Archive for the ‘Isaiah 44’ Category

The Fourth Servant Song   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IX

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) lists the Fourth Servant Song as one of three options for the reading from the Old Testament on Good Friday.  Another option is Genesis 22:1-18.  My thoughts on Abraham nearly killing his son, Isaac, are on record at this weblog.  The other option is the Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, 12-24, in which the wicked reject justice.  That reading fits Good Friday perfectly, for, as the Gospel of Luke emphasizes, the crucifixion of Jesus was a perversion of justice.  One may recall that, in the Gospel of Luke, for example, the centurion at the foot of the cross declares Jesus innocent (23:47), not the Son of God (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39).  As I will demonstrate in this post, the applicability of the Fourth Servant Song to Good Friday works thematically, too, but interpretive issues that have nothing to do with Jesus also interest me.

In the original context, the servant in Isaiah 53:13-53:12 is the covenant people during the Babylonian Exile.  The dominant theology in Second Isaiah (chapters 34-35, 40-55) is that the Babylonian Exile was justified yet excessive (40:2; 47:6)–that people had earned that exile.  The theology of Second Isaiah also argues that this suffering was vicarious, on behalf of Gentile nations in the (known) world.  In other words:

Yet the Israelites are still the focus in that these verses offer them a revolutionary theology that explains the hardships of exile:  The people had to endure the exile and the suffering it engendered because that suffering was done in service to God so that God, through their atoning sacrifice, could redeem the nations.

–Susan Ackerman, in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), 1031

Much of the Hebrew Bible, in its final, postexilic form, holds that the Babylonian Exile was divine punishment for persistent, collective, and unrepentant disregard for the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  This attitude is ubiquitous in the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  I know, for I am working on a project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in historical order (with some exceptions), starting with the Book of Hosea.

Yet Isaiah 53:7-9 contradicts that interpretation.  It rejects even 40:1-3 and 47:6, from within Second Isaiah.  Isaiah 53:7-9, not about Jesus, argues that the Babylonian Exile and its accompanying suffering was unjust and the people were innocent.  The thematic link to the atoning suffering of sinless Jesus is plain to see.

Let us not neglect the theme of the vicarious suffering of the Hebrews in the Babylonian Exile, though.  I can read; the text says that, through the suffering of these exiles, Gentile nations would receive divine forgiveness and the Hebrews would receive a reward–renewal.  I try to wrap my mind around this theology, yet do not know what to make of it.  I wrestle with this theology.

Atonement via vicarious suffering is a topic about which I have written at this weblog.  Reading in the history of Christian theology tells me that three theories of the atonement exist in the writings of Church Fathers.  These theories are, in no particular order:

  1. Penal Substitutionary Atonement,
  2. The Incarnation, and
  3. The Conquest of Satan (the Classic Theory, or Christus Victor).

I come closest to accepting the Classic Theory.  It has the virtue of emphasizing that the resurrection completed the atonement.  In other words, dead Jesus cannot atone for anything; do not stop at Good Friday.  I like the Eastern Orthodox tradition of telling jokes on Easter because the resurrection of Jesus was the best joke God ever pulled on Satan.  The second option strikes me as being part of the atonement, and the first option is barbaric.  I stand with those Christian theologians who favor a generalized atonement.

Whether the question is about the atoning, vicarious suffering of Jewish exiles or about the atoning, vicarious suffering of Jesus, perhaps the best strategy is to accept it, thank God, and live faithfully.  The Eastern Orthodox are correct; we Western Christians frequently try to explain too much we cannot understand.  Atonement is a mystery; we may understand it partially, at best.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MYLES HORTON, “FATHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUMENIOUS AND PARTHENIOS OF KOUDOUMAS, MONKS AND FOUNDERS OF KOUDOMAS MONASTERY, CRETE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF DAMASCUS, SYRIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1860

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS SPIRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF RUED LANGGAARD, DANISH COMPOSER

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Divine Chastisement, with Redemption–For a Purpose   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART V

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Isaiah 42:18-44:28

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The exiles had been through much trauma.  They continued to experience trauma.  Many (not all, obviously) failed to understand the main cause of the Babylonian Exile–collective, persistent, and unrepentant refusal to walk in God’s ways, to build and maintain a just society.  Thus, the audience of Second Isaiah was, metaphorically, deaf and blind (42:18).

Yet divine judgment was not the last word.  No, redemption was the last word.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was about to fall.  The Babylonian Exile was about to end.  A new exodus was about to commence.  The redeemed people were to learn the lessons of the past and to amend their ways.  They were to serve God–God alone–and to forsake idolatry.  They were to find their identity in their Creator, YHWH, who chose them.

