Archive for the ‘Lamentations 3’ Category

Comfort My People   Leave a comment

Above:  Sheep and Shepherd, by Anton Mauve

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 40:1-11

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Isaiah 40 flows thematically from Isaiah 34 and 35.

My soundtrack for Isaiah 40:1-11 comes courtesy of Handel‘s Messiah.  Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I proceed with the rest of this post.

Just as the commissioning of First Isaiah does not open First Isaiah (It occurs in Isaiah 6.), the commissioning of Second Isaiah occurs three chapters in.  Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Isaiah.  Second Isaiah’s commission is to be a comforter, we read.  This contrasts with the mission of Ezekiel, the previous prophet.  One may recall that God called Ezekiel to be a watchman (Ezekiel 2:1-3:11) to a rebellious people who would not listen to him.  The Book of Ezekiel contains oracles of consolation, though.  The expectation in Second Isaiah, however, is that people will listen.

Again, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  The time for mercy and deliverance is at hand, we read.

The reference to the royal road in the wilderness (40:3-5) calls back to other passages of scripture.  The Divine Presence, having departed Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezekiel 8-11), will travel with returning exiles, we read.  (See Ezekiel 43:1-5, too.)  The highway in the desert is also a motif in Isaiah 35:8-10.

YHWH is the good shepherd in Isaiah 40:10-11, protecting the sheep from enemies.  One may recall that YHWH is also the good shepherd in Ezekiel 34:11-31; Psalm 23; and Psalm 78.  Perhaps one recalls that Lamentations 3:1-20 depicts YHWH as a bad shepherd, and that this raging voice against YHWH indicates just one opinion in that chapter.

Rage against God is predictable, especially after a terrible event or during a time of crisis and distress.  Many people blame God for doing what God has not done.  God is a convenient scapegoat.  Many people also misunderstand God.  This is predictable, too.  God is so much greater than and different from we mere mortals, after all.  The extent to which we can understand God is limited.  So be it.

The nature of God is the topic of the next post in this series.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA, AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORGE NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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The Community’s Lament to the Lord   Leave a comment

Above:  $100 Trillion Bank Note, Zimbabwe

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART VI

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Lamentation 5:1-22

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The Book of Lamentations concludes on a thoroughly depressing note.  The prayer for restoration ends without hope.  Hope was for Chapters 3 and 4, not Chapter 5.

So much has gone wrong by Chapter 5:

  1. The family structure has broken down (verses 2-3).
  2. Foreign conquerors have overrun the country (verse 2).
  3. The people were defenseless (verse 3).
  4. The economy was and inflation was rampant (verses 4-5).
  5. The last Assyrian king had fallen from power in 609 B.C.E., but the point that trusting in in foreign powers, not in God, remained valid.
  6. The voice of the community accepted intergenerational guilt and punishment (Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, contra Ezekiel 3:16-21; Ezekiel 14:12-23; Ezekiel 18:1-32; Ezekiel 33:1-20).
  7. Lackeys of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch governed Judah (verse 8).
  8. Food was scarce (verse 9).
  9. The social order had broken down.  Violence, indignity, rape, and abusive labor were rampant (verses 11-14).  Young men performed the work of women, prisoners, slaves, and animals (verse 13).
  10. Old men no longer administered justice at city gates (verse 14), as in Deuteronomy 22:15; Deuteronomy 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2, 11).
  11. Temple worship was impossible (verse 15).
  12. The Davidic Dynasty had ended (verse 16).
  13. The covenant relationship with God was broken (verses 21-22).

Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself,

And let us come back;

Renew our days as of old!

–Lamentations 5:22b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Book of Lamentations concludes without a divine reply to that plea.  It ends without a comforting or easy answer.  It concludes with God present yet hiding.  Sit with that, O reader.  Give the Book of Lamentations its due.

Thank you, O reader, for accompanying me on this journey through the Book of Lamentations.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Ezekiel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Punishment of Zion   Leave a comment

Above:  Lamentations

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART V

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Lamentation 4:1-22

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The main bright ray of hope in the Book of Lamentations is in Chapter 3.  Theological whiplash continues as the readings revert to…lamentations.  Chapter 4 describes the siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.. as well as the suffering and degradation of the city’s residents at the time.

