Had Ezekiel lived in some parts of the world in 2021, he would have been medicated and under psychiatric care.  So would Isaiah and Jeremiah.  Isaiah may also have faced legal charges of indecent exposure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESHCEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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The Commissioning of Ezekiel   Leave a comment

Above:  The Vision of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART II

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Ezekiel 1:4-3:27

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Ezekiel 1 offers a glorious example of prose poetry when it describes the indescribable–the throne of God, surrounded by cherubim.  The account of the vision includes allusions to the Temple in Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies there (Exodus 25:10-22; Exodus 37:1-9; 1 Kings 9:19-28; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 1 Chronicles 13:6), and mythological inhuman guardians of royal thrones, temples, and city gates–the cherubim–a common cultural motif in the region.  Whereas Exodus 24:10-11 and Daniel 7:9 describe the divine presence as being corporeal, and Deuteronomy 4:15 argues that God is noncorporeal, Ezekiel 1:7 stakes out the middle ground.  God, exceeding all human concepts thereof, was the God of the whole world, not a tribal deity.

Ezekiel, properly full of awe and wonder, flung himself down upon his face.

Ezekiel’s mission as a prophet of God was to speak to a rebellious people, already in exile.  Ezekiel’s mission was to speak the truth and to function as a watchman, not to bring the people to repentance.  Israel–in this case, the first wave of the Babylonian Exile–was a “rebellious breed.”  People were going to do what they were going to do.  Ezekiel’s mission was to speak for God, regardless of how anyone responded.

Being a Hebrew prophet must have been a frustrating and discouraging experience, based on readings of Hebrew prophetic books.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

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

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1598 AND 1600

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The Superscription of the Book of Ezekiel   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART I

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Ezekiel 1:1-3

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In 597 B.C.E., Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces invaded Judah.  King Jehoiachin‘s brief reign ended.  His uncle Mattaniah came to the throne as King Zedekiah.  Jehoiachin and many others–members of the Judean elite–became exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The first wave of the Babylonian Exile had begun.

Ezekiel ben Buzi was one of these captives and exiles.  Ezekiel, a priest in the community beside the Chebar Canal (next to the city of Nippur, southeast of the city of Babylon), received his commission as a prophet on the fifth day of Tammuz (on the Gregorian Calendar, in June), 593 B.C.E.  He prophesied until 571 B.C.E.

Robert Alter describes Ezekiel as

surely the strangest of all the prophets

and as

an extreme case.

The Hebrew Bible, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1049

The prophet, whose name meant, “God strengthens,” was, by modern standards, misogynistic, as in Chapters 16 and 23.  He was not unique–certainly not in the company of Biblical authors.  According to Alter, especially in the context of Chapter 16:

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.  The states of disturbance exhibited in his writing led him to a series of remarkable visionary experiences, at least several of which would be deeply inscribed in the Western imagination, engendering profound experiences in later poetry and in mystical literature.  At the same time, there is much in these visions that reminds us of the dangerous dark side of prophecy.  To announce authoritatively that the words one speaks are the words of God is an audacious act.  Inevitably, what is reported as divine speech reaches us through the refracting prism of the prophet’s sensibility and psychology, and the words and images represented as God’s urgent message may be sometimes distorted in eerie ways.

–1051-1052

Biblical scholars from a variety of times, theological orientations, and geographical origins have commented on Ezekiel’s pathological psychology.  The prophet may not have been well-adjusted.  “Touched by the gods” has been an expression for a long time, and for a good reason.

However much one accepts that much or most of the Book of Ezekiel comes from the prophet, a textual difficulty remains.  The book includes evidence of subsequent editing after the Babylonian Exile.  Any given passage, in its final form, may have more to do with Ezra or some other editor than with Ezekiel.  Or that passage may be entirely from Ezeki8el.  Or the editorial touch may be light.

I acknowledge these matters as I commit to my primary purpose in this Hebrew prophetic reading project:  to read these passages in context and to ponder what they say to the world today.  The ancient message, grounded in particular circumstances, continues to speak.

“The hand of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:3) symbolizes divine power.

