Archive for the ‘Genesis 11’ Category

The Forerunner   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART VI

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Luke 3:1-20

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In what we call 533 C.E., (which started as 1286 A.U.C.), St. Dionysius Exiguus created the dating system we know as B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E.  In so doing, he rewrote the Christian calendar and made life easier for historians and archaeologists.  In antiquity, however, dating was relative, as in Luke 3:1.  Establishing a precise range of dates for what follows Luke 3:1 has proven impossible because relative dating was inexact and competing calendars coexisted.  According to the Roman Calendar, Luke 3:1 established the setting of chapter 3 as being between August 19, 28 C.E. and August 18, 29 C.E.  However, according to the Syrian manner of calculating time, the timeframe was between September-October 27 C.E. and September-October 28 C.E.  To complicate matters further, assuming that the birth of Jesus occurred closer to 6 B.C.E. than to 4 B.C.E., Jesus would have been in his middle thirties during Luke 3.  However, Luke 3:23 defined Christ’s age as “about thirty years old.”

Keeping track of time can be complicated.

St. John the Baptist was in full prophetic mode, condemning social injustice, calling out unrepentant sinners, and resembling Elijah.  St. John was also baptizing for repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  This baptism was related to the ritual bath in Judaism.

A few thoughts regarding St. John the Baptist come to my mind:

  1. His teaching included themes Jesus used in his teaching.  How much of an influence was St. John the Baptist on Jesus?  Had Jesus been a disciple of St. John the Baptist?  Or did the two men simply draw from the same influences?
  2. If St. John the Baptist had told people he was the Messiah, he would have had a messianic following.
  3. St. John’s advice to tax collectors, if followed, put them out of business.  Tax collectors lived on the excess funds they collected.
  4. St. John’s preaching led to him becoming a political prisoner.  Herod Antipas had violated the Law of Moses by marrying Herodias, his half-niece and the ex-wife of his half-brother.

St. John the Baptist was humble.  He knew who he was and whose he was.  St. John had an assigned part to play in life.  He played it faithfully.  St. John was humble, not mousy.  His courage led to his incarceration and execution.  He was more than inconvenient to Herod Antipas.

“Humble” derives from the Latin humilis, meaning “lowly” and related to “earth” (humus).  To be humble is to be down to earth, literally, “close to the ground.”  I explain this for the sake of clarity.  When two people use the same word yet define it differently, they talk past each other.

An old joke tells us that How I Achieved Humility is a short book.  I do not lie to you, O reader; I know about intellectual arrogance firsthand, from inside my skull.  My intellectual arrogance is the fruit of being better informed and more widely read than most of the people around me most of the time while growing up.  I recall that most people around me most of the time while I grew up treated me as the smartest person in the room.  Regardless of the objective verdict on that supposition, I prefer the company of people whom I understand know more than I do and who have read more widely than I have.  I have questions, too.

I regard arrogance with empathy.  How many geniuses have been humble?  I do not profess to be a genius, but I grasp that they are intellectually superior to most people and tend, predictably, to be arrogant.  How are they supposed to be otherwise?

Foibles of human psychology aside, we are all “but dust” (to quote the Book of Psalms) before God.  Humility before God is crucial.  Our greatest accomplishments are microscopic in God’s eyes.  The mythology in Genesis 11:1-9 tells us that God had to “come down” (v. 5) to see the great city and the Tower of Babel.  One may imagine, in literary terms, God squinting in Heaven then coming down to get a good look.  Lest we–collectively and individually–think we are all that and a bag of potato chips compared to God, we err.  Yet we are the apples of God’s eyes because of grace.

May we be good apples for God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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The Seventh Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Astarte Syriaca, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XI

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Zechariah 5:5-11

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The seventh vision (Zechariah 5:5-11) raises eyebrows.  The tub, with a capacity of 23 liters (21 quarts) is too small to hold the woman, but it does, somehow.  The woman represents wickedness, soon transported to Babylonia, where she/it will get a shrine.  The text names the land of Shinar, the site of the mythical Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

I object to misogyny as much as the next self-respecting liberal.  Unfortunately, misogyny is a staple of some parts of the Bible and of much misinterpretation of certain Biblical texts.  Other details are more productive to explore in this post, however.

