Archive for the ‘Judges 13’ Category

Character, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Samson

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 13:1-5, 24 or Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Psalm 92

Romans 3:1-10, 23-31

Luke 10:1-24

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All people are sinful, we read.  Societies and institutions are sinful.  The icing on the cake is the depressing reading from Jeremiah.  That is almost as somber as a movie by Vittorio De Sica.  Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), and Umberto D. (1952) are realistic and depressing works of art.

There is good news, however:  God can work through us.  God worked through the conventionally pious Psalmist, the frequently oblivious Apostles, and that idiot, Samson.  God worked through Jeremiah and St. Paul the Apostle.  God can work through corrupt institutions.  God can work through you and me, O reader.  God is sovereign.

That settles one question, but not another one.  No excuses for bad character and institutional corruption are valid.  Being an instrument of God does not exempt one from moral obligations.  Yes, God can work through scuz buckets, but being being a scuz bucket is still wrong.

May we, by grace, be the most moral instruments of God possible.  May our public and private morality be as close to the divine ideal as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-c-humes/

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Light in the Darkness, Part IV   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 13:2-24

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

John 7:40-52

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“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve it for all generations.”

–Psalm 89:3-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The origin stories of Samson and Jesus had some similarity to each other.  In each case, for example, an angel announced the conception of the child to the mother.  Yet Samson and Jesus were quite different.

Samson, a man of action, was supposed to deliver his people from oppressors.  He was, alas, not the brightest oil lamp in Israel, and character defects led to his downfall.  His death was his victory, but in a violent manner.

Jesus lived amid a range of messianic expectations, including the hope that he would liberate his people from the Roman occupiers.  That was not his task, however.  Nevertheless, he proved sufficiently threatening to the Roman Empire for imperial officials to execute him.  To call Jesus the “Savior of the world” and the “Son of God” was to subvert imperial Roman language, to put him in the place of the Emperor.  And the New Testament is replete with criticisms of the Roman Empire.  (My Bible study program has revealed more of them than I had imagined to exist, in fact.)  Jesus also had a victory–his Resurrection–in part a triumph over violence.

The assigned reading from John 7 precedes 7:53-8:11, the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This was originally from the Synoptic tradition.  In fact, different ancient texts have that floating pericope in various places in the Gospels.  If we skip over the inserted story, we move directly to Jesus telling Pharisees that he is the light of the world and that they know neither him nor God.  That section of scripture reads consistently flowing from 7:40-52 as well as from 7:53-8:11.  In 7:45-52 some Pharisees were anxious to ignore proper procedure in order to arrest Jesus, so Nicodemus spoke up on behalf of procedure.  If one reads 8:12-20 in the context of 7:53-8:11, some scribes and Pharisees have just violated the law to entrap Jesus, so the light was not in them for that reason.  Either way, skullduggery was in the works.

Light in the darkness is a wonderful metaphor to employ during Advent, when many of we Christians see a wreath with candles in church.  May we be lights of Christ in the darkness, which cannot conquer that light of divine love.  May we leave pettiness, greed, hatred, and other destructive forces behind, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus, for whose birth we prepare liturgically.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 28, 2014 by neatnik2009 in John 7, John 8, Judges 13

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Judges and Galatians, Part II: Obligations   1 comment

paul-writing-his-epistles

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

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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:

Judges 13:1-25

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Galatians 2:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-19/

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

Galatians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/proper-6-year-c/

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The call of God on one’s life imposes some obligations and lifts others.  This theme plays out in Judges 13, the account which culminates in the birth of the judge Samson, designated to end the Philistine oppression of the Israelites.  He was supposed to obey rules governing hair and wine.  Yet the lifting of the obligation of male circumcision is a prominent part of Galatians 2.  The mandate to care for the poor remains, however.  Our justification is in Christ, Paul wrote, so “saving justice” does not come from the Law of Moses.  This principle did not apply to Samson for reasons of chronology.

We are not our own; no, we belong to God. Sometimes God’s call on our lives requires us to abandon certain traditions, such as the prohibition against table fellow ship with Gentiles in Galatians 2.  Yet, when one reads the other account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, one finds some old rules which continue to apply:

…to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages.

–Acts 15:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

But circumcision ceases to be obligatory.

