Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 34’ Category

Freedom in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Easter, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us

both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life;

give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 168

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 30, 31

Psalm 147

1 Peter 2:11-25

John 10:11-16

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I confess without any reluctance that my personality contains a wide streak of rebellion.  I enjoy poking my fingers in the eyes of authority figures, so to speak.  Logically, then, I enjoy the portions of scripture (Hebrew prophets and apocalyptic literature, especially) that lower the boom on certain potentates–bad shepherds, figuratively–and on kingdoms and empires.  I bristle at 1 Peter 2:17.  Why should I honor “the emperor” or any modern tyrant?  After all, I recognize those Christians who, in the name of Jesus, resisted Adolf Hitler as moral giants.  And the theme of submission that runs through 1 Peter is foreign to me.

And don’t get me started on the acceptance of slavery in 1 Peter 2:18-20, O reader.

The First Letter of Peter comes from a social context quite different from mine.  Context is crucial.  I, as a student of history, affirm that principle.  One needs to consider that, in Asia Minor, in the late first century of the Common Era, Christians constituted a vulnerable minority subject to laws they had no hand in making.  And how should one translate the principles of 1 Peter into life in a republic?

The key may be that we are free in God.  We are slaves only to God.  We are not properly slaves to the state.  The Church must never be an arm of the state.  No, the Church must serve God.  To quote David L. Bartlett:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and a host of less famous stand as constant reminders that sometimes Christian freedom means freedom from society’s rules, and not merely freedom to obey willingly.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1998), 278

John 10 applies the language of the Good Shepherd from Ezekiel 34 to Jesus.  We read in Ezekiel 34 that God is the Good Shepherd who will replace bad human shepherds with better ones.  (Most of the Kings of Judah were bad shepherds.)  The use of the imagery of the Good Shepherd in John 10 takes on an apolitical approach, though.  In John 10, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  In other words, Jesus will die.

May we never forget that the Roman Empire executed Jesus on a charge of which he was innocent.

At least 1 Peter does not advise us to revere the emperor.  No, the letter tells us to revere God.  God outranks the emperor.

We are free in Christ to follow him, who died and rose again.  We are free to serve Christ in “the least of these.”  We are free to work for social justice and resist tyranny.  And we are free to take up our crosses and follow him.  We may even be free to die for our faith.  Very little seems to increase one’s likelihood of suffering more than obeying the Golden Rule consistently and applying it to institutions, governments, policies, and societies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS II OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF AQUILEIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Judith Before Holofernes   Leave a comment

Above:  Holofernes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JUDITH

PART VI

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Judith 10:1-12:20

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Holofernes was like his master, King Nebuchadnezzar II.  He was vain, boastful, and quick to accept flattery.  The general also consumed lies as easily and in great quantities as easily as he drank too much wine.

Judith played the role of the seductress well.  She understood male nature, which she exploited.  In doing so, Judith placed herself in much danger.  She was even sleeping in the tent of Holofernes.  Her undercover (pardon the pun) mission was always perilous.

A few aspects of these three chapters are especially worthy of explanation and elaboration.  

  1. Judith lied when she said her people were so desperate they were about to violate the food laws in the Law of Moses.  She referenced Leviticus 17:10-16 and Numbers 18:8-32.  Yet, at the time of the composition of the Book of Judith, any violation of the Law of Moses for the purpose of preserving human life was acceptable, according to one school of Jewish thought (1 Maccabees 2:29-41).
  2. Ironically, Holofernes told the truth, at least partially.  He said that Judith was renowned throughout the world (11:20-23).  The Book of Judith has long provided inspiration for artists.
  3. Judith was in extreme sexual danger (12:5).  So was Sarah in Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:17.
  4. Judith established her routine of leaving the Assyrian army camp unchallenged each night (12:6-9).  This strategy paid off in 13:11.
  5. Judith had to work quickly.  She had only five days to deliver her people (7:29-32; 8:32-35).
  6. Judith obeyed kosher food laws, even in the Assyrian army camp.  (One may think of Daniel and his friends in Daniel 1, too.)
  7. Judith’s unnamed female maid/servant was loyal and essential.  Judith’s servant was intelligent, unlike the gullible Bagoas, servant of Holofernes. 
  8. In 11:19-23, Judith used language laced with allusions to the prophets and the Book of Psalms.  Verses 19 and 20, for example, echoed Isaiah 40:3-4; 35:8-10; 42:16; 51:11; 56:10-11;; as well as 2 Samuel 7:13; Psalm 89:4; Ezekiel 34:8; Zechariah 10:2 and 13:7.
  9. Ironically, the wisdom at which Holofernes marveled was deception.
  10. The words of Holofernes, “…your God will be my God…” (11:22), an echo of Ruth 1:16, are vague.  Perhaps the character had no idea what he was saying.
  11. Holofernes lusted after Judith (11:16).
  12. The texts depict Judith as a great beauty.  They also describe Assyrian soldiers as drooling over her.  Therein resided part of Judith’s power, which she used to the full extent necessary.

