Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 4’ Category

The Eighth Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah’s Vision of the Four Chariots

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XII

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Zechariah 6:1-8

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

The eighth vision (Zechariah 6:1-8) is of four chariots, symbolizing the four winds of heaven patrolling the earth.  (See Isaiah 66:15 and Jeremiah 4:13 for the association of chariots with the winds of heaven.)  The chariots emerge from two mountains, in Babylonian mythology, the place of sunrise.  The four winds symbolize the sovereignty of God.

Oddly, Zechariah 6:8 reads, in part:

Take good note!  Those that went out to the region of the north have done my pleasure in the region of the north.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Given that “the north” was Babylonia (Jeremiah 6:22; 10-22), what does that mean?  One may recall some of the earlier visions of First Zechariah.  One may remember Zechariah 2:6/2:10 (depending on versification), in which Jews still living in Babylonia were supposed to flee the land of the north (Babylonia).  One may recall that wickedness moved to Babylonia in Zechariah 5:9-10.  Yet in Zechariah 6:8, God’s spirit dwells in Babylonia, too.  God is in charge of the Persian Empire, we read.

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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The Desolation of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART II

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Lamentations 1:1-22

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The book of Lamentations was written, not simply to memorialize the tragic destruction of Jerusalem, but to interpret the meaning of God’s rigorous treatment of his people to the end that they would learn the lessons of the past and retain their faith in him in the face of overwhelming disaster.

–Theophile J. Meek, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 6 (1956), 5-6

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The two poetic voices in Lamentations 1 are the Poet (verses 1=10, 17) and Fair Zion (verses 11-16, 18-22).

I unpack the Poet’s section first:

  1. Widows were vulnerable, dependent upon male relatives.  Jerusalem, once like a princess, has become like a widow in verse 1.
  2. The reference to weeping bitterly (or incessantly, depending on translation) in verse 2 indicates intense weeping.
  3. The friends (or lovers, depending on translation) in verse 2 were political allies of Judah who did not come to that kingdom’s aid.  The Hebrew word, literally, “lovers,” indicates idolatry.
  4. Verse 3 compares the Babylonian Exile to slavery in Egypt.  See Genesis 15:13; Exodus 1:11; Deuteronomy 26:6.
  5. Verse 4 overstates the matter; many people remained in Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.
  6. Verse 5 accepts the Deuteronomic theology of divine retribution for sins.
  7. “Fair Zion” verse 6 conveys the sense of “dear little Zion.”  It is “Daughter of Zion,” literally.
  8. The personification of Jerusalem occurs frequently in Hebrew prophetic literature.  Examples include Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 52:2; Jeremiah 4:31; and Micah 4:8.
  9. Verse 8 reads, in part, “seen her disgraced.”  This is literally, “seen her nakedness,” connoting shame.
  10. Verse 9 uses ritual impurity (regarding menstruation) as a metaphor for moral impurity–idolatry, metaphorically, sexual immorality.
  11. Verse 10 likens the looting of the Temple to rape.

Then Fair Zion speaks:

  1. Verse 12 likens the Fall of Jerusalem to the apocalyptic Day of the LORD.  Other references to the Day of the LORD include Isaiah 13:13; Joel 2:1; Amos 5:8; Obadiah 15.
  2. Jerusalem has nobody to comfort her.  Therefore, she cannot finish mourning.
  3. A line in verse 20 can mean either “I know how wrong I was to disobey” or “How very bitter I am.”
  4. Verse 20 refers to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian army being outside the walls of Jerusalem and plague being inside the city.  (See Ezekiel 7:15.)
  5. Chapter 1 concludes with a prayer for divine retribution against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Maybe Fair Zion will receive some comfort from this divine judgment.  Yet God is silent.

The Book of Lamentations deals with trauma by telling the truth.  This contrasts with the dominant cultural pattern in my homeland, the United States of America–the “United States of Amnesia,” as the late, great Gore Vidal called it.  Certain Right-Wing politicians and private citizens outlaw or try to outlaw the telling of the truth in public schools, sometimes even in public colleges and universities.  Not telling the difficult truth stands in the way of resolving the germane problems and moving forward together into a better future, one that is more just.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL BARNETT, ANGLICAN CANON OF WESTMINSTER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER; AND HIS WIFE, HENRIETTA BARNETT, SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SAINT SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Weeping, Mourning, and Lamentation   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah and Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART VI

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Jeremiah 8:4-10:25

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Jeremiah 8:4-10:25, in its final form, consists of disparate material.  10:23-25 indicates that Jerusalem has fallen to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  This material is later than much of the other content of this section of the Book of Jeremiah; it is temporally contemporary with Chapters 33, 39-44, and perhaps 45.  Jeremiah speaks to God in some of the passages in Jeremiah 8:4-10:25; God speaks in other passages.

