Archive for the ‘Isaiah 53’ Category

The Commissioning of Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART III

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zechariah 1:1-6

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Jerusalem, October (prior to October 17), 520 B.C.E.

Zechariah ben Berechiah reported that God had been angry with the previous generation of Judean Jews, and that God urged the current generation to repent.  Zechariah stood in line with the great majority of the Hebrew prophetic tradition to that point, starting with Hosea and Amos–some portion (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) of Second Isaiah excepted.  First Zechariah also stood in line with Ezekiel regarding individual responsibility before God (Ezekiel 3:18-21; 14:12-23; 18:1-32; 33:1-20), contrary to Exodus 20:5b-6 and Deuteronomy 5:9b-10.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Turn back to me–says the LORD of Hosts–and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.  Do not be like your fathers.

–Zechariah 1:3b-4a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The personal pronouns are plural, of course.  The message still applies to populations in 2021.  That message also applies to individuals.  I have to turn back to God daily–more than once, daily, in fact.  Perhaps you, O reader, resemble that remark.  If so, I do not judge you.  On what grounds would I judge you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Conclusion of Second Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART X

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 54:1-55:13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The theme of the Babylonian Exile as deserved punishment is dominant in Second Isaiah.  The Fourth Servant Song (52:13-52:12) contradicts that theme, which returns in chapters 54 and 55.  So do the motif of God taking the covenant people back, renewing the covenantal relationship, ending the exile, and renewing Jerusalem (personified as a woman).  The soaring poetry of Isaiah 55 contains certain familiar verses, such as:

But as the heavens are high above the earth,

So are My ways high above your ways

And My plans above your plans.

–Isaiah 55, 9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Notwithstanding the theological whiplash of reading the Fourth Servant Song within the context of Second Isaiah, Second Isaiah concludes on a note of grace and mercy.  One cannot earn grace; is free.  But it is not cheap.  Faithful response to God is proper.  Isaiah 55:6-7 indicates that not everyone will repent of wickedness, and therefore, receive divine pardon.  Despite human faithlessness, though, divine faithfulness holds.  And we mere mortals still reap what we sow.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Second Isaiah.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Obadiah, just one chapter long.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Fourth Servant Song   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IX

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introduction to Second Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map Showing the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART I

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 34-35, 40-55

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judah’s History of Sin: The Not-Safe-For-Work Version   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART IX

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 16:1-63

Ezekiel 20:1-44

Ezekiel 23:1-49

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This project of reading the Book of Ezekiel is part of a larger project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order.  I know already, based on this larger project alone, that the Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  For example, idolatry is, metaphorically, sexual–prostitution and/or adultery.  This metaphorical prostitution is, functionally, pagan temple prostitution, common in the ancient Near East into New Testament times (from Genesis 38:15 to 1 Corinthians 6:15f).  Also, much of the language of this sexual metaphor is Not Safe for Work (NSFW) and replete with shaming.

The Bible is not G-rated.

Ezekiel 16 is not G-rated.  It uses the marital metaphor, also present in Isaiah 8:5-8; Isaiah 49-54; Isaiah 66:7-14; Jeremiah 2-3; Hosea 1-3; Zephaniah 3:14-20.

Robert Alter provides perhaps the most memorable synopsis of Ezekiel 16:

Among the themes of Ezekiel’s prophecies, the most striking expression of neurosis is his troubled relation to the female body.  Real and symbolic bodies become entangled with each other.  In biblical poetry, a nation, and Israel in particular, is quite often represented as a woman.  God’s covenant with Israel–see Jeremiah 1–is imagined as a marriage, and so the bride Israel’s dalliance with pagan gods is figured as adultery or whoring.  This is a common trope in biblical literature, but the way Ezekiel articulates it is both startling and unsettling.

The most vivid instance of this psychological twist in Ezekiel is the extended allegory of whoring Israel in chapter 16.  The allegory here follows the birth of the nation in Canaan–represented with stark physicality in the image of the infant girl naked and wallowing in the blood of afterbirth, then looked after by a solicitous God–to her sexual maturity and her betrayal of God through idolatry.  The focus throughout is on Israel as a female sexual body.  Thus, the prophet notes (as does no other biblical writer) the ripening of the breasts and the sprouting of pubic hair.  The mature personification of the nation is a beautiful woman, her beauty enhanced by the splendid attire God gives her (this is probably a reference to national grandeur and to the Temple).  Yet, insatiably lascivious, she uses her charms to entice strangers to her bed:  “you spilled out your whoring” (given the verb used and the unusual form of the noun, this could be a reference to vaginal secretions) “upon every passerby.”  Israel as a woman is even accused of harboring a special fondness for large phalluses:  “you played the whore with the Egyptians, your big-membered neighbors.”  She is, the prophet says, a whore who asks for no payment for her services.  “You befouled your beauty,” he inveighs, “and spread your legs for every passerby.”  All this concern with female promiscuity is correlative with Ezekiel’s general preoccupation with purity and impurity.