The Book of Judith contains elements of satire and comedy.  The text is rich with irony in many places.  For example, even a boastful fool accidentally tells the truth sometimes.  The intoxicated Holofernes also imagines himself to be in control of the situation.  He has no idea how wrong he is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMASZ SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF MARYRS OF EL MOZOTE, EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 11-12, 1981

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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“Love Casts Out Fear….” IV   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 9:2-7 (Anglican and Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 89:1-27 (Protestant and Anglican)/Psalm 89:2-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

1 John 4:7-21

Matthew 1:18-25

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On one level, at least, the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) refers to the birth of the future King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/735-698/687 B.C.E.).  The Bible is generally favorably disposed toward King Hezekiah, of whom one can read further in the following passages:

  1. 2 Kings 16:20;
  2. 2 Kings 18-20;
  3. 2 Chronicles 28:27;
  4. 2 Chronicles 29-32;
  5. Isaiah 36-39;
  6. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22; and
  7. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4.

We read in Ezekiel 34 that Kings of Israel and Judah were, metaphorically, shepherds–mostly abysmal ones.  Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4 lists Hezekiah as one of the three good kings, alongside David and Josiah.

The steadfast love of God is the theme that unites these four readings.  This faithfulness may be evident in the Davidic Dynasty, a particular monarch, Jesus of Nazareth, or an ordinary human being or community of such people.  Such divine fidelity requires a human faithful response.  Grace is free, not cheap.

The epistle reading holds my attention most of all.  I write you, O reader, to read it again.  The text is fairly self-explanatory.  There is no fear in love.  Anyone who professes to love God yet hates a human being lies about loving God.

These are hard words to hear or read.  I can write only for myself; I know the emotion of hatred.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  All of us are imperfect; God knows that.  We can, by grace overcome that hatred.  We all sin.  We all stumble.  But we can lead lives defined by love, by grace.

I can think of people who define their lives according to hatred and resentment.  These are individuals who leave chaos and destruction in their wake.  They are pitiable.  They need to repent.  And, according to our reading from 1 John, they do not love God.  May perfect love drive out their fear, for their sake and for ours.

And may perfect love drive out the remaining unreasonable, destructive fear in the lives of the rest of us.  I refer not to proper, cautious fear.  I write during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A certain level of fear is positive and responsible; it leads to behavior that protects everyone.  No, I refer to fear that leads to selfish, destructive decisions.  I refer to fear that defines certain people as expendable, subhuman, deserving of fewer civil rights and civil liberties than the rest of us, et cetera.  I refer to fear that works against the common good and drags everyone down.  I refer to fear to violates the image of God in anyone.  I refer to fear that violates the principle of mutuality, enshrined in the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  May the love of God in Christ fill your life and transform you daily more nearly into his likeness.  May you love like Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBERT BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ABOLITIONIONST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DOUGLASS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

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The Anointing of David   2 comments

Above: Samuel Anointing David

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 XIV

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

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I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

–Psalm 151:1, 5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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This story flows directly from 1 Samuel 15:1-35, the second version of God’s rejection of Saul in the composite narrative.