Note, O reader, that Second Isaiah addressed a population, not individuals.  He spoke of collective sin, guilt, judgment, and redemption.  The individual aspect was embedded in the collective aspect, the focus.  I come from an individualistic society, one which does not handle collective anything well.

One should also read 42:18-44:28 in the context of 42:1-9, with its mandate for the redeemed covenant people to function as a light to the nations and to create and maintain justice.  We read of this mandate again in 43:8-9, in particular.

We–collectively and individually–do not exist for ourselves.  We may life for ourselves.  If we do, we do so sinfully.  God has redeemed people so they can cooperate with Him to redeem others.  This is as high a spiritual calling as I can imagine.  How about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

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The Incomparable Sovereign God, with the First Servant Song   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 40:12-42:17

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YHWH, who ended the Babylonian Exile, was unconquered, incomparable, sovereign, and formidable.  YHWH, the Creator, was the God of the world, not a tribal or national deity.  YHWH was with the Jewish exiles, the Chosen People.  YHWH put the nations on trial, on behalf of justice.

The poor and the needy

Seek water, and there is none;

Their tongue is parched with thirst.

I the LORD will respond to them.

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

–Isaiah 41:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Idolatry in the presence of YHWH is futile (41:21-29).

I affirm all of the above while noticing that I have read all of it in various Hebrew prophetic books since I started this long-term project, with the Book of Hosea.  I also recall the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6), one of many tirades against idolatry in Hebrew literature.  Another such tirade awaits me in Isaiah 44:9-20.  These tirades, while mocking idolatry (as they should), frequently mischaracterize idols–the objects themselves–and what idolaters though the objects were.  These tirades after falsely accuse idolaters of believing these figures of wood or metal were gods.  Actually, idolaters believed that divine presences entered idols after complex rituals.

Isaiah 42:1-9 is the First Servant Song.  The servant, we read, will bring justice to the nations.  Who is–was–the servant?  Proposed identities include Jesus (of course), King Cyrus II of the Persian Empire, Second Isaiah, the faithful people within the Hebrew nation, and the Hebrew nation itself.  Isaiah 42:1-4, which borrows from Isaiah 11 and Jeremiah 31:31-36, anticipates an ideal future of justice and ecological harmony.  It also lends itself to identifying the servant as the covenant community (42:6)–Jews, in terms Second Isaiah knew.  I, as one who affirms God’s double covenant, add Christians to the ranks of covenant people.  The task of the covenant people (Jews and Christians) in 2021 is to bring justice to the nations, per Isaiah 42:1-4.  God equips and empowers us to do so.  How many of us accept the mission?

I the LORD, in My grace, have summoned you,

And I have grasped you by the hand.

I created you, and appointed you

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

–Isaiah 42:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Those words remain as applicable in 2021 as they were circa 540 B.C.E.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

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Introduction to Second Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map Showing the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART I

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Isaiah 34-35, 40-55

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The division of the Book of Isaiah into Chapters 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66 is neat and tidy yet inaccurate.  The Book of Isaiah, in its final form, is obviously the work of more than one person.  I suppose that even the most ardent fundamentalist must admit that Isaiah 36:1-39:8 is nearly verbatim from 2 Kings 18:13-20:19.  Or maybe I expect too much of some people.

The division of the Book of Isaiah into at least two Isaiahs is standard in Biblical scholarship.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), assume two Isaiahs.  The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), among other sources, assumes three Isaiahs, with the division falling neatly into 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66.  I, however, follow the division of the book found in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003).

“Second Isaiah” (whoever he was what his parents called him) prophesied circa 540 B.C.E., in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Ezekiel had retired from prophesying circa 571 B.C.E.  The Babylonian Exile had been in progress since 597 B.C.E., with the second wave commencing in 586 B.C.E.    But the Babylonian Exile was about to end; the Persians and the Medes were on the march.  They conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.

The oracles of Second Isaiah addressed issues that vexed the Jewish exilic communities.  Were they the Chosen People?  Was God sovereign?  Would the Babylonian Exile end?  The answers to those three questions was affirmative.  Second Isaiah also understood exile as punishment for collective, persistent sins (except in 52:13-53:12) and exile as vicarious suffering on behalf of the nations, to bring those nations to shalom with God.  This second point was revolutionary theology.  Universalism was not unique in Hebrew prophetic literature.  The idea that YHWH was the God of all the nations, not a tribal deity, was already in the proverbial blood stream of Hebrew thought.  Yet ideas have not needed to be unique and original to prove revolutionary, have they?