Some points require explanation:

  1. In verse 1, gems and gold represent people.  They are precious yet discarded.
  2. Jackals (verse 3) had a reputation as despicable scavengers.
  3. Ostriches (verse 3) were supposedly cruel and neglectful parents (Job 39:13-18).
  4. Starving children were too weak to cry in verse 4.  (Ezekiel 3:16; Psalm 137:6; Job 29:10)
  5. The inhabitants of Sodom died quickly (Genesis 19:24-25), but the inhabitants of Jerusalem suffered a long agony.
  6. Coral and sapphire were colors associated with vigor in verses 7-8.  Those colors have disappeared.
  7. Fire represented divine wrath (Lamentations 2:3 and 4:11; Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 10:17; Jeremiah 17:27).  There was also the literal fire that destroyed Jerusalem, of course.
  8. Contrary to popular belief (Psalms 46 and 48), Mount Zion was not inviolable.  The belief that God would not let Mount Zion fall came from foreigners (Lamentations 4:12).
  9. Shedding blood (verses 13 and 14), in this case, referred to committing idolatry (Ezekiel 22:1-5; Psalm 106:37-40).  The people most closely associated with purity were the most impure.  Those once among the most respected in society had become as impure as lepers (verse 15).
  10. The Poet spoke in verses 1-16 and 21-22.  The Community spoke in verses 17-20.
  11. The tone in verse 21 is ironic.  Edom comes in for condemnation here and in Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Obadiah; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; and Ezekiel 35:1-15.
  12. Verse 22 offers a glimmer of hope.  The Babylonian Exile will end, we read.  Justice will prevail because punishes sins, we read.

I ponder the idea of a world in which justice prevails because God punishes sins.  I think about the world as it is and perceive that it bears little resemblance to God’s ideal world.  The disparity between reality and the ideal is discouraging.  Were I more poetic, and if I had the desire to compose a set of lamentations for the world and United States of America in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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A Collage of Laments   Leave a comment

Above:  Lamentations 3:10

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART IV

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Lamentation 3:1-66

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Different voices fill Lamentations 3.  A new voice–that of Israel personified as the Man–speaks in verses 1-24, and perhaps through verse 39, as well.  An alternative view holds that the Poet speaks in verses 25-39.  Another new voice–that of the Community–speaks in verses 48-51.  Either Fair Zion or the Man speaks in verses 52-66.

Verses 1-20 depict deportation into exile.  They also depict God as a bad shepherd, in contrast to Psalm 23, Psalm 78, and Ezekiel 34.  Yet, starting with verse 25, we read an expression of hope in God.  Divine loyalty has not ended and divine mercies are not spent, we read.

For the Lord does not

Reject forever,

But first afflicts, then pardons

In His abundant kindness.

–Lamentations 3:31-32, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Comparing translations reveals shades of meaning in the original Hebrew text.  The Revised English Bible (1989) reads:

For rejection by the Lord

does not last forever.

He may punish, yet he will have compassion

in the fullness of his unfailing love….

When we turn to The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011), we read:

For the Lord does not reject forever;

Though he brings grief, he takes pity,

according to the abundance of his mercy….

Much of the material in verses 25-39 sounds like speeches by Job’s alleged friends (Job 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 32-37):  Suffering is divine punishment for sin, and people should accept this punishment.  In the context of the Book of Job, this is a misplaced theology, not applicable to the titular character’s situation (Job 1:1-2:10; 42:7-9).  Also, the speeches of Job’s alleged friends read like the useless yet conventionally pious babblings they are, in narrative context.

The rest of the Book of Lamentations confesses sins, repents of those sins, begs for divine deliverance, expresses hope in God, and prays for divine judgment on the wicked nations.