The shipping away of wickedness in a container echoes Leviticus 16, with the driving out of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement.  The woman is not a scapegoat, though. No, she is a goddess–probably Astarte, the alleged wife of YHWH.  Putting these two pieces of the puzzle together, we realize that this text is about laying aside both idolatry and guilt for past sins.  Populations and individuals cannot move forward into a better future until they have acknowledged their uncomfortable, painful pasts and vowed to do better.  Learning and applying the germane lessons of the past are crucial and within human power.  The ability to forgive comes from God, who models that behavior.  Yet truth must precede forgiveness.

The burden of guilt is heavy.  I know the burden of survivor’s guilt.  One part of my psyche tells me that I could and should have done more.  Another aspect of my psyche tells me that I did as well as I could with what I had and as best I knew.  That part of my psyche tells me that I did a good job for a long time.  These two aspects of my psyche argue inside my cranium.

Also, forgiving oneself can be more difficult than forgiving others.  Forgiving others can also be a hard task, of course.

The population First Zechariah originally addressed needed to forgive themselves and their ancestors.  The only way forward was through truth and the acknowledgment of it, followed by forgiveness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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Divine Judgment Against Foreign Nations, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins of City United Methodist Church, Gary, Indiana

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING ZEPHANIAH, PART III

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Zephaniah 2:4-15

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The terrible Day of the LORD (Zephaniah 1) will affect other nations, not just Judah, we read.

  1. The judgment and destruction of the Philistines (2:4-7) contrasts with the restoration of the remnant of Judah.  A diligent student of the Bible sought to know about the long, difficult relations between Jews and Philistines.  The archaeological record belies the stereotype of Philistines as uncouth and barbaric.  Artifacts reveal that the Philistines had a high, sophisticated culture, actually.  Zephaniah 2:4-7 holds that culture in low esteem, though.
  2. The Moabites and the Ammonites (2:8-11), we read, will also meet their fates.  The text condemns these nations for taunting and boasting against God’s people.  We read that the restored remnant of that chosen people will dispossess the Moabites and the Ammonites.
  3. The Cushites/Nubians and Assyrians (2:12-15) will also meet with dire fates, we read.  One may recall from earlier in Hebrew prophetic literature that Cush/Nubia and Assyria were enemies of Judah and each other, and that Judah was sandwiched between these powers.  One may also recall that the (Cushite/Nubian) Twenty-Fifth Dynasty of Egypt, which had pushed for the creation of an anti-Assyrian alliance circa 714 B.C.E., fell after the Assyrian capture of Thebes, the Egyptian capital, in 633 B.C.E.  One may realize that the Cushites/Nubians remained in Cush/Nubia, of course.  And one may recall reading about the fall of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, in 612 B.C.E.

That which civilizations build can disappear relatively quickly.  Buildings, not maintained, collapse faster than one may guess.  For examples, one need not seek out ancient ruins.  One need look no farther than Detroit, Michigan, or Gary, Indiana, for example.

Zephaniah 2:15 condemns an attitude of haughtiness before God.  This attitude is unacceptable.  God, who is active, can bless and punish.  God will punish haughtiness, Zephaniah 1-3 tell us.

The haughtiness Zephaniah 2:4-15 condemns in various Gentile nations reminds of me of the myth of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).  In that account, we read of human hubris and a massive construction project.  The account, poetically, tells us that God had to come down to see the grand city.  In other words, human best efforts and grandest efforts and structures are insignificant compared to God.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GOTTFRIED GEISLER AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN GEISLER, SILESIAN MORAVIAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSER; AND JOHANNES HERBST, GERMAN-AMERICAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF FRANCES RIDLEY HAVERGAL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

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Glorifying God VII   1 comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture

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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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Genesis 11:1-9 or Acts 28:16-31

Psalm 135:1-14

Revelation 6:1-17

John 9:1-41

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The gospel of Christ will always stand in judgment of the things that are happening in the political, economic, and social spheres of communities and nations.  And if this is so, then martyrdom is not as far away as we think.  The word “martyr” in Greek is the same word from which we get the word “witness.”

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 49-50

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To be a witness to God can be risky.  The risk may or may not involve violence, injury or death.  However, even under the best of circumstances, to ignore or minimize that risk is foolish.  Risk may even come from conventionally religious people–from powerful ones, perhaps.

