Archive for the ‘Luke 1’ Category

The Births and Infancies of St. John the Baptist and Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART IV

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Luke 1:47-2:40

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The stories of St. John the Baptist and Jesus continue to intertwine in the earliest chapters of the Gospel of Luke.  Foreshadowing continues, too.  We read that Jesus and St. John the Baptist came from devout Jewish families, as well.

As we–you and I, O reader–march through the Gospel of Luke, I will address a topic a breach initially in this post.  One unfortunate tradition within Christianity distances Jesus from Judaism.  This erroneous tradition places our Lord and Savior in opposition to Judaism.  This tradition exists within my family tree.  I have some of the hand-written sermon notes of the Reverend George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), my great-grandfather and a minister in the North Georgia Conference of the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  I have the book in which he wrote that Jesus

grew up in a Christian home.

Rather, one should understand Jesus within the context of Judaism.

Luke 2 poses historical problems:

  1. No such census occurred.  No empire-wide census took place during the reign of the Emperor Augustus.  Quirinius, who became the Governor of Syria in 6 C.E., did preside over a provincial census, though–in 6 C.E., ten or so years after the birth of Jesus.
  2. No Roman census required such movement of populations.

To quote a spiritual mentor of mine:

What is really going on here?

Theology is going on here:

  1. St. Luke introduced a divine plan that culminated in St. Paul the Apostle preaching in Rome in Acts 28.  The plan launched with the fictional empire-wide census.
  2. The angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus was an imperial proclamation.  Officially, Augustus was the savior of the world and the Son of God; currency proclaimed this.  The angels sang for Jesus, not Augustus.  Jesus was greater than Augustus.
  3. The text set the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God in opposition to each other.
  4. Luke 2:7 created a reason to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, with its Davidic connection.
  5. The text, in doing so, portrayed the Roman Empire negatively.  The text also depicted Augustus as a pawn of God.

Luke 2:7 may not refer to an inn.  The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the germane Greek word as “dwelling-place.”  This is a reference to a two-story home in which the people lived upstairs and the animals were downstairs.  In this scenario, the scene is of a crowded home, in which St. Mary gave birth downstairs, away from the in-laws.

I knew nothing about this alternative translation and interpretation as a child.  In the rural United Methodist congregations in which my father served, I learned that the “inn” was an inn–a caravansary, to be precise.  I also suffered through nativity plays that depicted the innkeeper as a brusque, unsympathetic figure.  To be fair, my father defended the innkeeper for not turning out paying customers.

Likewise, “manger” can also be “stable.”

In the play Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the birth of Jesus occurred in an abandoned trailer behind the Dixie-Delite Motor Lodge, about two miles outside Gainesville, Georgia.  Joe Davison and Mary Hagler were en route to Atlanta for a federal tax audit.

Notice, O reader, the parallelism between 1:28 and 2:40, regarding divine favor.  The Gospel of Luke is a theological and literary work.  It has a structure that indicates much thought and effort.  It is, as the prologue says, “an orderly account.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK TEMPLE AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, CIRCA 250

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEMETRIUS A. GALLITZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST; “THE APOSTLE OF THE ALLEGHENIES”

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

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

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Two Annunciations and a Visitation   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART III

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Luke 1:5-46

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Consensus among scholars of the New Testament holds that the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke are the that work in miniature.  Luke 1 and 2 introduce themes the rest of that Gospel develops.

Luke 1:5 grounds the audience in time and place.  We read the name of the Roman client king:  Herod (the Great).

Herod the Great (r. 37-48 B.C.E.) married into the Hasmonean Dynasty and founded his own.  The Herodian Dynasty held power (under the Roman aegis) until 70 C.E.  Herod the Great, the Governor of Galilee (47-37 B.C.E.), became the King of the Jews in 37 B.C.E.  He had authority in Judea and Galilee.