It is of course possible to link each of these sexual details with the allegory of an idolatrous nation betraying its faith.  But such explicitness and such vehemence about sex are unique in the Bible.  The compelling inference is that this was a prophet morbidly fixated on the female body and seething with fervid misogyny.  What happens in the prophecy in chapter 16 is that the metaphor of the lubricious woman takes over the foreground, virtually displacing the allegorical referent.  Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.

The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1051

Corinne L. Carvalho comments:

In Israel, spouses were not equal partners; women were legally and socially subservient to their husbands.  Betrothal and marriage were contractual arrangements by which a woman became the exclusive “property” of her husband, even before the actual marriage.  In practical terms, this meant that her husband was her sole sexual partner from the moment of betrothal.  Since men could have more than one wife, adultery occurred only when it involved a married woman; it was a crime, punishable by death, against the sole property rights of a wronged husband (Lev 18:20; 20:10; Deut 22:22).

Ezekiel 16 plays on these elements of marriage.  God is the one who owns Jerusalem, and Jerusalem owes him her exclusive allegiance and fidelity.  Anything less gives him the legal right to punish her.  Ezekiel 16 uses hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric to achieve a shocking literary effect.  Here, the author utilizes a common metaphor, the city as God’s wife, in ways that border on pornography.  (Modern translations tone down the sexually explicit language of the Hebrew texts.)  It is an image to provoke a response.

–in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1431

Ezekiel 16 concludes on a sexually graphic metaphor of future restoration (verses 59-63).  After all, to “know” is frequently a euphemism for sexual intimacy.

And I Myself will establish the covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD.

–Ezekiel 16:62, Robert Alter, 2019

Consider the following verse, O reader:

Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you, for all that you did–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 16:63, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I feel too abashed after reading Ezekiel 16.

My library contains a variety of editions and versions of the Bible.  The Children’s Living Bible (1972) is one of these.  The artwork depicts a smiling Jesus holding lost-and-found sheep, smiling at children wearing attire from 1972, and generally smiling.  The volume also includes Ezekiel 16.  I imagine a child reading Ezekiel 16 and asking a horrified parent about the contents of that chapter.  I also imagine that parent’s horror that the tyke was reading a volume that included the term, “son of a bitch” (1 Samuel 20:30).  Just wait for Ezekiel 23!

Ezekiel 20 continues the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  The text dwells on the sabbath.  This suggests that the sabbath had become important, as a substitute for the Temple, during the Babylonian Exile.  The sabbath is foundational in the covenant.  The sabbath is also a sign of a free person in the context of liberation from slavery in Egypt.  And to keep the sabbath is to emulate God, the creator and original keeper of the sabbath.

God, as depicted in Ezekiel 20, is not worthy of emulation, respect, love, and awe:

  1. God, according to 20:9, 14, 22, and 44, acts selfishly, to preserve the divine reputation.
  2. God gave the people “laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live (20:25) then promised to destroy the people as punishment for obeying the bad laws and disobeying the impossible rules (20:26).

Chapter 20 exists in the shadow of Ezekiel 18–about individual moral accountability to God.  The verdict on the people of Judah, in the yet-future context of the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) is damning.

Ezekiel 20 concludes on a note of future restoration, but not for the sake of the covenant people:

Then, O House of Israel, you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for My name’s sake–not in accordance with your evil ways and corrupt acts–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 20:44, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I wonder how many agnostics and atheists grew up devout, with this understanding of God, or one close to it.  That theology may explain their current spiritual status as they properly reject that understanding of God yet go too far and remain out of balance.

Ezekiel 23 returns to the imagery of idolatry as harlotry.  It also returns to the category of Not Safe for Work.  (What was it with Ezekiel and sex?)  Break out the plain brown wrappers again, O reader!  The text speaks of the Babylonian Exile as punishment for persistent, collective, and unrepentant idolatry.

Some G-rated details (There are some.) require explanation:

  1. Samaria, the capital of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, is, metaphorically, Oholeh, “her tent.”  One may recall that, in the theology of the Hebrew Bible, the Presence of God dwelt in a text then in the Temple.  We read of the fall of the Kingdom of Israel and of the causes of that collapse.
  2. Jerusalem, the capital of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, is, metaphorically, Oholibah, “my tent is in her.”
  3. Ezekiel 23 condemns the kingdoms’ foreign alliances.  This is an old Hebrew prophetic theme, albeit one other prophets presented in less graphic terms.