The Book of Ezekiel breaks down into three sections:

  1. Chapters 1-24, in their original form, date to between the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This section divides into two subsections.  Chapters 1-11 contain visions of divine presence and departure.  Chapters 12-24 offer a rationale for and anticipate the destruction of Jerusalem.
  2. Chapters 25-32 contain oracles against the nations.  The arrangement of these oracles is not chronological.  Such a collection of oracles is also a feature of other prophetic writings, as in Amos 1:3-2:3; Isaiah 13:1-23:19; Jeremiah 46:1-51:64.
  3. Chapters 33-48 contain oracles from after the Fall of Jerusalem.  This section breaks down into two subsections.  Chapters 33-39 offer a rationale for and anticipate the transformation of the LORD’s people.  Chapters 40-48 contain visions of the LORD’s return to the Second Temple (not yet built; dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) in a transformed land.

Tova Ganzel wrote, in the introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014):

Because of the central themes of the Temple, acts of leadership, sins of the people, and divine theophanies appear in both the predestruction and postdestruction oracles (1.3, 13-15, 22-24; 8.2-3; 10.11, 22-23; 40.1-2; 43.1-5), Ezekiel’s oracles merit both sequential and topical study.

–1034

I will study the Book of Ezekiel in a combination of sequential and topical organization of posts.

Major lectionaries ignore most of the Book of Ezekiel.  The Roman Catholic lectionaries for weekdays, Sundays, and major feast days omit Chapters 3-8, 11, 13-15, 19-23, 25-27, 29-42, 44-46, and 48 entirely. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) lists the Book of Ezekiel only five times:

  1. 34:11-16, 20-24 for Christ the King Sunday, Year A;
  2. 36:24-27 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C;
  3. 37:1-14 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C; the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A; and (as an alternative reading), for the Day of Pentecost, Year B.

I understand the benefits and limitations of lectionaries.  Any lectionary–even a narrow, one-year cycle with two readings and a Psalm each Sunday–is superior to ministers focusing on their favorite passages of scripture Sunday after Sunday.  The orderly reading of scripture in communal worship has virtues.  Lectionaries also help people to read the Bible in conversation with itself.  Nevertheless, the parts of the Book of Ezekiel that even three-year cycles overlook are worth hearing and reading, in private, alone, in a study group, and in the context of worship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Commissioned and Equipped   1 comment

Vison of Ezekiel--Fra Angelico

Above:  The Vision of Ezekiel, Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal and all-merciful God,

with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.

By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us

and inspire us to follow 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 1:1-25 (Monday)

Ezekiel 1:26-2:1 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 6:1-8 (Wednesday)

Psalm 121 (All Days)

Acts 9:19-31 (Monday)

Acts 26:1-18 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:1-11 (Wednesday)

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I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

–Psalm 121:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Most of the readings for these three days are stories of commissioning by God, accompanied by a spectacular vision or event.  Ezekiel and Isaiah become prophets, fishermen become Apostles, and Saul of Tarsus becomes St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist.  God qualifies the called, who know well that they are, by themselves, inadequate for the tasks to which God has assigned them.

I do not know about you, O reader, but I have seen no visions and have not witnessed miraculous deeds.  Neither has God called me to do anything in the same league as the tasks assigned to Ezekiel, Isaiah, St. Paul, and the original twelve Apostles.  I do know some of my inadequacies, however, and affirm that God has work for me to do.  Furthermore, I acknowledge my need for grace to complete those tasks for the glory of God.

Each of us has a role to play in God’s design.  Many of us seek or will seek to fulfill it, but others do not or will not seek to do so.  God will win in the end, as the Book of Revelation tells me, so divine victory is up to God, not any of us.  Nevertheless, is responding faithfully to God and accepting the demands of grace not better than doing otherwise?

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Clean and the Unclean   1 comment

Peter's Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing,

yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transform us into the likeness of your Son,

who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 35:1-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 1:1-2:1 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:11-28 (Both Days)

Acts 10:9-23a (Monday)

Acts 10:23b-33 (Tuesday)

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[Jesus] said to [his Apostles], “Even you–don’t you understand?  Can’t you see that nothing that goes into someone from the outside can make that person unclean, because it goes not int the heart but into the stomach and passes into the sewer?” (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.)  And he went on, “It is what comes out of someone that makes that person unclean.  For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.