  1. 1 Samuel 16:1-13 contains various elements.  I will write about some of them.
  2. Samuel was on a subversive mission from God.  He was going out to anoint the next King of Israel in secret.  Israel already had a monarch.
  3. The arrival of a prophet created fear in some people.
  4. Saul was a head taller than most other Israelites (1 Samuel 9:2).  He was also handsome.  Good looks counted as a qualification for being a monarch.  David was also handsome (1 Samuel 16:12).  He was also shorter than Saul.
  5. God told Samuel to pay no attention to the conventional standards of appearance and height.
  6. David, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, was God’s choice.  Seven was the number of completion; eight was one better.  Also, the Biblical motif of the youngest or a younger son being the chosen one recurred.
  7. As after the anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 10:9-13), the Spirit of God gripped the newly anointed (1 Samuel 16:13).
  8. David was a shepherd.  Moses had been a shepherd, too (Exodus 3:1).  Kings in the ancient Near East were often shepherds, figuratively.  Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, texts referred to Israelite monarchs as shepherds.

What standards do we look for in rulers?  I, as a student of United States history, think immediately of two very different Presidents of the United States who perpetually occupy the lower rungs of historians’ rankings of Presidents.  I think of Franklin Pierce (in office 1853-1857), who signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) into law, made Kansas “Bleeding Kansas,” and hastened the coming of the Civil War.  I also know that, according to tradition, he may have been the most handsome President.  I also think of the distinguished-looking Warren G. Harding (in office 1921-1923), the President from central casting.  I know, however, that he pursued nativistic policies and, even immediately after a briefing on an issue, admitted that he did not understand that issue.  Furthermore, I remember reading a candid admission Harding made in private:

I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.

Leadership involves matters more substantial than stature and good looks.  These matters are readily evident.  Some are intangible.  Being a leader also requires having followers.  One who has no followers merely takes a walk, so to speak.

Ezekiel 34 refers to Israelite kings as shepherds–bad ones.  All people have the right to live under good rulers–attentive shepherds who build up the common good.  The price of having bad shepherds is high, often measured in death tolls and economic carnage, and in other forms of injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Eternal Life III   Leave a comment

Above:  A Gavel

Image in the Public Domain

Photographer = Airman First Class Grace Lee, United States Air Force

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For the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that

thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service;

grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life,

that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 206

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Ezekiel 34:1-24

Psalm 66:1-10, 16-20

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Matthew 7:1-6

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Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 353

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One can read “eternal,” “eternity,” and “eternal life” throughout the Bible.  The confusing element is that the authors did not agree about what whose terms meant.  Frequently “eternal” is a synonym for “everlasting” and “eternity” means the afterlife, timelessness, or a very long time.  I, as a Johannine Christian, take my definition of eternal life from John 17:3–knowing God via Jesus.  Eternal life can continue into the afterlife, according to this verse.  Notice the blessing I quoted from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), O reader; it reflects Johannine theology.  When we turn to St. Paul the Apostle, dictating an epistle to the Corinthian church, we find that he understood eternal life to mean spending one’s afterlife with Jesus.

I hope you, O reader, do not think I am being needlessly pedantic in this post.  (I am capable of unapologetic pedantry, though.  It is consistent with my orientation toward details.)  No, in this post, I strive to understand what the authors were trying to say before I interpret what they said.  God

rules from his eternal fortress

in the Mitchell J. Dahood translation of Psalm 66.  Nevertheless, God

rules by his might for ever,

according to the Revised Standard Version.  “Eternal” equals “forever” in Psalm 66, but not in 2 Corinthians and John.  Eternal life can begin before death in John, but not in Paul.

The readings from Ezekiel and Matthew are germane.  Repentance holds off divine judgment in Ezekiel 33.  That is important background for Ezekiel 34, in which how we think of and treat others inform how God will evaluate us.  Likewise, we read in Matthew 7:1-5 that God will apply to us the standard we use to judge others or not judge them.  This teaching, a cousin of the Golden Rule, reminds me of the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses–to suffer the fate one would have had an innocent person suffer.  Given that repentance holds off divine judgment, the lack of repentance does not hold off divine judgment.  Then one cannot move into the metaphorical eternal, heavenly building from 2 Corinthians 5:1.