I get theological whiplash from Lamentations 3.  The contrast between Lamentations 3 and the rage against God in Lamentations 2 is stark.  And who says that God does not willingly bring grief or affliction?  I recall many passages from Hebrew prophetic books in which God speaks and claims credit for causing grief and affliction.  I do not recall anyone forcing God to do that.  In some passages, however, God speaks of these divine actions as the consequences of human sins.

I approach theodicy cautiously.  I am also an intellectually honest monotheist.  I have no evil god to blame for anything, thereby letting the good god off the hook.  There is simply and solely God, who is ever in the dock, so to speak.   The major problem with human theodicy is that it easily degenerates into idiocy at best and heresy at worst.

Whenever someone professes not to believe in God, one way to handle the situation is to ask that individual to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  One may also want to ask how the other person defines belief in God.  In the creedal sense, to believe in God is to trust in God.  Yet many–or most–people probably understand belief in God to mean affirmation of the existence of God.

Idiotic theodicy produces a range of God-concepts abhorrent to me.  I suspect that many–or most–of those professed agnostics and atheists reject at least one of these God-concepts, too.  Many professed agnostics and atheists–a host of them refugees from conventional piety and abusive faith–may be closer to a healthy relationship with the God of the Universe than many conventionally devout Jews and Christians.  This matter lies far outside my purview; it resides in the purview of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Introduction to the Book of Lamentations   Leave a comment

Above:  Heading and Opening of Lamentations

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART I

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The tradition that the prophet composed the Book of Lamentations immediately after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) and prior to departing involuntarily for Egypt is deeply ingrained in many minds.  That tradition is evident in the brief preface in the Septuagint and the Vulgate:

When Israel had been taken into captivity and Jerusalem had become a wilderness, it happened that the prophet Jeremiah sat down in tears; he uttered this lament over Jerusalem, he said….

–Quoted from a footnote in The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This tradition has its origin in an interpretation of 2 Chronicles 35:25:

Jeremiah also made a lament for Josiah; and to this day the minstrels, both men and women, commemorate Josiah in their lamentations.  Such laments have become traditional in Israel, and they are found in the written collections.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

King Josiah of Judah died in 609 B.C.E.

The Book of Lamentations laments the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) and never mentions King Josiah.  The language is similar to that in the Books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  Much of the language is sufficiently vague that the laments can apply to many disasters, other than the Fall of Jerusalem.

The text does not answer the question of authorship.  One may perhaps legitimately hypothesize that the prophet Jeremiah contributed to the Book of Lamentations.  The most likely scenario is that the Book of Lamentations is the product of authors.

The Book of Lamentations, completed before the dedication of the Second Temple (516 B.C.E.), embraces the Deuteronomic theology of divine retribution (as in the Book of Jeremiah).  Lamentations also contains material from various sources.  There are four voices–those of the Poet, Fair Zion, the Man (personified Israel), and the Community–in five poems.  Chapters 1-4 are Hebrew acrostic poems.  Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 have 22 verses each.  Chapter 3 has 66 verses.

The placement of the Book of Lamentations varies.  The Book of Lamentations, classified as a prophetic book in Christian Bibles, exists in different places, relative to other books, in Christian canons of scripture.  It is between Jeremiah and Baruch in Roman Catholic Bibles, between Jeremiah and Ezekiel in Protestant and Anglican Bibles, between Baruch and Ezekiel in Ethiopian Orthodox Bibles, and between Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008).  The Book of Lamentations, in the Writings (not the Prophets) section of the Hebrew Bible, sits between Ruth and Ecclesiastes.

Major lectionaries ignore most of the Book of Lamentations.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) does this:

  1. 1:1-6 is one of two possible First Readings for Proper 22, Year C.  On that Sunday, 3:19-26  is an alternative response.
  2. 3:1-9, 19-24 is a reading for Holy Saturday, Years A, B, and C.  But how many congregations who follow the RCL conduct the Holy Saturday liturgy?

The introduction to the Book of Lamentations in The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), acknowledges that the Roman Catholic Church, outside of Holy Week,

has otherwise tended to neglect the book.