Given that I am reading Hebrew prophetic books systematically, almost all of the themes in Jeremiah 8:4-10:25 are familiar to me from recent reading and blogging.  I choose not to repeat myself concerning them in this post.  If I were dropping into the Book of Jeremiah, as in the case of a lectionary, I would offer more comments, though.

The Book of Jeremiah is the only Hebrew prophetic book to mention circumcision.  Jeremiah refers to the circumcision of the heart in 4:4; 6:10; and 9:25/9:26 (depending on versification).  This fits neatly with Chapter 7, which argues against assuming that ritual propriety shields against the consequences of persistent immorality.  This theme of the circumcision of the heart recurs in Romans 2:28-29.

Other than the circumcision of the heart, I focus on God lamenting people’s sins and the consequences of those sins.  Hellfire-and-damnation Christians seem to overlook this.  God, as presented in Jeremiah 8;4-10:25, wishes that circumstances were different.

Assuredly, thus said the LORD of Hosts:

Lo, I shall smelt and assay them–

For what else can I do because of My poor people?

Their tongue is a sharpened arrow,

They use their mouths to deceive.

One speaks to his fellow in friendship,

But lays an ambush for him in his heart.

Shall I not punish them for such deeds?

–says the LORD–

Shall I not bring retribution

On such a nation as this?

–Jeremiah 9:6-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we–collectively and individually–refrain from grieving God.

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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Judgment and the Refusal to Repent   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART IV

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Jeremiah 4:5-6:30

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Who were the invaders from the north in Jeremiah 4?  Given the layers of composition in the final draft of the Book of Jeremiah, answering his question is no simple task.  Answers include the Scythians, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and an assortment of enemies.  Jeremiah 25:26 refers to

all the kings of the north, whether far from or close to each other.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The identity of the northern invader threatening the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (or just Judah, if Israel had already fallen to the Assyrian Empire) may not matter.  This invader may also have threatened Egypt, Babylonia, and Philistia (Jeremiah 46:6, 10, 24; 47:2; 50:3, 9, 41).  The text of Jeremiah 4 tells us that this invading force was an instrument of God, punishing peoples for their persistent sins, their complacency, their false sense of security, and their refusal to repent.  We read, in particular, condemnations of Hebrews:

For My people are stupid,

They give Me no heed;

They are foolish children,

They are not intelligent.

They are clever at doing wrong,

But unable to do right.

–Jeremiah 4:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The calls to repent (as in Jeremiah 4) have gone unheeded.  Therefore, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah will fall, we read.  The people have condemned themselves, we read.

God assumes responsibility for sending foreign invaders into Israel and Judah.  For example:

Hear, O earth!

I am going to bring disaster upon this people,

The outcome of their own schemes;

For they would not hearken to My words,

And they rejected My instruction.

–Jeremiah 6:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah 6 concludes with an announcement of divine rejection of Israel and Judah.  This divine rejection is the consequence of the people rejecting God.  Yet a remnant will remain:

But even in those days–declare the LORD–I will not make an end of you.

–Jeremiah 5:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

I, as a student of history, know that layers of composition reside in Jeremiah 4-6.  The final editorial layer dates to after the Babylonian Exile.  I am not certain, therefore, how much is from Jeremiah and how much is subsequent material.  Yet we have the final draft we have, and we can attempt to interpret it as best we can.

The God of Jeremiah may frighten many people.  This deity is the sovereign, unitary God of the universe.  This is God, who has repeatedly provided instructions and refresher courses in them.  This is God, who has been patient.  This is God, who continues to invite peoples to repent while announcing judgment against them.  This is God, who ultimately permits proverbial chickens to roost.  This is God, who, even then, preserves a remnant of the disobedient covenant people.  This is God, still playing a long game on a schedule we mere mortals can never fully grasp.

I conclude this post with one element of these three chapters:  do not fall into the trap of complacency.  Spiritual complacency is an individual and a collective peril.  No person or population is exempt from this warning.  We who are devout can fall into complacency easily.  So can those who are not devout and make no pretense of being pious.  We all stand before God, in whom judgment and mercy exist in a balance not one of us can understand fully.

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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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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Who Do You Think You Are?   1 comment

Above:  Gideon

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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Judges 7:1-8, 16-22 or Jeremiah 3:21-4:4

Psalm 89:46-52

Romans 2:1-12

Luke 9:37-50

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To the extent that any person or group is estranged from God, the fault is entirely human.  Sin creates estrangement from God.  Many people blame God for that which God did not do and for which they have no business blaming God.  Many people blame God when they should blame other people and/or themselves.  Many people scapegoat God.  Many people operate from an erroneous God concept, as one reads in J. B. Phillips‘s classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961).

Perhaps the core of the readings for this Sunday is,

Who do you think you are?