I try to maintain a spiritual and theological equilibrium.  The God of Ezekiel 16, 20, and 23 is a self-absorbed, abusive, and misogynistic monster.  This is not my God-concept.  Neither is the God of my faith anything like a cosmic teddy bear or a warm fuzzy.  No, the God of my faith holds judgment and mercy in balance.  I do not pretend to know where that balance is or where it should be.  The God of my faith also loves all people and models selflessness.  Neither is the God of my faith a misogynist or any kind of -phobe or bad -ist.  The model for the God of my faith is Jesus of Nazareth, God Incarnate.  I read stories of Jesus having harsh words for those who deserved them and compassion for the desperate.  I understand Jesus as being stable, unlike Ezekiel, apparently.

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.

–Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019), 1051

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARIALDUS OF MILAN, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR, 1066

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Solemn Day   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Good Friday, Year 1

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family,

for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed,

and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross;

who now liveth and reigneth wtih thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 161-162

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 22:1, 4-19

Hebrews 10:19-22 or Revelation 5:6-10

Luke 23:33-46

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I am capable of writing accurate, scholarly, and germane comments about all of the assigned readings.  This time, O reader, I choose not to do so.  No, I encourage you to read the lections aloud, the way most people who have encountered the Bible have done.  I ask you to listen and to let the words sink into your being.  After that, may you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit regarding what to do next.

Shalom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, “THE APOSTLE OF THE WILDERNESS”

THE FEAST OF CARLO CARRETTO, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1582 AND 1577

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BERNARDIN, CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS, SAINT EUSTACE OF LYON, AND HIS DESCENDANTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Suffering, Part IV: Redemptive Suffering   1 comment

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the First Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O Lord Jesus, who prayed for thy disciples that they might be one even as thou art one with the Father:

draw us to thyself that, in common love and obedience to thee,

we may be united to one another in the fellowship of the one Spirit,

that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

or

Eternal God, who hast called us to be members of one body:

bind us to those who in all times and places have called upon thy name,

that, with one mind and heart, we may display the unity of thy church

and bring glory to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 53:1-11

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

Mark 14:17-25

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is a devotion for World Communion Sunday, hence the Eucharistic language in Mark and 1 Corinthians, texts that speak for themselves.  I, as an Episcopalian, do not think much about World Communion Sunday, for the Holy Eucharist is our default service.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines the Holy Eucharist as

the central act of Christian worship.

Why should there be just one Sunday on which as many churches as possible celebrate Communion?

I choose to focus on Isaiah 53:1-11.  The identity of the suffering servant is a topic of long-standing disagreement that reaches back into antiquity, before the birth of Christ.  My question at the moment is, who was the suffering servant at the time of the Babylonian Exile and Second Isaiah?  The most likely answer is the nation of Israel, a seemingly insignificant people who played a prominent role in divine plans and whose suffering was redemptive and salvific for Gentiles.  According to this interpretation, resurrection is a metaphor for national renewal after the exile.  Besides, a well-informed student of the development of Jewish theology knows that the resurrection of the dead was not yet part of Jewish theology.

In many ways, Jesus is a better fit for the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 because collective sin brought on the Babylonian Exile.  Nevertheless, I remind you, O reader, pious Jews studying this passage in the 500s B.C.E. were not talking about Jesus, for obvious, temporal reasons, five centuries prior to the Incarnation.

I do not know how to process the thought that the suffering of Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Exile was redemptive for Gentiles.  I suppose that one could argue that suffering brought them back to faith, thereby transforming them into a light to the nations.  One could make that case, one which the author of the Book of Jonah probably would have favored.  But what about the inward-looking, post-Exilic reaction that led to shunning Gentiles?

Anyway, suffering can lead to positive results for others, regardless of the cause of the suffering.  If one grows spiritually, that growth will influence other people, who will influence other people, et cetera.  Suffering is bad and unpleasant, but grace can bring about a high yield of benefit from it.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Love and Active Goodness   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 22

Hebrews 10:16-25

John 18:1-19:42

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Who is the servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12?  That has been a debated issue.  If one assumes that, as in earlier Servant Songs, the servant is the personification of the exiled nation of Israel (broadly speaking), the former Kingdom of Judah or at least the faithful remnant thereof, one must accept that the redemptive suffering during the Babylonian Exile was supposed to benefit Gentiles also.  The text certainly applies well to Jesus, who quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 from the cross.  That text, the prayer of one afflicted with a mortal illness, ends on a note of trust in God–certainly on a happy note, unlike Good Friday and the events thereof.

