Archive for the ‘Ezekiel’ Category

The Kingdom of God, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord and Master, who by thy Word hast called us to watch for thy return:

grant that when thou comest we may be found at work,  serving men in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Ezekiel 47:1-12

Revelation 7:9-17

Luke 16:1-9

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The vision of the future in Ezekiel 47 is one of those prophecies that remains unfulfilled.  It, seemingly set after the end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts Judea as blessed by God and the Temple as sitting atop the center of creation.

That is not our reality, though.  No, we live in a world in which many Christians suffer for their faith and some of them become martyrs.  No, we live in a world in the which the Parable of the Unjust Steward makes practical sense.  That parable, for all its interpretive ambiguities, does teach a clear lesson:  One who hears the gospel must act decisively–stake everything on the Kingdom of God, present partially, with more to come.  The fully realized Kingdom of God–as the Gospel of Matthew calls it–is the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jonathan Pennington asserts.

How we–individually and collectively–live is crucial.  Do we act decisively, staking everything on the Kingdom of God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Restoration, Resurrection, and Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scanned from a Church Bulletin by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Day of Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who sent the promised fire of thy Spirit to make saints of ordinary men:

grant that we, waiting and together now, may be enflamed with such love for thee

that we may speak out boldly in thy name; through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

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

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Acts 10:34-48

John 20:19-23

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The three assigned readings focus on restoration and resurrection.  The vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 refers mt to the resurrection of the dead but to the resurrection of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of Jesus, the context of John 20 and a reference in Acts 10, is one of the items in the catalog of literal events, albeit on historians can neither prove nor disprove.  No, the resurrection of Jesus resides in the realm of that which one either accepts by faith or rejects by the absence of faith.

Notice, O reader, that God is the primary actor in the readings.  God restores Israel.  God resurrects Jesus.  God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, arrives.  God is even active in the Greek divine passive voice, as in John 20:22-23, or at least the first part of verse 23:

After saying this he breathed on them, and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins,

they are forgiven;

if you retain anyone’s sins,

they are retained.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“They,” in that passage, refers to sins.

Suppose, O reader, that I have sinned against you, another person, and God.  Suppose, furthermore, that I have realized my sin, confessed it to both people and to God, and asked for forgiveness from everyone involved.  Suppose that one person and God have forgiven me, but that the other person has refused to do so.

Who retains the sin?  The person who refuses forgiveness does.

It is to him [Jesus] that all the prophets testify, declaring that everyone who trusts in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

–Acts 10:43, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Forgiveness can be a difficult spiritual practice, but it is an essential one.  It is crucial to restoration and resurrection of individuals, families, communities, and societies.  Forgiveness facilitates reconciliation.  Forgiveness enables on to lay grudges aside and to progress spiritually as one should.  Forgiveness is part of the mission of the church.

Decades ago, in the United States, a man burgled a church and stole audio equipment.  The police arrested him and the District Attorney prosecuted.  At the trial the pastor of the church testified on the thief’s behalf and asked for leniency.  The court rendered its verdict. The thief, a changed man, joined that church.

Extending forgiveness is crucial if the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as far and wide as possible, to facilitate faithful responses to the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Extending forgiveness is also a matter of faithful response.  Certainly we, who acknowledge that we receive forgiveness daily, have an obligation to forgive.  Grace is free yet not cheap, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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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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Enemies and Repentance II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Ezekiel 33:10-16

Galatians 6:1-5

Matthew 13:24-30

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Do we really want sinners (other than ourselves, those similar to ourselves, and those we like) to repent–to turn around, to change their minds?  Or, do we want the others we despise to suffer?  According to Ezekiel 33 and Galatians 6, God wants all sinners to repent.  Not all will, unfortunately.  This is why I say that the damned condemn themselves, and that God sends nobody to Hell.

The Parable of the Weeds, I hear, is apparently better spiritual counsel than agricultural advice.  So be it, for the parable is spiritual counsel.  Lest we, in the quest to remove darnel, gather some wheat for burning instead, we need to leave that matter to God, who knows infinitely better than we do.  This parable does not negate any Biblical teachings about dealing with teachers of heresies; standards remain, after all.  We need to know our proper limits, though.  Speaking the truth is vital; so is doing so in love.

Maybe some of the darnel will repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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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

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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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