I detect an element of humor in John 9:1-41.  (Reading the Bible in such a way as to miss humor is far too common.)  By the time a reader arrives at the end of the story, one may imagine steam pouring out of the ears of some of the Pharisees, if this story were in the form of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  This would make for a wonderful scene in verse 27, with the healed man’s question, 

Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

At the end of that story, the healed man found himself expelled from the synagogue.  His plight must have resonated with members of the Johannine Jewish Christian community, on the margins of their Jewish communal life.  Therefore, some Jews referred to other Jews as “the Jews.”

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle lived under house arrest in Rome.  Ultimately, he did via beheading.

God may have struck down many enemies and oppressors of Israel, but many of the faithful have suffered and/or died for the faith, too.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth.  Anyone consulting it in search for a reliable source of linguistic origins is on a doomed mission.  That is not to say, however, that the story contains no truth.

This is a story about the folly of self-importance–collective self-importance, in this case.  Verse 5 reads:

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That verse conveys the insignificance of human achievements relative to God.

The desire to make a name for ourselves–collectively and individually–is a great value in many societies.  It is not, however, a value the Bible champions.  Psalm 135 reads, in part:

Hallelujah.

Praise the name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD,

who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing hymns to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel, as His treasured possession.

–Verses 1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If we–collectively or individually–have a name that should last for generations, centuries, and millennia, God will give it to us.  That name may not persist in human memory, though.

Some of them left a name behind them, 

so that their praises are still sung.

While others have left no memory

and disappeared as though they had not existed.

They are now as though they had never been,

and so too, their children after them.

–Ecclesiasticus 44:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So be it.

To seek to glorify God and to maintain divine standards of political, economic, and social justice can be dangerous.  At minimum, the risk is social marginalization and scorn.  Much of this contempt may come from conventionally devout people who should know better.  To serve God or to serve Caesar.  To glorify God or to glorify oneself?  To worship God or to worship country?  The decisions are ours to make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-18-year-d-humes/

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Transfigured Lives   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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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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Genesis 11:1-9

Psalm 50:1-6

Galatians 6:1-18

Mark 9:2-13

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The great myth of the Tower of Babel is a cautionary tale.  It is certainly neither history nor cultural anthropology.  So be it.  The great myth in Genesis 11:1-9 condemns human hubris, that which

goeth before the fall.

“Look at me!  Look at us!” is terrible theology.  It is not humility before God either.  Besides, such large-scale construction projects (as in the mythical Tower of Babel) entailed forced labor in antiquity.  They required the exploitation of many people, in violation of the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses.

Galatians 6 is consistent with the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses.  Bear one another’s burdens, we read.  Act out of mutuality, we read.  Never tire of doing good, we read.

Reaching to Heaven in pride is an element of Genesis 11.  In the accounts of the Transfiguration, we read that God has reached down to people in sacrificial love.  One proper response to such love is to love one another sacrificially.  We cannot love as God loves, even by grace.  However, we can, by grace, love each other better than we can on our own power.

May the sacrificial love of God manifest in the life of Jesus of Nazareth transfigure our lives.  May it transfigure your life, O reader.  May it transfigure my life.  May hubris recede far into the background and disappear.  May we seek to glorify God, not ourselves.  May we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/devotion-for-the-sunday-of-the-transfiguration-year-d-humes/

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The Defeat of Arphaxad   Leave a comment

Above:  Arphaxad

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JUDITH

PART I

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Judith 1:1-16

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The Book of Judith is a novella, like the Books of Tobit and Esther.  This story exists in two parts.  Chapters 1-7 establish the crisis facing the Jews of Bethulia.  Chapters 8-16 contain the story of the titular character.  The Book of Judith, composed between 135 and 100 B.C.E., during or shortly after the reign (134-104 B.C.E.) of John Hyrcanus I (named in 1 Maccabees 13:53, 16:1-23), includes details and characters from five centuries, mixed and matched in odd combinations.  The Book of Judith also exists in four Greek recensions, four ancient translations, and a Hebrew translation from the Vulgate version.

The Book of Judith, although never in the Jewish canon of scripture, has canonical status in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.  Certain early Christian writings attest to the high esteem in which some saints held that text.  One can, for example, read St. Jerome (347-419), the great, frequently moody translator of the Vulgate, describing Judith as (1) a model widow, and (2) a type of the Church.  One can also read of St. Jerome describing St. Mary of Nazareth, the Mother and Bearer of God, as a new Judith.  One can also read St. Clement (I) of Rome, Bishop of Rome from 88/91 to 97/101, writing in his (First) Epistle to the Corinthians, cite Esther and Judith as examples of heroic love of their people.  