Do we–individually and collectively–think more highly of ourselves than we should?

For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

–Luke 9:48c, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Do we think we are less sinful than others?  Do we think we are more worthy of glory than God?  Do we imagine that we do not depend on each other and entirely on God?  If we do, we err.

Ego can be difficult to tame.  Bringing it into line requires divine assistance.  I do not pretend to have mastered humility.  However, I know that, by grace, ego is less of a problem than it used to be.  I, as a mere mortal, am vulnerable to human frailties.  I am also responsible for my sins.  Ego, in balance, has its place.  Ego, in balance, is positive.  Ego, unbalanced, destroys and damages others and self, and constitutes a form of idolatry.  In Augustinian terms, I write of disordered love.

The ethics and morals Jesus taught are not topsy-turvy; social mores that contradict them are.  The ethics and morals Jesus taught are not topsy-turvy; human psychology frequently is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

TUESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOPS FOR COLORED WORK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTHONY, JOHN, AND EUSTATHIUS OF VILNIUS, MARTYRS IN LITHUANIA, 1347

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENAIDA OF TARSUS AND HER SISTER, SAINT PHILONELLA OF TARSUS; AND SAINT HERMIONE OF EPHESUS; UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/devotion-for-proper-10-year-c-humes/

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Prelude to the Passion, Part III   1 comment

Moses

Above:  Moses

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:1-30 or Isaiah 45:14-25 or Jeremiah 4:19-31 or Zechariah 8:1-23

Psalm 68:11-31 (32-35) or Psalm 120 or Psalm 82

John 10:19-21 (22-30) 31-42

1 Corinthians 14:1-40

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The assigned readings, taken together, present a balanced picture of divine judgment and mercy.  Sometimes God’s judgment on one group is in the service of mercy on another group.  And, as much as God is angry with the Israelites in Numbers 11, He still provides manna to them and advises Moses to share his burden with 70 elders.  Judgment is dominant in Jeremiah 4, but mercy rules in Zechariah 8.

1 Corinthians 14, sexism aside, offers the timeless principle that all people do in the context of worship should build up the faith community.

As for the “Prelude to the Passion” part of this post, we turn to John 10.  Jesus survives an attempt to arrest (then execute) him for committing blasphemy, per Leviticus 24:10-16.  He was innocent of the charge, of course.  The story, however, does establish that Jesus kept avoiding death traps prior to Holy Week.

A point worth pondering is that the accusers of Jesus in John 10 were most likely sincere.  This should prompt us who read the account today to ask ourselves how often we are sincerely wrong while attempting to follow the laws of God.  Those who oppose God and agents thereof are not always consciously so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND 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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/devotion-for-proper-17-year-d/

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Go and Learn It   1 comment

Scroll

Above:   Scroll

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 23:1-9

Psalm 113

Romans 3:1-8

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one reads of the importance of obeying divine law faithfully.  God commands obedience to the law and warns of the dire consequences of disobedience.  Two kingdoms fall and, after the fact, the Jewish tradition repeats the theme of the importance of obedience to the law.  I wonder, then, how to read St. Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Romans.  Perhaps his target was the legalistic interpretation and keeping of the Law of Moses.  In Romans 2, for example, we read of the necessity of the circumcision of the heart.  As a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011) informs me, that is consistent with Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26, and 38:33; and Ezekiel 44:7.

As for the portion of the Law of Moses we find in Exodus 23:1-9, it is timeless, with some culturally specific examples of principles.

  1. One must not bear false witness, commit perjury, or spread false rumors.
  2. One must speak the truth and act impartially, showing deference to nobody because of wealth or the lack thereof.
  3. One must return wandering livestock belonging to an enemy.  (This commandment’s principle extends beyond livestock.)
  4. One must help and enemy raise his beast of burden which has collapsed.  (This commandment’s principle also extends beyond livestock.)
  5. One must not subvert the rights of the poor.
  6. One must not make or support a false allegation.
  7. One must not send the innocent to execution.
  8. One must not accept bribes.
  9. One must not oppress strangers.

These are commandments, not suggestions.

I think of the famous story of Rabbi Hillel (110 B.C.E.-10. C.E.), who summarized the Torah by citing the commandment to love God fully (the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and the Golden Rule (Leviticus 19:18).  Then he concluded,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

That statement applies well to Exodus 23:1-9, some of the provisions of which are politically sensitive.  Justice, however, is what it is.  May we learn it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part I   1 comment

Death of Simon Magus

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:1-5 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 3:19-25 (Friday)

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 36:5-10 (All Days)

Acts 8:18-24 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 11:14-23 (Saturday)

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Like a generous host you give them their fill of good food from your larder.

From your lovely streams which bring such pleasure you give them water to drink.