I propose, O reader that this idea remains revolutionary in certain minds and faith communities in 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE AND JAN HUS, REFORMERS OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH CONDER, ENGLISH JOURNALIST AND CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SON, EUSTACE CONDER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Indictment for Apostasy and Call to Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART III

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Jeremiah 2:1-4:4

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Has any nation changed its gods

Even though they are no-gods?

But My people has exchanged its glory

For what can do no good.

–Jeremiah 2:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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God had liberated the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.  Then the former slaves had quickly started grumbling.  No member of that generation had entered Canaan.  In Canaan, the Hebrews had practiced idolatry.  The practice of idolatry had continued through the time of Jeremiah.  The abandonment of the covenant, with the common good built into it, constituted infidelity to God.  The irony of self-serving religion was that it could “do no good,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) masterfully renders 2:11.

I like the translation of Jeremiah 2:11 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  The wordplay of “no-gods” and “no good” is wonderful.  “Do no good” is not a literal translation, though.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses “does not profit,” not “do no good.”  The germane Hebrew verb is ya’al, or “to confer or gain profit of benefit.”  Ya’al also occurs in Jeremiah 2:8:

The priests never asked themselves, “Where is the LORD?”

The guardians of the Teaching ignored Me,

And the prophets prophesied by Baal

And followed what can do no good.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Ya’al sounds like “Baal,” as in Baal Peor, the Canaanite fertility and storm god.  The connotation of ya’al (profit) is almost entirely negative in the Hebrew Bible, and frequently occurs in the context of idolatry.  This verb occurs 23 times:  1 Samuel 12:21; Job 15:3; Job 21:15; Job 30:13; Job 35:3; Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 11:4; Isaiah 30:5-6; Isaiah 44:9-10; Isaiah 47:12; Isaiah 48:17; Job 57:12; Jeremiah 2:8 and 11; Jeremiah 12:13; Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 23:32; and Habakkuk 2:18.

The metaphor of the covenant as a marriage should be familiar to anyone who has read the Book of Hosea attentively.  That metaphor plays our in this portion of Jeremiah, too.  Idolatry is, metaphorically, infidelity to God.  And this infidelity entails economic injustice, hence the reference to “the blood of the innocent poor” (Jeremiah 2:34).  The metaphor of irreversible divorce (Jeremiah 3:105) draws from Deuteronomy 24:1-4, in which the husband may not take back his wife after she has remarried.  Can the sinful population return to YHWH?  (The Book of Jeremiah, with its layers of composition and authorship, is inconsistent in the answer to this question.)  The people, not YHWH, have broken the relationship.  Yes, we read in this part and other segments of the Book of Jeremiah, the sinful population can return if it will repent, we read.  It can return if it will turn its back to its sins and return to God, we read.  The text mixes metaphors.  The adulterous wife becomes rebellious children.  Yet the call to repent remains.

We know that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah fell, however.  Knowing this adds melancholy to our understanding of these verses.  Nevertheless, we also know that the Babylonian Exile ended.  That detail should add some joy to the mix as we read Jeremiah 2:1-4:4.

To return to my opening theme, the irony of idolatry in the name of self-serving religion is that it is in vain.  The Law of Moses, with its ethical core, builds up the common good and teaches mutuality.  Whatever affects one person, affects others.  We are all responsible to and for each other as we stand together, completely dependent upon God.  Selfish gain, the sort that enriches some while impoverishing others, works against the common good and harms the one who benefits the one who benefits from that selfish gain.  This selfish gain turns into a liability in the long term.

God longs to heal our afflictions, even the ones we have inflicted on ourselves.  We must turn back toward God, however.  If we refuse to do so, we judge and condemn ourselves.  This truth applies on more than one level.  There is the individual level, of course.  Yet may we not forget that Jeremiah 2:1-4:4 addresses populations, not individuals or one person.  Sin is both collective and individual.  So are forgiveness and restoration.  We may feasibly apply this call to collective repentance to neighborhoods, families, congregations, denominations, societies, nation-states, et cetera.

God is the source of the best stuff, for lack of a better word.  Do we want the best stuff or inferior stuff?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Cyrus II Allows Exiles to Return   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART X

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2 Chronicles 36:22-23

1 Esdras 2:1-15 and 5:7-46

Ezra 1:1-11 and 2:1-70

Nehemiah 7:6-73a

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Sit silent, retire into darkness,

O Fair Chaldea;

Nevermore shall they call you

Mistress of Kingdoms.

–Isaiah 47:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C.E.  He, a tolerant ruler, reversed the Babylonian Exile and launched another Jewish exodus.  Cyrus earned his nickname, “the Great.”