Judgment in these matters is God’s purview.  We human beings, although not completely uninformed, know far less than God does.  May we strive to take up our crosses and follow Jesus daily.  May we encourage others to do the same.  May we also support them when they do.  And may we, by grace, have a minimum of hypocrisy as we follow Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Good and Bad Shepherds, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after Easter, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us

both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life;

give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 168

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:10-14, 21-27

John 21:15-25

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The pericope from Ezekiel 34, read narrowly, condemns bad Hebrew monarchs–shepherds, figuratively–who tended themselves, not the flock (the people).  Read broadly, the passage condemns all political and religious leaders who have or still do tend themselves, not the flock.  In John 21 we read of Jesus telling St. Simon Peter to

feed my sheep.

In Revelation 21 we read of God finally displacing the bad shepherds, fulfilling the promise of Ezekiel 34.

One function of stating an ideal in prophecy is to establish a high standard, thereby pointing to to all who fall short of that standard.  In our time this is what much the Apocalypse of John (Revelation) does effectively.  The current world order falls far short of the divine order’s high standard.  Corruption and deceit persist.  God must act because, too often, many people acquiesce or cooperate instead of doing their duty.

On the level short of international, national, or state/provincial politics, much less denominational leadership, I know of congregations that have disbanded because that was the only feasible option after a person or a few people (usually lay members) in positions of influence or authority have tended themselves, not to flock.  This predatory shepherding is detrimental to the flock.  On the rational level, such negative behavior makes no sense.  Why act out of perceived self-interest and thereby damage, destroy, and soil one’s own nest?  The answer, of course, is that these malefactors are irrational and do not know what they are really doing.

May all shepherds be good shepherds.  May they tend their flocks, not themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 413

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, CHINESE-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF EMIL BRUNNER, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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The Way of the World, Part II   2 comments

Above:   Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Mighty God, whose Son Jesus broke the bands of death and scattered the powers of darkness:

arm us with such faith in him that we may face both death and evil,

and overcome even as he overcame; in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Job 19:23-27

1 Peter 2:11-17

John 10:11-16

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According to a bad joke, Bildad the Shuhite was the shortest person in the Bible.  He was certainly short in his supply of wisdom and was a poor excuse for a friend.  Job, replying to Bildad’s address (Job 18) in Chapter 19, expressed confidence in God, who was like a kinsman-redeemer of Israel.

A recurring theme in the Bible (both testaments of it) is confronting authority.  Ezekiel 34 labels bad Israelite kings as cruel and harsh shepherds, and identifies God as the Good Shepherd.  That is an image in John 10, where Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Yet, again and again, as in 1 Peter 2, we read about submission to authority.  The attitude elsewhere, as throughout Matthew and Revelation, is quite different.

Historically, a marginalized, young religious movement trying to convince authorities that it was no threat to the Roman Empire had a vested interest in submission to authority.  Yet, in time, the empire launched vicious persecutions, and wise church leaders did not submit to them.  No, many went into exile and/or became martyrs.  The modern age, with its genocidal dictators (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and Pol Pot), has challenged the advice in 1 Peter 2:13-17, also.

The way of the world includes institutionalized exploitation and violence.  The way of the world entails systemic injustice.  The way of the world will fall to God eventually.  In the meantime, we who claim to follow God must actually follow God in the paths of justice, at least as much as possible, given the pervasively sinful nature of institutions.  We have a command to leave the world better than we found it.

Perhaps we will suffer for the sake of righteousness or, like Job, for a reason we do not understand, but we may trust in our kinsman-redeemer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Kingdom of God, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities,

and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Ezekiel 34:25-31

Romans 14:1-9

Mark 1:14-22

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The time has arrived; the kingdom of God is upon you.  Repent, and believe the gospel.

–Jesus, in Mark 1:14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The concept of the Kingdom of God is multifaceted.  In the New Testament it carries shades of meaning.  In at least one instance it refers to Heaven.  However, it usually indicates the earthly reign or realm of God.  Sometimes the operative Greek word indicates more of a reign than a realm, but a reign seems to imply a realm, does it not?  So, where is the Kingdom of God?  It seems rather difficult to locate, given history and current events.