As I have written already, male circumcision is a traditional part of Jewish identity.  Recent (as of 2012) international disputes regarding the practice reinforce this point.  But an outward sign which few people will see is not more important than public acts of compassion, such as caring effectively for the poor in the name of God.  A hokey song whose music and shallow, repetitive words I despise does at least convey a simple truth nevertheless:

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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We Cannot Thwart God’s Ultimate Will   3 comments

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Judges 13:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Israelites again did what was offensive to the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the stock of Dan, whose name was Manoah.  His wife was barren and had borne no children.  An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,

You are barren and have borne no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son.  Now be careful not to drink wine or other intoxicant, or eat anything unclean.  For you are going to conceive and bear a son; let no razor touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb on.  He shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

The woman went and told her husband,

A man of God came to me; he looked like an angel of God, very frightening; I did not ask him where he was from, nor did he tell me his name.  He said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and bear a son.  Drink no wine or other intoxicant, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death!’

Psalm 139:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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It is customary in The Episcopal Church that, at when the priest or deacon finishes reading the Gospel lection, he or she says,

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the congregation answers,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I recall a situation one Sunday evening at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  Beth Long, the Rector, read the assigned lesson from the Gospels for that day.  It was a disturbing and unpleasant text.  Then she said,

The Gospel of the Lord.

All of us in the congregation mumbled hesitantly,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I have the same response when pondering Matthew 22:1-14.

Tradition calls this text the Parable of the Great Banquet.  Yet William Barclay insists correctly that it is really two parables.  The first ends with the king rounding up wedding guests on street corners.  The subtext is clear; those who have rejected Jesus as Messiah are unworthy to attend the wedding banquet.  And the destruction in the story echoes the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  The Gospel of Matthew dates to the middle 80s C.E., in a Jewish Christian community on the margins of Jewish life.  Certain emotions tend to accompany marginal status, especially when one is marginalized involuntarily.  They are on full display in this text.

The second parable concerns the man who did not come to the wedding feast attired properly.  He did not care about the matter, a major breach of protocol in that society.  His disrespect led to his removal from the banquet.  My North American society is increasingly informal in matters of attire, and this is not entirely bad.  But sometimes it goes too far.  One student in a class for which I was a Teaching Assistant came to the classroom on the day of the Final Exam in his pajamas, slippers, and bathrobe.  How one presents oneself in public indicates how one regards others.  There is social etiquette and decorum to maintain; it makes public interactions go more smoothly.  So how much more true must showing respect toward God be?

Understand me correctly.  During my last year of high school I tutored a Middle Grades student after school.  Joe and his family attended a Southern Baptist church in Berrien County, Georgia.  He mentioned once that some elderly members of the congregation had criticized him for wearing tennis shoes to church.  Joe asked me what I thought.  I replied that God has concerns greater than whether Joe wore tennis shoes to church.  In fact, I wear tennis shoes to church sometimes.  But they are clean and presentable.

There is, however, great value in dressing up for certain occasions.  I feel one way when I wear a suit and a tie (often with a fedora) and another when I wear jeans and a tee-shirt.  I feel quite comfortable in both states, but I would never think of wearing jeans and a tee-shirt (no matter how clean and presentable they might be) to certain occasions.  This is simply a matter of decorum.

So the second parable teaches that we must approach God with our best.  This being from the Gospels, the meaning goes far deeper than wardrobe, although that is a matter for some people.  How does one live?  The king invited the good and the bad alike to the banquet, but all were expected to uphold certain standards after they arrived.  We can all come to God by route or another, but this is not cheap grace that demands nothing of us.  No, we must respond to God honestly and faithfully.  This will require something of us.

So the king filled the banquet hall one way or another.  Nothing could thwart his will–only require him to change tactics.

Then there is the story of Samson, the beginning of which is today’s reading from Judges.  I encourage everyone to read the whole thing again or for the first time; it is a very good story.  Samson was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, the brightest crayon in the box.  Neither was he self-disciplined, especially with regard to women, namely Delilah.  But, despite all these facts, God worked through Samson to deliver the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.  Samson died in the process, for the building fell down on top of him, along with many Philistines, but this end was not necessary.  Samson could have avoided it with some more intelligence and a dose of self-discipline.  He was weak, though, and he paid the price for that.