–1142

Indeed, the current Roman Catholic Mass lectionaries assign little–yet more than the RCL does–from the Book of Lamentations:

  1. 1:1-6 is the First Reading for Proper 27, Year C.
  2. 2:2, 10-14, 18-19 is the First Reading for Saturday, Week 12, Ordinary Time, Year 2.
  3. 3:1-9, 19-24 is the First Reading on Holy Saturday, Years A, B, and C.
  4. 3:19-26 is the First Reading on Proper 22, Year C.
  5. 3:23-33 is the First Reading on Proper 9, Year B.

The introduction to the Book of Lamentations in The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), continues from the quote above:

It is not hard to see why; a more anguished piece of writing is scarcely imaginable….But with its unsparing focus on destruction, pain, and suffering the book serves an invaluable function as part of Scripture, witnessing to a biblical faith determined to express honestly the harsh realities of a violent world and providing contemporary readers the language to do the same.

–1142-1143

Observant Jews read or hear the Book of Lamentations read liturgically on the ninth day of Av (in July or August), the day of public mourning and fasting in commemoration of the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. and the Second Temple in 70 C.E.  The ninth day of Av is also a day to commemorate other disasters and catastrophes in the Jewish past.  The recitation of the Book of Lamentations occurs in candlelight or dim light, while the reader and the congregation sit on the floor or low benches.

Rereading the Book of Lamentations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic may help individuals and faith communities express an honest, Biblical faith in a world in which many people, institutions, and societies have lost their minds and gone off the rails, and in which returning to the old normal is impossible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN AND COFOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Donatism of a Sort, Part III   Leave a comment

Above: St. Augustine Arguing with Donatists, by Charles-André van Loo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 32

Ephesians 2:13-22

Mark 15:1-39

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The imagery in Lamentations 3 (usually about going into the Babylonian Exile) and Psalm 32 (really about confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and returning to God) fits with the suffering of Jesus in Mark 15:1-39.  One result of that suffering, we read in Ephesians 2:13-22, is the breaking down of hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus is the peace, we read.  He is the means of reconciliation, we read.

I got the memo; I read Ephesians 2:13-22.  I also marked, learned, and inwardly digested the text.  However, many people, including a plethora of my fellow Christians, have not read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested Ephesians 2:13-22.  Anti-Semitism has been a sin within the Church since the founding of the Church.

Likewise, among Gentiles, erecting and maintaining walls of hostility has been a long-standing practice.  Donatism (in the broad sense of that word) has been around for a very long time.

As Edmond Browning, a previous Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, insisted, there are 

no outsiders

in Christ.  Many professing Christians have yet to receive that menu.  According to doctrinal purity tests from my right, I am impure–a heretic, probably one damned to Hell.  My alleged offenses, according to some who have spoken to me in person and/or sent emails, include thinking too much and asking too many questions.

Salvation is not a matter of winning Theological Twenty Questions.  Salvation is not a matter of knowledge, as in Gnosticism.  Orthodoxy in theology is not a saving work.  Salvation is a matter of grace.  This grace is at work in Single Predestination and in free will.  We have free will because of grace, after all.

And Donatism is not a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Two Kingdoms II   1 comment

Above:  Archelaus

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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1 Samuel 31:1-9 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 14-33

Psalm 114

Romans 15:14-33

Luke 19:11-27

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As I have written many times, the judgment and mercy of God exist in a balance of justice/righteousness.  (As I have also written ad infinitum, justice and righteousness are the same word in the Bible.  I keep repeating myself.)  Mercy for the persecuted and oppressed may be judgment on the persecutors and oppressors.  Actions and inaction have consequences.  Not serving God has negative consequences.  Serving God may have some negative consequences in this life, but God rewards the faithful in the afterlife.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-28-year-c-humes/

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Faithful Attitudes   Leave a comment

Above: The Uninvited Wedding Guest, by Vincent Malo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-19

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 22:1-14

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The destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. seems to have influenced the telling of the parable in Matthew 22:1-14.  The  allegory, told from the perspective of marginalized Jewish Christians, is plain:  The judgment of God will fall not only on those who reject Jesus, but on elements of the Christian movement, too.