More than one answer proves helpful, at least to me.  I read C. H. Dodd and learn of his perspective, Realized Eschatology.  The Kingdom of God is not nearer at one point than at another; it just seems that way from our human points of view.  Other scholars prefer to emphasize the sense in which the Kingdom of God is already present, yet not fully realized.  The Kingdom of God, at least from our human, temporal perspectives, is both present and future.

The unconditional love of God for us is free yet not cheap grace; it imposes responsibilities upon us.  We have orders to look out for each other.  Certainly the Kingdom of God, even if only partially realized, is present in such actions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Resisting Tyrants and Authoritarians   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth:

mercifully hear the prayers of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

Ephesians 4:17-24

Matthew 2:16-23

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Herod the Great was one of the bad shepherds, to use the figure of speech from Ezekiel 34, of antiquity.  He was also a cruel man who had no qualms about ordering the deaths of relatives and strangers alike.  He was a man in need of renewal of the mind.

Questioning the authority of tyrants and authoritarians is a moral duty.  If one really takes seriously the call to effect justice, one must resist tyrants and authoritarians, certainly bad shepherds.  Doing so is far from being unpatriotic; it is quite the opposite, and in the best interests of the general populace.

If one is not in a position in which one needs to oppose a tyrant or an authoritarian, one is fortunate.  Such a person may wind up in that position in time, though, given the current rise of fascism and authoritarianism in the world.  Unfortunately, many people who claim to follow God support tyrants and authoritarians.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Posted October 28, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 4, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 2

Tagged with , ,

Christ the King, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY:  THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

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Christ the King Sunday, originally established in the Roman Catholic Church opposite Reformation Sunday, was the creation of Pope Pius XI in 1925.  The rise of fascism and other forms of dictatorship in Europe between World Wars I and II was the context for the creation of this feast.  The feast, in full,

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe,

has been the Sunday preceding Advent since Holy Mother Church revised its calendar in 1969.  The feast became part of many Lutheran and Anglican calendars during the 1970s, as part of liturgical revision.  In much of U.S. Methodism Christ the King Sunday used to fall on the last Sunday in August, at the end of the Season after Pentecost and leading into Kingdomtide.  Christ the King Sunday, set immediately prior to Advent, has become ubiquitous in Western Christianity.

The term “Christ the King” works well for me, for Jesus was male.  I have seen the alternative term “Reign of Christ,” an example of unnecessary linguistic neutering.  I have also wondered about the use of the language of monarchy in a world with few monarchs than before, and about how many citizens of republics might relate to such terminology.  I have also noted that “Reign of Christ” does not allay any concerns related to the language of monarchy.

God is the king in Psalm 100, and Jesus is the king in Ephesians 1 and Matthew 25.  We read of negligent Hebrew kings in Ezekiel 34.  There we also read of the promised Messianic sovereign.  In Matthew 25 we read that the Son of Man (an apocalyptic term for, in this case, Jesus) expects us to take care of each other and will mete out both judgment and mercy.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Most of the readings for this Sunday are apocalyptic in tone.  Matthew 25:31-46 belongs to an apocalyptic section (set immediately prior to the crucifixion of Jesus) in that Gospel.  Ephesians (whoever wrote it) is probably from the 90s C.E., about the time of the composition of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The promise of the Second Coming of Christ hangs over Ephesians 1:15-23.  The promise of a Messianic king in Ezekiel 34 is apocalyptic on its face.  The readings also fit well at the end of the Season after Pentecost and before Advent, when many of the readings are apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic literature is inherently hopeful, for it affirms that God will end the current, sinful, exploitative age and usher in a new age of justice–of heaven on Earth.  If one studies the Bible carefully, one recognizes the pattern of pushing dashed apocalyptic hopes forward in time–from the end of the Babylonian Exile to the time after Alexander the Great to the time of Jesus to the end of the first century C.E.  One, studying history, might also find this pattern since the end of the New Testament.  The list of times Jesus was allegedly supposed to have returned, according to a series of false prophets, is lengthy.

Nevertheless, Christ remains the King of the Universe, despite all appearances to the contrary.  God remains faithful to divine promises, and the apocalyptic hope for God to set the world right remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/devotion-for-proper-29-year-a-humes/

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