Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 36’ Category

Three Prophecies Against Gog, With the Return of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  King Gyges of Lydia

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XVII

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Ezekiel 38:1-39:29

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The identities of Gog and Magog are topics of scholarly dispute.  Gog may be a reference to a mythical ruler, and Magog (the land Gog governed) may be mythical, too.  Another hypothesis holds that Magog (Akkadian, “mat-Gog”) may refer to the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, which fell to the Persian Empire in 546 B.C.E.  If Magog is a reference to Lydia, Gog is a reference to King Gyges of Lydia (r. 685-652 B.C.E.).  The main idea, anyway, is that Magog refers to a distant, northern kingdom.  This kingdom will attack restored Israel, but God will fight for restored Israel, Ezekiel 38-39 say.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, invasions usually came from the north, as in Jeremiah 1:13-15.  Gog and Magog, regardless of any real-world references, represented an unspecified threat at some undefined point in the future, relative to Ezekiel’s time.

Above:  A Map Showing the Kingdom of Lydia

Image in the Public Domain

The restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 39:21-29) is also a prominent theme in Chapters 36 and 37, of course.  The Book of Ezekiel is repetitive.

The language of prophecy is frequently vague and poetic.  When it is not–as in Haggai 1 and 2, for example–one problem is that the prediction may not come to pass, and disillusionment will ensue, predictably.  I do not know if Ezekiel 38 and 39 represent bad history or unfulfilled prophecy.  Whichever one they represent, so be it.  The really big idea is plain and clear, however.  That point is that God is in control of human history.  Once God has demonstrated that point, the restoration of Israel can begin.  And all flesh will see it together.

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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Posted July 5, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 36, Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel 39, Haggai 1, Haggai 2, Jeremiah 1

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The Regeneration of the Land, With the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XVI

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Ezekiel 36:1-37:28

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Ezekiel 36 flows from Ezekiel 35, the second of two divine oracles against Edom in that book.  In Ezekiel 35, one of the points of condemnation is Edomite settlement in the former Kingdom of Judah during the Babylonian Exile.  That point comes up in 36;5.

The short summary of Ezekiel 36-37 is that God will renew the people of the covenant, restore them to their land, and renew their land.  God will do this, not for the sake of the covenant people (36:22), but so that

then they shall know that I am the LORD.

–Ezekiel 36:38b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The motivation the Book of Ezekiel attributes to God disturbs me.  I would elaborate on that point in this post, but (1) I have other fish I am more interested in frying, and (2) I have elaborated on that point already in Part IX of this series.

Another repeated theme is the use of ritual impurity as a metaphor for moral impurity (36:16f).

Ezekiel 37 is about the renewal of the covenant people, in the context of the “new heart” and “new spirit” (36:26).  The vision of the valley of dry bones is a vivid reading.  The contribution of the spiritual based on it upon the last episode of The Prisoner (1967-1968) is indelibly stamped on mind.  This reading is a favorite reading at many Easter Vigils each year.  However, that vision has nothing to do with the resurrection of the dead, a doctrine unknown to the prophet Ezekiel.  No the vision is a bout the restoration of the nation, unified and free of idolatry (37:15f).  The prediction of the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty remains unfulfilled.

When all hope seems lost, trust in God may be extremely difficult to muster.  Faith that the future can be better–will be better–may seem foolish.  I understand, somewhat.  I understand well enough that I refuse to condemn those who think so.  Faith in the trenches can be hard to maintain.

The Book of Ezekiel, despite its excesses–including misogyny and a selfish deity–does have the virtue of proclaiming faith in the trenches.  If one cannot hold onto healthy faith in the trenches, all really may be lost.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 9:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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The Shepherds of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Ezekiel, Parma

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XV

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Ezekiel 34:1-31

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Ezekiel 33-39, from after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), contains the rationale for and the anticipation of the transformation of YHWH’s people.  Ezekiel 33 reiterates the call of Ezekiel and argues for individual responsibility for one’s actions before God.  Chapter 34 employs shepherds as a metaphor for Hebrew kings and shepherds as a metaphor for God.  Ezekiel 34 is also one of the few chapters of the Book of Ezekiel the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) cites.