Biblical authors were understandably sympathetic to Cyrus II.  Isaiah 44:24-45:25 went so far as to apply “Messiah” to him.  (Aside:  As scholarly books about Messiahship attest, that term has had a variety of meanings over time.)  Coverage and mentions of Cyrus the Great in 2 Chronicles 36, Ezra 1, Ezra 3-6, 1 Esdras 2, and 1 Esdras 4-7 was also positive.  Why not?

Walter Brueggemann, a great scholar of the Old Testament and a minister in the United Church of Christ, tells us that the main themes in the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in the readings for this post.  Related to those themes is the hand of God acting through people, including Gentiles, good or bad.  Cyrus II (who was a Zoroastrian, by the way) occupies space on the list of good Gentiles.  Related to that theme is another one:  anyone may function as a prophet of God, however briefly or not.  If God chooses to speak through someone, that person is a prophet for as long as he or she speaks for God.  All of these themes are consistent with a fifth one:  the sovereignty of God.

I, as a Christian (therefore, a Trinitarian), accept the the concept of the Holy Spirit speaking through people.  I have experienced it.  I have also experienced people functioning as agents of grace.  The identities of God’s agents have surprised me sometimes.  Often they have been people I have expected, however.

God speaks to us and acts in a variety of ways, including via human beings.  God may speak and act through you, O reader, and through me.  When we fail to recognize any agent or prophet of God, we miss something important.  We need to reorient our expectations.  I am chief among those who need to heed this advice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Wholeness in God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Zacchaeus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Nineteenth 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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O Almighty and most Merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us,

we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us;

that we, being ready, both in body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldst have done;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 220

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Isaiah 44:21-28

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 18:35-19:10

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The textual context of the reading from Luke is the verge of Holy Week.  Luke 19:28-38 recounts the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Jesus was approaching Jericho in 18:35-43 and in Jericho in 19:1-10.  Reading these two stories together makes sense both thematically and narratively.

These are stories of healing and wholeness.  The beggar was blind and desperate for healing.  Zacchaeus, aware of his spiritual failings, sought to see Jesus, if only from a distance.  Perhaps Zacchaeus, a literal tax thief and a Roman collaborator, needed the push that Jesus provided to take the next step.  Zacchaeus moved from remorse to repentance.  He made plans to pay restitution at the rate of 400%, higher than the 120% rate Leviticus 6:5 required.  Zacchaeus chose to pay the rate of restitution for a slaughtered or sold sheep (Exodus 22:1 and 2 Samuel 12:6).

One may assume safely that Zacchaeus kept his word.

Healing and wholeness may be individual (as in Luke 18:35-19:10) or collective (as in Isaiah 44:21-28 and Ephesians 4:17-32).  Forgiveness of sins may also be individual (as in Luke 19:1-10) or collective (as in Isaiah 44:21-28).  Either way, renewal in mind and spirit is essential; healing and wholeness are impossible without this renewal.

Another feature common to Luke 18:35-43 and 19:1-10 is the intervention of Jesus.  The blind beggar was crying out for Jesus, but members of the crowd scolded him and told him to be quiet.  Jesus responded to the blind beggar, though.  And Jesus noticed Zacchaeus, spoke to him, and visited his house.  Oh, the scandal!  These acts were typical of Jesus, of course.

Who are you most like in Luke 18:35-19:10, O reader?  Are you most like the people scolding and shushing the blind beggar?  Are you most like Zacchaeus, trying to see Jesus without attracting attention to yourself?  Are you most the people scandalized that Christ visited the home of a notorious sinner?  Or are you most like Jesus, going where needed and acted as an agent of grace, healing, and wholeness?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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God, the Genuine Article   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Interprets Dreams in Prison, by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow

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 40 or Isaiah 44:108

Psalm 21

1 Corinthians 9:1-16

Matthew 12:38-50

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The most succinct summary of the readings from the Hebrew Bible I can muster is that God is the genuine article.  God, who is reliable, mighty, and merciful, is worthy of all praise.  The context in Genesis 40 is the interpretation of dreams of the Pharaoh.  The setting in Isaiah 44 is the prediction of restoration after the Babylonian Exile.  In Psalm 21 a Jewish monarch praises God.

Matthew 12:38-50 has much occurring theologically in it.  The element that attracts my attention today is spiritually fictive kinship (verses 46-50).  This concept comforts many of my fellow Christians, those rejected their relatives.  Matthew 12:38-50 fits neatly with Matthew 10:34-39, among other passages.

It was a kinship in short supply in the Corinthian church and between that congregation and St. Paul the Apostle.  He apparently felt the need to defend himself and his traveling companions against allegations, some of which he might have anticipated.