–Mark 7:18-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Ritual purity has long been a religious concern.  Separating oneself from the world (not always a negative activity) has informed overly strict Sabbath rules and practices.  (Executing a person for working on the Sabbath, per Exodus 35:2b, seems excessive to me.  I am biased, of course, for I have violated that law, which does not apply to me.)  Nevertheless, the Sabbath marked the freedom of the people, for slaves got no day off.  Ezekiel, living in exile in an allegedly unclean land, the territory of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, experienced a vision of the grandeur of God before God commissioned him a prophet.  Perhaps Ezekiel had, suffering under oppression, prayed in the words of Psalm 35:23,

Awake, arise to my cause!

to my defense, my God and my Lord!

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Those who took Judeans into exile and kept them there were unclean and not because they were Gentiles but because of their spiritual ills, on which they acted.  As St. Simon Peter learned centuries later, there is no unclean food and many people he had assumed to be unclean were not really so.

The drawing of figurative lines to separate the allegedly pure from the allegedly impure succeeds in comforting the former, fostering more self-righteousness in them, and doing injustice to the latter.  May nobody call unclean one whom God labels clean.  May no one mark as an outsider one whom God calls beloved.  This is a devotion for the last two days of the Season after the Epiphany.  The next season will be Lent.  Perhaps repenting of the sins I have listed above constitutes the agenda you, O reader, should follow this Lent.  I know that it is one I ought to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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“Lamentations, Dirges, and Cries of Grief”   1 comment

books-november-22-2013

Above:  Part of My Biblical Library, November 22, 2013

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:8-3:3 (26th Day)

Ezekiel 33:10-16 (27th Day)

Psalm 130 (Both Days)

Revelation 10:1-11 (26th Day)

Revelation 11:15-19 (27th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 1, 2, and 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/devotion-for-january-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/

Ezekiel 33:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/devotion-for-january-11-and-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Revelation 10 and 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-22-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-2/

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If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you shall be feared.

–Psalm 130:2-3, Common Worship (2000)

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When I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a scroll.  He unrolled it in front of me; it was written on, front and back; and on it was written, “Lamentations, dirges, and cries of grief.”

–Ezekiel 2:10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Revelation 10 borrows a motif—eating a scroll of judgment—from Ezekiel 3.  The scroll, in Ezekiel 3:3, tastes as sweet as honey.  It is also as sweet as honey in the mouth in Revelation 10, where one reads another detail:  the scroll is bitter in the stomach.

I am blessed to have a well-stocked biblical library—acquired mostly at thrift stores, by the way.  Germane volumes from said library inform this post greatly.  William Barclay writes:

A message of God may be to a servant at once a sweet and bitter thing.  It is sweet because it is a great thing to be chosen as the messenger of God; but the message itself may be a foretelling of doom and, therefore a bitter thing.

The Revelation of John, Volume 2 (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1976), page 57

Ernest Lee Stoffel offers this analysis:

The word of Christ is certainly a word of forgiveness of sins.  This is “sweet.”  But what about the “bitter,” the judgment?  I have always felt that the gospel of Christ stands also in judgment, that it stands against whatever violates the love of God in the affairs of nations, in their treatment of people.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1981), page 62

And Carl G. Howie writes:

Ezekiel obediently consumed the message of God so that it became part of him.

The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 13 (Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1961), page 23

Yes, judgment and mercy coexist in God.  I have affirmed this in writing in blog post many times.  But repenting—changing one’s mind, turning around—can stave off divine judgment.  Hence the pronouncement by God can lead to a positive result for the target.  This is not merely an individualistic matter.  No, it is also a social message, one which Hebrew prophets proclaimed.  If one a messenger of God, the result of repentance is “sweet” indeed, but the “bitter” will also occur.

“The world,” in the biblical sense, is not the foe’s playground, something for faithful people to shun and from which to hide.  No, it is our community, for which all of us are responsible.  May we therefore engage it constructively, shining brightly with the light of Christ and challenging it to transform for the better.  We stand on the shoulders of moral giants who did this in their times and places, confronting sins ranging from unjust wars to chattel slavery to racial segregation.  Will we content ourselves to speak of these men and women in respectful tones or will we dare to play our parts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-sixth-and-twenty-seventh-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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And the Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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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:

Ezekiel 1:1-14, 22-28

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

Romans 1:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-2/

Romans 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who has faith–Jesus first, but Greeks as well–for in it is revealed the saving justice of God:  a justice based on faith and addressed to faith.  As it says in scripture:  Anyone who is upright through faith will live.