The reviews of the Kings of Israel and Judah in the Books of Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Chronicles are mostly negative.  The critique in Ezekiel 34 is that the majority of them did a bad job of looking out for the people.  We read that the people paid dearly for this neglect.  Recall, O reader, that Ezekiel prophesied in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Consider, O reader, that the prophet had the benefit of hindsight.

We read that YHWH is the good shepherd , who will tend faithfully to the flock.  We also read that this task will entail dealing with the bad shepherds.  Why not?  Divine mercy on and deliverance of the oppressed and powerless may entail bad news for the oppressors and powerful.  We read of divine plans to reunite the scattered flock–to end the Babylonian Exile.

We also read of divine judgment of exploitative members of that flock.  Why not?  Exploitation contradicts one of the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses.

Then we read of the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty.  This one awaits fulfillment, or will never occur.  Inaccurate prophecies (such as the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 46:2-28; and throughout Ezekiel 29-32) do exist in the Hebrew Bible.

One need not study historical records alone for examples of predatory and bad readers of peoples.  One can consult the news (if one can do so without triggering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and identify such bad shepherds.  The divine condemnation of bad shepherds in Ezekiel 34 applies to them, also.  Even worse, these shepherds lead many sheep.  Many of these shepherds, having come to power via elections, work to subvert the democratic and and electoral processes.  God has the most power, of course.  But sheep are not powerless in all societies.  When they have the option of withdrawing their consent for bad shepherds to govern, the sheep ought to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN AND ANATOLIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCHS; AND SAINTS AGATHO, LEO II, AND BENEDICT II, BISHOPS OF ROME; DEFENDERS OF CHRISTOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, AND CHURCH FATHER; SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA; AND SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, BISHOP OF LAODICEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELIODORUS OF ALTINUM, ASSOCIATE OF SAINT JEROME, AND BISHOP OF ALTINUM

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR, HIS SON; WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HIS SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE, VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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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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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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The Light of Christ, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

At least three of the following sets:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 and Psalm 46

Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18

Isaiah 55:1-11 and Isaiah 12:2-6

Ezekiel 20:1-24 and Psalm 19

Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalms 42 and 43

Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143

Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 98

Then:

Romans 6:3-11

Psalm 114

Matthew 28:1-10

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The history of the Great Vigil of Easter is interesting.  We do not know when the service began, but we do know that it was already well-established in the second century C.E.  We also know that the Great Vigil was originally a preparation for baptism.  Reading the history of the Easter Vigil reveals the elaboration of the rite during ensuing centuries, to the point that it lasted all night and was the Easter liturgy by the fourth century.  One can also read of the separation of the Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday service in the sixth century.  As one continues to read, one learns of the vigil becoming a minor afternoon ritual in the Roman missal of 1570.  Then one learns of the revival of the Easter Vigil in Holy Mother Church in the 1950s then, in North America, in The Episcopal Church and mainline Lutheranism during the liturgical renewal of the 1960s and 1970s.  Furthermore, if one consults the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (1993) and The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), on finds the ritual for the Great Vigil of Easter in those volumes.

The early readings for the Easter Vigil trace the history of God’s salvific work, from creation to the end of the Babylonian Exile.  The two great Hebrew Biblical themes of exile and exodus are prominent.  Then the literal darkness ends, the lights come up, and the priest announces the resurrection of Jesus.  The eucharistic service continues and, if there are any candidates for baptism, that sacrament occurs.