Personalities and perceptions can be troublesome.  Perceptions can be false yet tenacious.  One might be deeply entrenched in a false religion or mindset that objective reality contradicts.  To quote John Adams,

Facts are stubborn things.

Yet objectively false conclusions are frequently more stubborn.  This is why fact-based arguments fail much of the time.  It would be different if one were debating the great English linguist and moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), but how many of us are in his league?

Then there is truth we cannot prove via Enlightenment Modernism.  This is a major problem with much of Christian apologetics, for work in that field has a flawed methodology.  And, as the great Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) taught, Jesus of Nazareth is the sole basis of the truth of the Gospel, and to appeal to any outside standard to prove the truth of the Gospel is to make that outside standard more important than the Gospel.

No, God, is the genuine article.  Some truth one must accept on faith, or not at all.  Enlightenment Modernism and the scientific method are valid in many projects; we should embrace them as far as they can take us.  Yet when they run out, there is God, the genuine article.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/devotion-for-proper-18-year-a-humes/

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God’s Social Contract   1 comment

090806-N-6220J-004 SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy's Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

090806-N-6220J-004
SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy’s Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

Above:  United States Navy Personnel Serving Breakfast in a Soup Kitchen, Salinas, California, 2009

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, United States Navy

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 32:11-17 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:1-4 (Friday)

Psalm 104:23-34, 35b (Both Days)

Galatians 5:16-26 (Thursday)

Galatians 6:7-10 (Friday)

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The portion of Psalm 104 speaks of divine generosity, as do the lections from Isaiah.  In Isaiah 32 and 44 God’s generosity follows the Judeans reaping what they have sown (to borrow a phrase from Galatians 6:7).  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

The social contract in the Law of Moses precludes exploitation and insensitivity to needs as it proclaims human interdependence as well as complete dependence upon God.  Yet the monarchies of Israel and Judah, scripture tells us, did not live up to that standard, among others in the Law of Moses.  I focus on the social contract because it segues nicely into the readings from Galatians, where we read to seek the common good (thus, for example, awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, which many people expected to be in the near future, did not constitute a valid excuse for laziness), not our selfish desires.  We are responsible for each other and to each other.  We are also responsible to God.  If we can avoid becoming a burden, we should do so, but we remain dependent upon God and our fellow human beings.  Likewise, one should not use the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude to justify the unjustifiable inaction of not providing appropriate help one can provide.  Attempting to identify the allegedly unworthy poor is inconsistent with Judeo-Christian ethics.

Even the hardest working person who plans well depends upon the labor of others and upon the grace of God.  Do we recognize this about ourselves as well as those near to us and far away from us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-pentecost-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Sufficiency in God   1 comment

Zerubbabel

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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:

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Monday)

Isaiah 44:1-8 (Tuesday)

Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 3:4-11 (Monday)

Acts 2:14-24 (Tuesday)

John 12:34-50 (Wednesday)

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How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you

let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart;

that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:9-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, did not condemn Torah piety.  No, he had harsh words for legalism and its proponents.  Religious authorities, our Lord and Savior said, were teaching the Law of Moses wrongly; he was teaching it correctly.  Thus, when I read the translated words of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, I wondered to which Law he objected and why.  Commentaries told me more about the biases of their authors than those of St. Paul, who, according to scholars of the New Testament, did not use that term consistently in his writings.  That fact does not surprise me, for I know from other sources that the Apostle was uncertain in his Trinitarian theology (aren’t most of us?), for he used the Son and the Holy Spirit interchangeably sometimes.  If one seeks consistency where it is does not exist, one sets oneself up for disappointment.

N. T. Wright wrote in Paul in Fresh Perspective (2005) that the contrast was actually between those who heard the Law of Moses and those who trusted in Jesus.  Thus, Wright continued, in Pauline theology, divine holiness was fatal to people with darkened minds and hardened hearts.  Yet those who have the Holy Spirit do not find divine holiness fatal, Wright wrote on page 123.  One might question that perspective or parts thereof, for the Apostle did write negatively of the Law of Moses or at least of a version of it in his head in epistles.

Anyhow, St. Paul was correct in his point that our power/competence/adequacy/sufficiency (all words I found while comparing translations) comes from God alone.  And, if we accept Bishop Wright’s reading of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, we find a match with John 12:34-50, in which many people who witnesses Jesus performing signs still rejected him.  They had hardened hearts and darkened minds.

You are my witnesses,

Yahweh said in Isaiah 43 and 44 to exiles about to return to their ancestral home.  We are God’s witnesses.  Are we paying attention?  And are we plugging into the divine source of power to glorify and enjoy God forever?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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