–Romans 1:16-17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Ezekiel struggled with the questions of why God had allowed the destruction of the First Temple, Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah.  The situation looked grim.  It was grim.  Yet, the prophetic book said, God’s promises are sure and the divine work of transforming the world and its social orders and arrangements will come to fruition for the benefit of people and the glory of God.

Judaism survived the cataclysm of the Babylonian Exile and a new Temple came to occupy space where the original one had stood.  And so it happened that, in the first century CE, Christianity began to emerge from Judaism.  The message of salvation by faith via Jesus, Paul wrote, was for the Jews first but also for Gentiles.

This faith is inherently active, leading to deeds.  It cannot be any other way, for such as we think, so we are.  And this faith, which comes from God without cost to us, requires much–a positive response–from us.  This theme of faith recurs in the epistle and frames much of that letter’s content.

Think about it:  After destruction comes rebuilding.  The light is for all people, not just the designated (self- or otherwise) spiritual elites.  There is always reason for hope in grace.  And nobody is part of the riff-raff in a grace-filled context.  A positive faith response to God requires us to, among other things, lay aside human categories and barriers which make us feel good about ourselves yet label others as “unclean” and “unworthy.”  All of us are actually unworthy, so who are we to judge each other?

May we recognize the glory of God in each other and in ourselves then act accordingly.  We are God’s, not our own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

And the Glory of the Lord Will Be Revealed   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel

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Ezekiel 1:1-5, 24-28 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the thirteenth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, when I was in the community of exiles by the Chebar Canal, the heavens opened and I saw visions of God.  On the fifth day of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin–the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, by the Chebar Canal, in the land of the Chaldeans.  And the hand of the LORD came upon him there.

I looked, and lo, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north–a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by a radiance; and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber.  In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures.

When [the creatures] moved, I could hear the sound of Shaddai, a tumult like the din of an army.  When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.  From above the expanse over their heads came a sound.  When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.

Above the expanse over their heads was the semblance of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and on top, upon this semblance of a human form.  From what appeared as his loins up, I saw a gleam of amber–what looked like a fire encased in a frame; and from what appeared as his loins down, I saw what looked like fire.  That was a radiance all about him.  Like the appearance of the brow which shines in the clouds on a day of rain, such was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.  That was the appearance of the semblance of the Presence of the LORD.  When I beheld it, I flung myself down on my face.  And I heard the voice of someone speaking.

Psalm 148:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 17:22-27 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

As they went together in Galilee, Jesus told them,

The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men, and they will kill him.  And on the third day he will be raised to life again.

This greatly distressed the disciples.

Then when they arrived at Capernaum the Temple tax-collectors came up and said to Peter,

Your master doesn’t pay Temple-tax, we presume?

Peter replied,

Oh, yes, he does!

Later when he went into the house, Jesus anticipated what he was going to say.

What do you think, Simon?

he said.

Whom do the kings of this world get their tolls and taxes from–their own family or from others?

Peter replied,

From others.

Jesus told him,

Then the family is exempt.  Yet we don’t want to give offence to these people, so go down to the lake and throw in your hook.  Take the first fish that bites, open his mouth and you’ll find a silver coin.  Take that and give it to them, for both of us.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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There was a common belief in the ancient Near East:  When Nation A defeated Nation B, Nation A’s gods defeated Nation B’s gods.  In 593 B.C.E. (as The Jewish Study Bible tells me), in the final years of the Kingdom of Judah, already a vassal kingdom with a puppet monarch, the priest and prophet Ezekiel had a stunning vision of divine glory for which, I suspect, human words–even the best ones–written or spoken, were insufficient.  YHWH was not defeated.

Now we turn to the reading from Matthew.  Jesus predicted his crucifixion and resurrection.  He would suffer and die painfully, but this would not constitute a defeat, for he would live again–very shortly.  And, in the Gospel of John, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus constituted his glorification.  The Roman Empire did its worst, but God reversed their actions.

When all seems lost, when the enemies of God seem to have won, may we remember that God remains undefeated.  This fact might not seem obvious yet, but it is no less true.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION(http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/eve-of-the-feast-of-saint-francis-of-assisi-october-3/)

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 3, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-2/

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Posted October 3, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 1, Matthew 17, Psalm 148

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