“Judith,” literally “Jewish woman,” echoes other Jewish women.  These include Jael (Judges 4), Deborah (Judges 4-5), and Sarah (Genesis 11, 12, 16-18, 20-22).

Now, for Judith 1:1-16….

Do not bother trying to keep track of historical dates, O reader; they are all over the chronology.  Likewise, the measurements of the wall of Ectabana are hyperbolic.  Who has ever seen a wall 105 feet high and 75 feet thick, with tower gates 150 feet high and 60 feet wide?

On the surface, this is a story about the warfare between King Arphaxad of the Medes and King Nebuchadnezzar II (allegedly of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but really of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire).  Chapter 1 ends with Jews in Samaria and Judah dreading the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar II for not supporting his campaign against Arphaxad.

A careful reader may know that King Nebuchadnezzar II governed from Babylon, not Nineveh.

Chapter 1 sets up the rest of the Book of Judith.  One theme is already evident.  That theme is whether one should be loyal to a tyrant.  The answer is “no.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILIP AND DANIEL BERRIGAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

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Humility Before God and People, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ruins of the Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, 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 poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Genesis 11:1-9

Psalm 85

Colossians 2:6-17

Matthew 3:1-12

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Pride goeth before the fall.

The great myth of the Tower of Babel (which contradicts every bit of evidence regarding the history of languages) in Genesis 11:1-9 is a cautionary tale against hubris.  Lest we think we are hot stuff, God has to kneel town, pull out the really big magnifying glass, and squint, figuratively, to see out greatest achievements.  They are that insignificant.  Humility before God is a virtue.

Humility before God leads naturally to remorse for sins and to repentance.  Humility before God acknowledges both divine judgment and mercy.  Humility before God in Christ helps to keep one rooted in Jesus and established in the faith.  And humility before Good helps one, like St. John the Baptist, say, in so many words,

I have a vocation from God.  That calling is important.  Yet I will not imagine myself to be more important than I am.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us is important.  May we think of ourselves and each other accordingly.  May we encourage one another in faith and practice, for the good of each other.  And may we think of ourselves as neither more nor less important than we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBURG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF SOPHIE KOULOMZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR

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The Sins of Racism, Nativism, and Xenophobia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, by Jenõ Benedek

Image in the Public Domain

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For Race Relations Sunday, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Great God and Father of us all:  destroy prejudice that turns us against our brothers.

Teach us that we are all children of your love, whether we are black or red or white or yellow.

Encourage us to live together, loving one another in peace,

so that someday a golden race of men may have the world, giving praise to Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 179

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Genesis 11:1-9

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 10:25-37

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The Second Sunday in February used to be Race Relations Day (or Sunday) in much of mainline U.S. Protestantism.  The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) included four prayers for “Social Justice and Brotherhood,” but Race Relations Day had come into being in time for The Book of Common Worship (1946), with its prayer of “Better Race Relations.”  Meanwhile, The Methodist Church (1939-1968) defined the Second Sunday in February as Race Relations Day in its Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), which included two prayers for the occasion.

The occasion still exists.  In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the Sunday preceding the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, is Race Relations Sunday.  The United Methodist Church calls that day Human Relations Day, to call the

Church to recognize the right of all God’s children to realize their potential as human beings in relationship with one another.

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), 423

The assigned passages of scripture contradict dominant ways of the world.

  1. The myth in Genesis 11:1-9 condemns human hubris and reminds we mere mortals how insignificant we are compared to God, regardless of how important we consider ourselves to be.  In verse 5, for example, we read of God having to “come down” just to see the city and the Tower of Babel.
  2. The list of sins in Colossians 3:1-11 is hardly comprehensive, but it need not be.  The main idea is not to act as to harm others and oneself, but to pursue Godly, constructive purposes instead.
  3. The scandal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is multifaceted.  After one gets past respectable, religious people refusing to help the man, one learns that a Samaritan–a half-breed and a heretic–an outsider–helped.  The parable contains layers of meaning; one of them is that we need to look past our prejudices.

Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are examples of hubris, of failure to affirm the image of God in others, of hatred, and of mutually exclusive biases.  Racism, nativism, and xenophobia are also frequently successful political weapons.

May God have mercy on us all.  Even we who decry the sins of racism, nativism, and xenophobia are not exempt from those biases; we generally rein them in within ourselves, however.  We, as members of society, are also partially responsible for the sins of society, and we share in societal punishment.

May God have mercy on us all and lead our societies to repent of these sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Agents of Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O almighty and most merciful God, of your bountiful goodness keep us,

we pray, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things which you command;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship of Church and Home (1965), page 153

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 33

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

Mark 10:28-31

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In Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel, people are impressed with themselves and their collective accomplishment.  That accomplishment is a tower that God, looking down from Heaven, can barely see because of its relative smallness.  Our accomplishments and might are puny compared to God, as Psalm 33 reminds us.  May we have proper perspective, that is, humility before God.

Humility before God would certainly be easy for one to have if one were in the position of Isaiah, eyewitness to a glorious vision.  Accepting the call of God, as continued in subsequent verses in Isaiah 6, is perhaps a greater challenge.  The consequences can be dire, even to the point of death.  Certainly obeying that call will make one a new creation.  Change–even of the positive variety–frequently scares many people, for it endangers their comfort zones.  God calls us away from complacency and into the unknown.  Sometimes, as in the cases of some Hebrew prophets, God calls us to enter the realm of the scandalous.  Ultimately, though, the result should be the reconciliation of people separated from God with God.

This goal offends many people, including some of the professing faithful.  One might think of the great satire that is the Book of Jonah, a criticism of post-Babylonian Exile excesses.  One lesson from the text is that God loves everyone and wants all people to repent.  God sends the reluctant Jonah on a mission.  The prophet succeeds, much to his dismay.  We have enemies, by whom we define our identities.  If they cease to be enemies, who are we?  The possibility of such drastic change frightens us, does it not?

Will we stand humbly before God and serve as willing agents of reconciliation?  Or will we remain in our comfort zones and function as agents of obstruction?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Waiting for God, Part I   1 comment

Abraham

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 21:1-16 (Thursday)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 11:27-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 33:12-22 (All Days)

Romans 9:1-9 (Thursday)

Acts 7:1-8 (Friday)

Matthew 6:19-24 (Saturday)

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We are waiting for Yahweh;

he is our help and our shield,

for in him our heart rejoices,

in his holy name we trust.

Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,

as our hope has rested in you.

–Psalm 33:20-22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.  This reality has frustrated many for ages and contradicted incarnations of Prosperity Theology (a heresy that does not die) since antiquity.  In the Book of Job the titular character’s alleged friends insisted that he must have done something to deserve his suffering.  The text, with all of its layers of authorship, explains in Chapters 1 and 2 why Job suffered; God allowed it.  Job was a pawn in a heavenly wager.

We who follow God wait for God, but, if we are realistic, we will not expect that doing so will lead to life on Easy Street.  Sometimes, in fact, it will lead to suffering for the sake of righteousness.  On other occasions suffering will just happen, seemingly for no reason.  Suffering is a part of life, I have become convinced.

Yet we need not suffer alone.  In Christ Jesus God suffered in human flesh, after all.  The divine promise is not that a proper relationship with God will be present during suffering.  This has been my experience.  We are members of God’s household via grace, not lineage, and the pilgrimage of faith begins with one step.  In God we find intangible and eternal (in the Johannine sense of that word, that is, “of God,” see 17:3) treasures, the variety that outlasts and is vastly superior to the most appealing temporal prizes.

Of course we should love God for selfless reasons; the rewards will come.  I recall a story about a woman who walked around carrying a torch and a bucket of water.  The torch, she said, was to burn up heaven and the water was to extinguish the flames of hell so that nobody would seek to follow God to enter heaven or to avoid hell.  Yet we humans seem to have mixed motivations much of the time, do we not?  Certain evangelists emphasize the possibility of damnation to frighten people into salvation.  Although I affirm the existence of both heaven and hell, I argue that terror is not a basis for a mature relationship with God, whom many Jews and Christians describe as loving and compassionate.

May we wait for Yahweh, who is our loving and compassionate help and shield, in whom our hearts rejoice.  May we wait for God in times of prosperity and of scarcity, of suffering and of ease, of pain and of pleasure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-14-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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