Yet God’s ultimate will came to fruition via Samson, despite Samson’s character.

Is it not better cooperate with God rather than abuse our free will and force God to change strategies?  Is not cooperating with God a sign of healthy respect?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED GUIDO DI PIETRO, A.K.A. FRA ANGELICO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARTIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLMAN OF LINDISFARNE, SAINT AGILBERT, AND SAINT WILFRID, BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER, PROTESTANT REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOTONIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Samson and John the Baptist   1 comment

Above:  A Statue of Samson

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Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 (Revised English Bible):

There was a certain man from Zorah of the tribe of Dan whose name was Manoah and whose wife was barren; she had no child.  The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said,

Though you are barren and have no child, you will conceive and give birth to a son.  Now be careful to drink no wine or strong drink, and to eat no forbidden food.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor must touch his head, for the boy is to be a Nazirite, consecrated to God from birth.  He will strike the first blow for Israel’s freedom from the power of the Philistines.

The woman went and told her husband,

A man of God came to me,

she said to him;

his appearance was that of an angel of God, most terrible to see.  I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name, but he said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and give birth to a son.  From now on drink no wine or strong drink and eat no forbidden food, for the boy is to be a Nazirite, consecrated to God from his birth to the day of his death.’

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson.  The boy grew up in Mahaneh-dan between Zorah and Eshtaol, and the LORD blessed him, and the spirit of the LORD began to move him.

Psalm 71:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

In you, LORD, I have found refuge;

let me never be put to shame.

By your saving power rescue and deliver me;

hear me and save me!

Be to me a rock of refuge

to which at all times I may come;

you have decreed my deliverance,

for you are my rock and stronghold.

Keep me safe, my God, from the power of the wicked,

from the clutches of the pitiless and unjust.

You are my hope, Lord GOD,

my trust since my childhood.

On you I have leaned from birth;

you brought me from my mother’s womb;

to you I offer praise at all times.

I have become like a portent to many,

but you are my strong refuge.

My mouth will be full of your praises,

I shall tell of your splendour all day long.

Luke 1:5-25 (Revised English Bible):

In the reign of Herod king of Judaea there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of the priesthood called Abijah.  His wife, whose name was Elizabeth, was also of priestly descent.  Both of them were upright and devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.  But they had no children, for Elizabeth was barren, and both were well on in years.

Once, when it was the turn of his division and he was there to take part in the temple service, he was chosen by lot, by priestly custom, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and to offer the incense; and at the hour of the offering the people were all assembled at prayer outside.  There appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right of the altar of incense.  At this sight, Zechariah was startled and overcome by fear.  But the angel said to him,

Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard:  your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.  His birth will fill you with joy and delight, and will bring gladness to many; for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.  He is never to touch wine or strong drink.  From this very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit; and he will bring back many Israelites to the Lord their God.  He will go before him as a forerunner, possessed by the spirit and power of Elijah, to reconcile father and child, to convert the rebellious father and child, to convert the rebellious to the ways of the righteous, to prepare a people that shall be fit for the Lord.

Zechariah said to the angel,

How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.

They angel replied,

I am Gabriel; I stand in attendance on God, and I have been sent to speak to you and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.  But now, because you have not believed me, and you will lose all power of speech and remain silent until the day when these things take place; at their proper time my words will be proved true.

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, surprised that he was staying so long inside the sanctuary.  When he did come out he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had had a vision.  He stood there making signs to them, and remained dumb.

When his period of duty was completed Zechariah returned home.  His wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she lived in seclusion, thinking,

This is the Lord’s doing; now at last he has shown me favour and taken away from me the disgrace of childlessness.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This series of Advent devotions is nearing its end and climax.  December 24 will be the last day of Advent, so the assigned readings (especially the Gospel readings), which span Luke 1:5 to Luke 1:79, bring us to the verge of Christmas Day.

This day’s readings tell of two men whose backstories were similar yet whose lives were different.  The stories of the births of Samson and John the Baptist contain an angel, a miracle, and a mission for the yet-unborn child.  Samson’s mission took a detour; he gave into his weakness for women, and one woman, a spy, in particular.  Yet John the Baptist remained true to his mission from beginning to end.

John chose the better path.  May we do likewise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-19/

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Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Judges 13, Luke 1, Psalm 71

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