One of the chants for the Easter Vigil is

The light of Christ,

to which the congregation chants in response,

Thanks be to God.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans, reminds us down the corridors of time that the light of Christ ought to shine in our lives.  May that light shine brightly through us, by grace, that we may glorify God every day we are on this side of Heaven.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FOUNDER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part XI   1 comment

Above:  Pole Gate, July 1978

Image Source = Library of Congress

Photographer = Suzi Jones

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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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Ecclesiastes 12 or Ezekiel 36:22-36

Psalm 10:1, 14-20

Galatians 6:1-18

Matthew 7:1-14

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To sum up the matter:  fear God, and keep his commandments, since this is the whole duty of man.  For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, to judgment.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The author of Psalm 10’s query remains germane.  Why does God stand far off while the wicked hunt down the poor?  At least God does not always stand far off, although I also wonder about divine timing.

A major theme for this Sunday is how we treat each other.  God seems to care a great deal about that in the Bible.  We are supposed to build up one another, thereby creating an improved common good.  We actually benefit ourselves by putting others first.  This is part of “fearing”–actually, standing in awe of–God.

Selfishness is a difficult habit to break, unfortunately.  May we break it, by grace, and become the people and societies we are supposed to be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Posted March 22, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Ecclesiastes 12, Ezekiel 36, Galatians 6, Matthew 7, Psalm 10

Tagged with

The Internalized Covenant with God   1 comment

Second Temple Model

Above:  A Model of the Second Temple, Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Psalm 85:8-13

Mark 11:27-33

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Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

The LORD will indeed grant prosperity

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

–Psalm 85:7-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That positive vision is similar to the one in Ezekiel 36:24-28.  The internalized covenant in a renewed and restored Israel is happy news.  Yet one ought not to overlook or minimize Ezekiel 36:32 (New Revised Standard Version):

It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you.  Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.

God will act, Ezekiel tells us, on behalf of the holy divine name, which the Hebrews had profaned.

I read Mark 11:27-33 and 12:1-12 then imagine Jesus saying,

Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O chief priests, scribes, and elders.

That concept exists in the words of Mark 11:27-12:12.  The Temple system exploited the pious poor economically and collaborated with the Roman occupiers.  It also propagated a form of piety which only those of certain means (a minority of the population) could afford to maintain.  Woe indeed to those who benefited from that system!  Although Jesus refused to answer the trick question in 11:27-33, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12) provided an unambiguous reply just a few days before the death of our Lord and Savior, as the Gospel of Mark tells the narrative.

Lest we of today feel overly comfortable in our denouncement of people dead for thousands of years, we need to look around and ponder our contexts.  Are we complicit in structures which exploit people?  Do we participate in or make excuses for organizations which ignore the principle of the internalized covenant with God and twist religion into an instrument for improper spiritual authority?  If so, we ought to be ashamed and dismayed for our ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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Adopted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Restoration V: Exile and Restoration   1 comment

Foundation of the Tower of Antonia

Above:  Foundation of the Tower of Antonia, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1921

Image Creators = Jamal Brothers

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/item/mamcol.045/#about-this-item)

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-38

Psalm 138

Matthew 16:5-12

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All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,

that great is the glory of the Lord.

–Psalm 138:4-5, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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That was part of the vision of the Book of Ezekiel.  The theology of that text held that exile was divine punishment for persistent national sins and that God would act mightily to restore the fortunes of Israel for the glory of the divine name and the benefit of the people.  Surely such an impressive act would convince many skeptical people that God (YHWH) was not only real but great.  It was a hopeful vision, but life in post-exilic Judea fell far short of those expectations.  At the time of Christ the Roman Empire ruled in military might and with economic exploitation, with the collaboration of Jerusalem Temple officials in Jerusalem.  The exilic experience persisted, with the ironic twist that the exiles were home.

We human beings have a tendency to use logic to confirm our opinions.  Thus we tend to seek prooftexts, cherry-pick evidence, and seek not to become “confused by the facts.”  This reality helps to explain much political discord, especially when disputing partisans cannot agree even on the definition of objective reality.

Sadducees and Pharisees disagreed on many substantive issues, but members of both camps were in league with the Roman Empire and challenged Jesus.  Of course their stations in life and their theological opinions reinforced each other in a repeating feedback loop, but I suspect that many Sadducees and Pharisees were sincere in their doctrine.  They followed the Law of Moses as they understood it and recalled lessons from Hebrew tradition about the relationship between national sin and fortunes.  And certainly they understood our Lord and Savior as a threat in the overlapping realms of economics, politics, and religion.