–Psalm 36:9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true, of course, so idolatry is especially galling.  Marriage, a literal matter in 1 Corinthians 7, is a metaphor in Jeremiah 3 and 4, where whoring becomes a metaphor for idolatry.  A relationship with God is intimate, this language tells us.

One of the themes in the Gospel of Mark, no part of which we read today, is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  That theme applies to our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11; he was never in league with evil.  The fact that a person who knew Jesus could not recognize that reality speaks badly of that individual.  Jesus was no more in league with evil than Simon Magus could purchase the Holy Spirit, the offer to do which led to a quotable rebuke:

May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for you think that money could buy what God has given for nothing!  You have no share, no part, in this:  God can see how your heart is warped.  Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that this scheme of yours may be forgiven; it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.

–Acts 8:20b-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

From that incident came the word “simony.”

Grace is free yet not cheap.  We can never purchase or earn it, but we can respond favorably to it.  Grace demands concrete evidence of its presence, as measured in deeds, which flow from attitudes.  Do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  I prefer that standard to any Pietistic list of legalistic requirements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part II: Idolatry = Spiritual Adultery   1 comment

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Above:  The Last Judgment Icon

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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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:6-4:2

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Matthew 22:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-2/

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

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Turn back, O Rebel Israel–declares the LORD.  I will not look on you in anger, for I am compassionate–declares the LORD.  I do not bear a grudge for all time.  Only recognize your sin; for you have transgressed against the LORD your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every leafy tree, and you have not heeded Me–declares the LORD.

Turn back, rebellious children–declares the LORD.  Since I have espoused you, I will take you, one from a town and two from a clan, and bring you to Zion.  And I will give you shepherds after My own heart; who will pasture you with knowledge and skill.

–Jeremiah 3:12b-15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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He will not always accuse us,

neither will he keep his anger for ever.

–Psalm 103:9, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Jeremiah, speaking for God, likened idolatry to adultery (3:8).  Yet there was always hope for redemption via human repentance and divine mercy.

Collective unrighteousness constitutes a major theme in both main readings for today.  In Matthew 22:1-22 it applies chiefly to those disloyal people who rejected the wedding invitation after they had accepted it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

–Luke 9:62, The New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition

The first round of servants consisted of the Hebrew Prophets, the second of proto-Christians (and later Christian missionaries) in the highly allegorical parable.  The banquet is the Last Judgment, where all must be clothed with righteousness–or else.  Here individual righteousness applies to the story, which, without accident, follows the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

It is vital to place the teaching in Matthew 22:1-14 in narrative context.  Jesus was in Jerusalem during his final Passover week, what we Christians call Holy Week.  The stakes were high and the gauntlet thrown down.  Jesus was confronting a corrupt political-religious system headquartered at the Temple.  He was doing this during the days leading up the annual celebration of divine deliverance from slavery in Egypt –a celebration held in occupied Jerusalem, where a Roman fortress overlooked the Temple.

Thus the question of a particular tax–a poll tax, to be precise–one which existed only to remind the subjugated peoples of Roman rule (as if they needed a reminder), arose.  According to law, the Roman Empire was the legal and legitimate government, so paying the poll tax was permitted.  But God still demanded and deserved complete loyalty.  Anything else constituted idolatry–spiritual adultery–something which our Lord’s accusers had committed and were committing.

C. H. Dodd, in The Founder of Christianity (1970), wrote of Realized Eschatology.  The Kingdom of God, he insisted, has always been among us, for God

is king always and everywhere,

thus the Kingdom simply is; it does not arrive.  Yet, Dodd wrote,

There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment in history is reflected in the gospels.  The presence of God with men, a truth for all times and places, became an effective truth.  It became such (we must conclude) because of the impact that Jesus made; because in his words and actions it was presented with exceptional clarity and operative with exceptional power.

–All quotes and paraphrases from page 57 of the first Macmillan paperback edition, 1970

Our Lord’s challengers in Matthew 22:1-22 practiced a form of piety which depended on a relatively high amount of wealth, thereby excluding most people.  Our Savior’s accusers in Matthew 22:1-22 collaborated with an oppressive occupying force which made it difficult–sometimes impossible–to obey Torah.  Our Lord and Savior’s accusers were self-identified defenders of Torah.  How ironic!  How hypocritical!  How idolatrous!

Condemning the long-dead bad guys is easy.  But who are their counterparts today?  I propose that those who minimize or merely reduce the proper level of love in Christianity are among their ranks.  If we are to love one another as bearers of the Image of God—people in whom we are to see Christ and people to whom we are to extend the love of Christ–which prejudices do we (individually and collectively) need to abandon or never acquire?  Those who affirm such prejudices in the name of God are among the ranks of contemporary counterparts of those whom our Lord and Savior confronted in Matthew 22:1-22.  But the possibility of repentance remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEDIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/devotion-for-november-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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