Before I proceed to other texts, I note that we Gentiles need to be careful not to commit anti-Semitism, whether consciously or otherwise.  The language of invective is always dangerous.  It makes sense, in historical context, circa 85 C.E., within the Jewish faith–the context for the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  One can understand this example of invective in context without giving into it.  Besides, as we read in Ephesians, such divisions are supposed to end in Christ, crucified and resurrected.

So why do we insist on rebuilding those walls of division?

The unifying theme is the balance of judgment and mercy in God.  If one is an honest monotheist, one must affirm that God both afflicts and restores, and judges and forgives.  This theme is most prominent in Lamentations 3, in the voice of a man, the personification of exiles during the Babylonian Exile.  How can one affirm both that God has led people into exile and that those exiles should trust in God, whose mercies are not exhausted?

If you, O reader, expect a pat and easy answer from me, I disappoint you.  If, however, you expect an honest answer in which I admit to struggling with the question I have asked, I do not disappoint you.  Easy answers are for easy questions, and pat answers are probably never appropriate.  The life of faith is not about false certainty.  Much of the life of faith consists of admitting to doubts and to ignorance, and of following and trusting in God.

I distrust any theological system or approach that claims to have more correct answers than it does and that discourages honest questions.  Faith is not about having few or no questions and doubts; it is about struggling with them and working through them with God.

Lord, I don’t understand x, y, and z.  Perhaps I never will.  If so, so be it.  I still seek to follow you.

That is a faithful attitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES AND ENLIGHTENER OF NORTH AMERICA

THE FEAST OF CORDELIA COX, U.S. LUTHERAN SOCIAL WORKER, EDUCATOR, AND RESETTLER OF REFUGEES

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WRIGHT BUCKHAM, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA ALVAREZ MENDOZA, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

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The Light of Christ, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Harrowing of Hell

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:

Job 14:1-4 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

1 Peter 4:1-8

Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

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To permit Jess to remain dead liturgically until late Holy Saturday or early Easter Sunday morning–until the Great Vigil of Easter–is spiritually helpful.  By doing this one will derive more spiritual benefit from Easter than if one rushes into it.  Spiritual peaks mean as much as they do because of the valleys.

The audience for 1 Peter consisted of Gentile Christians in Asia Minor suffering for their faith.  The call to witness to Christ in their lives made sense.  (It still makes sense for we Christians today), in all our cultural contexts, regardless of the presence or absence of persecution.)  In that textual context the author (in 3:19 and 4:6) referred to Christ’s post-crucifixion and pre-Resurrection descent to the dead/into Hell.  These references have led to several interpretations for millennia, but the linkage to these verses to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, that is, the Conquest of Satan, has been easy to recognize.

A note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008), for obvious reasons flowing from Eastern Orthodox theology, affirms the descent of Christ into Hell.  It reads in part:

As Christ fearlessly faced His tormenters, death, and hell, so we through Him can confidently face mockers and tormenters–and yes, bring His light to them.

–Page 1687

That is a great responsibility.  To bring the light of Christ to others–especially our enemies–is a high calling.  We can succeed in it, by grace.

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Divine Justice, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Judge

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who through your Son continually prompts us to conform our wills to yours:

Grant that we may love the thing you desire for us,

and find your commandments in the purified wishes of our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 96

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Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33

Psalm 15

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Luke 18:1-14

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The theme of persisting in righteousness and not losing heart unites these readings.  The hopeful voice in Lamentations 3 belongs to an exile.  Moral rectitude might quality one to dwell on God’s holy hill, but it will not always prevent suffering and other hardships.  Self-righteousness gets one nowhere with God quickly, but persistence, combined with humility, pleases God, who is just.

One major point of the Parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke 18 is that God is just, unlike the corrupt judge.  The woman has to resort to intimidation to receive justice from him.  The justice of God can be either encouraging  or frightening, depending on one’s perspective and deeds.  Divine justice takes into account both judgment and mercy, and is not necessarily fair, as we think of fairness.  That can work to our advantage, for our standards of fairness, applied to us, are probably harsher than divine justice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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