Focusing on the crucifixion of Jesus is proper on Good Friday.  As we do so may we ponder Hebrews 10:24, part of one of the pericopes:

We ought to see how each of us may arouse others to love and active goodness.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a Christlike ethic!  “Love and active goodness” summarize Christ well.  “Love and active goodness” describe his self-sacrifice succinctly.  “Love and active goodness” summarize a faithful response to such selflessness and redemptive suffering.

Yet we frequently arouse each other to anger, usually for selfish purposes.  Anger is not necessarily bad, for we should be angry sometimes, as evidence of well-developed consciences.  Nevertheless, anger and expressions thereof are frequently destructive, not constructive.  This is certainly evident in media, social media, politics, and the comments sections of many websites.

Jesus has shown us a better way.  The long-dead author of the Letter to the Hebrews understood that better way well.

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/devotion-for-good-friday-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Delusions of Righteousness   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

FOR GOOD FRIDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, we ask you to behold this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content

to be betrayed and given into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 102

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 6

Hebrews 10:4-7, 10-23

Luke 23:33-38, 44-46

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The reading from Hebrews 10 ends too soon.  It should continue:

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

–Verses 24 and 25, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This brings me to two points:

  1. We ought to provoke one another to goodness and love, not to wrath and resentment, as we do so often; and
  2. We live in community (to which we are responsible), whether or not we like that reality.

Think about those who were complicit, O reader:  Did they not, in their own minds, operate out of righteousness?  For some the rationale was national security, thus Jesus became a scapegoat.  For others the justification was divine law, mainly death and the penalty for blasphemy in the Law of Moses.  Yet Jesus of Nazareth was no blasphemer.  Neither did he threaten to lead an insurrection against Roman occupation.  Many people misunderstood Jesus.

We would do well to examine our motives and actions that flow from them, especially when we ascribe the quality of righteousness to them.  We might be correct on both counts (or just one), or we might be terribly mistaken and deluded.  As Christ prayed, may God have mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Suffering and Grace   1 comment

Ecce Homo

Above:  Ecce Homo, by Elias Garcia Martinez

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son

you offer your infinite life to the world.

Gather us around the cross and Christ,

and preserve us until the resurrection,

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 29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 54:9-10 (Friday)

Psalm 31:9-16 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 2:10-18 (Friday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Take pity on me, Yahweh,

I am in trouble now.

Grief wastes away my eye,

my throat, my inmost parts.

For my life is worn out with sorrow,

my years with sighs;

my strength yields under misery,

my bones are wasting away.

To every one of my oppressors

I am contemptible,

loathsome to my neighbors,

to my friends a thing of fear.

Those who see me in the street

hurry past me;

I am forgotten, as good as dead in their hearts,

something discarded.

I hear their endless slanders,

threats from every quarter,

as they combine against me,

plotting to take my life.

But I put my trust in you, Yahweh,

I say, “You are my God.”

My days are in your hand, rescue me

from the hands of my enemies and persecutors;

let your face smile on your servant,

save me in your love.

–Psalm 31:9-16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is a song of the suffering servant.  The text is familiar to me, a person steeped in the scriptures from an early age.  In some ways my early learning constitutes a problem, for it has bequeathed me a set of assumptions through which I need to bore a hole so I can read the full meaning of such a familiar text.  The Christological identification of the suffering servant with Jesus does not fit the immediate context of Deutero-Isaiah, where the suffering servant is most likely the Jewish nation or a pious minority thereof.  God vindicates the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:10-12.  Next in the book God comforts returned exiles:

For this to Me is like the waters of Noah:

As I swore that the waters of Noah

Nevermore would flood the earth,

So I swear that I will not

Be angry with you or rebuke you.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:9-10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Likewise, God comes to the aid of the afflicted author of Psalm 31, albeit after verse 16.

The Letter to the Hebrews, addressed to persecuted Jewish Christians, encourages the faithful to remain so.  Jesus, who has suffered greatly and endured temptations, can identify with human problems, the text says.  That message is timeless.  A recurring theme in human suffering is the illusion that nobody else can understand one’s pain and distress.  In reality, though, many other people have suffered in similar ways, and Jesus has suffered more than most of us ever will.  Comfort is available, if only one will accept it.

I have learned much via suffering.  I have learned how plentiful grace is and who my true friends are.  I have learned the full extent to which I depend on God and my fellow human beings.  And I have learned that I have gained more potential to help others in their time of great need, pain, and suffering.  I lack any desire to repeat the experience of that suffering, but I thank God for the grace which has flowed from it and continues to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERARD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-palm-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++