I know which side I support, for I am a Christian, a partisan of Christ.  Both the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to perpetuate forms of piety dependent on wealth.  Peasants could not find enough time to keep all the Pharisaic rules and regulations, for they had to work for so many hours.  And Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, channeled considerable efforts into maintaining aristocratic status and estates for the next generation to inherit.  That brought them into disagreement with Jesus.

Exile can assume many forms.  People can be in exile at home or abroad, physically or spiritually.  Exiles might not even know that they are in exile and therefore in need of restoration.  Informing such exiles of their actual status might prompt not return, restoration, and gratitude but hostility and even violence.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will preserve me;

you will stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand will save me.

The Lord shall make good his purpose for me;

your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever;

forsake not the work of your hands.

–Psalm 138:7-8, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), page 266, offers a germane analysis:

God does not impose his gracious purpose on us, but waits until we ourselves desire it of him.  We sometimes hear it argued that if God is really eager to bless us, he will give up now what we need and not wait till we ask him.  But is that so?  Surely God is never concerned merely to give us things, but only in and through what he gives us to train to be his children, true men and women.  He can adequately bless us only when we ourselves are ready and eager for his blessing.  Thus some of us discover for the first time what if it really means to relish our food–because we come to it hungry.  It is as simple as that.

So, how eager are you, O reader, to receive the grace God has for you and the responsibilities which come with it?  Grace is free to us; we cannot purchase it.  But it is not cheap, for it costs us much.  Many have even died in faithful response.  They have died as free people–not exiles–in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF WALTER CRONKITE, JOURNALIST

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This post owes much to the scholarship of Richard Horsley.  Perhaps the most compact book in his oeuvre is Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003).

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-16-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Patience and the Kingdom of God   1 comment

01968v

Above:  The Ascension of Christ, Circa 1873

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003670200/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01968

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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 36:8-15

Psalm 130

Luke 24:44-53

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My soul waits for the Lord,

more than the night watch for the morning,

more than the night watch for the morning.

–Psalm 130:5, Common Worship (2000)

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The kingdom of God has arrived,

the canonical Gospels proclaim,

yet it has not arrived completely.

That is my paraphrase of one Gospel theme.  Some of my recent reading for the Historical Jesus group to which I belong proves helpful here.  James D. G. Dunn, in Jesus Remembered (2003), considers Mark 1:15a:

…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand….

Revised Standard Version—Second Edition (1971),

words of St. John the Baptist.  That “time,” or kairos in Greek,

…can be readily understood to indicate not simply one event, a date in time, but a period of time.

–page 438

I like this understanding of the Kingdom of God as an age.  Too much of Protestantism overemphasizes events and minimizes ages and processes in personal life and the Bible.  The comprehension of the Kingdom of God as an age and as a promise fulfilled partially, with more to come reconciles several seeming contradictions in biblical texts.  Ezekiel’s vision, yet unfulfilled, will become reality.  The Kingdom of God, evident since Jesus walked the face of the planet, will become more pronounced.

Frustration over the partial fulfillment of the promise is understandable and predictable.  In fact, so is the perception that the Kingdom of God is a promise we will never see made real.  Alfred Firmin Loisy (1857-1940), a French Roman Catholic theologian, said that Jesus promised us the Kingdom of God and all we got was the Church, which Christ founded, but not in the form it took in time.  For these and other opinions the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated him.  Loisy’s disappointment did contain some legitimate points yet missed a crucial truth:  we have received a down payment on the Kingdom of God, which is evident in the Church.  It has been evident in the Church for nearly two thousand years.  But there is more to come.

Patience can be a difficult spiritual lesson to learn.  I am still working on it, in fact.  And even more patience will be necessary for growth in God, whose timeframe is not ours.

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-eighth-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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