Consider calendars, O reader.  Judaism had its calendar.  The Romans had their calendar, which started with the founding of Rome–on the B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A/D. scale, 753 B.C.E./B.C.  The B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A.D. scale dates to what we call the 500s C.E./A.D., when St. Dionysius Exiguus introduced it.  I notice that he miscalculated, for St. Dionysius attempted to place the birth of Jesus one week before the beginning of the year 1 Anno Domini (In the Year of Our Lord).  Yet Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  Consider the account of the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).  I contend that a tyrant who had been dead for three years could not have ordered that slaughter.  I conclude, therefore, that St. Dionysius miscalculated.

I use “Before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) because I refuse to refer to the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ.”

Much happens, on the surface and beneath it, in these verses.  Some of these are:

  1. We read the identification of St. John the Baptist with Elijah (verse 17), indicating eschatological expectations regarding Jesus.
  2. St. Elizabeth is reminiscent of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.
  3. The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) is the model for the Magnificat.
  4. We read that St. John the Baptist will go before “him” (verse 17), indicating YHWH, not Jesus.
  5. We are also supposed to think of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15 and 17).
  6. Being disturbed or afraid when encountering an angel is a Biblical motif.
  7. The Holy Spirit is a major theme in Luke-Acts.  It makes its Lucan debut in 1:35.
  8. In Hebrew angelology, there are seven archangels.  1 Enoch 19:1-20:8 names them:  Gabriel, Suru’el, Raphael (who features in the Book of Tobit), Raguel, Michael, Uriel (who features in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra), and Sarafa’el.  An alternative text of 1 Enoch mentions another name, Remiel.  Seven, being the number of perfection, may be symbolic.  Or Remiel may be an alternative name for one of the archangels.
  9. The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune is prominent in the Magnificat.
  10. I recommend consulting Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah--Updated Edition (1993), 358-360, for a detailed, line-by-line breakdown of the Magnificat, with citations from the Hebrew Bible, 2 Esdras/4 Ezra, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, and the Psalms of Solomon.
  11. Childlessness was, in the culture, always the woman’s fault, regardless of biology.
  12. St. John the Baptist was certainly just kicking (1:41).  Unborn children kick.
  13. Verses 5-56 are about what God did and how people responded.

Underneath it all is a celebration of God.  God has taken the initiative–God the Lord, the saviour, the Powerful One, the Holy One, the Merciful One, the Faithful One.  God is the ultimate reason to celebrate.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke–A Daily Devotional (2018), 89

I agree.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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The Prologue to the Gospel of Luke   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Luke the Evangelist, by Claude Vignon

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART II

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Luke 1:1-4

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…it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.

–Luke 1:3-4, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

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The prologue to the Gospel of Luke follows the format of Greek prologues in historical and biographical works of the time.  Unlike similar prologues, though, this one does not criticize other works as being inaccurate.  St. Luke’s goal is not to set the record straight, but to provide an “orderly account.”

Let us, O reader, consider the sources of the Gospel of Luke.

  1. One source was the Gospel of Mark, composed between 67 and 73 C.E.–probably closer to 73 than to 67.  St. Luke altered the Marcan chronology on occasion, but the “Marcan spine” provided the model for the Gospel of Luke.
  2. One can only guess how many other written sources and oral traditions St. Luke incorporated into the Gospel of Luke.
  3. If Quelle (Q) existed, St. Luke used it as a source.  Despite resistance to the the possibility of Q’s existence, the document’s existence has never seemed unreasonable to me.  That, prior to 67 C.E.. a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus existed seems plausible.

St. Luke’s “orderly account” frequently uses topics, not chronology, as an organizing principle.

The Lucan prologue also raises an unanswered question.  We know almost nothing about Theophilus, literally, “lover of God.”  This is probably a name, as well as a description.  We know that Theophilus, like St. Luke, was not an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, and was a Gentile.

The Lucan prologue uses three key words:  fulfilled, eyewitnesses, and assurance.  The fulfillment of divine redemptive purposes, the importance of eyewitness testimony, and the assurance of God’s redemptive love are pillars of the Gospel of Luke.

A close reading of the Gospel of Luke, compared to the other canonical Gospels, as well as to historical accounts, reveals factual divergence from historical accounts and the other canonical Gospels.  This pattern is consistent with the genre of written Gospels; they are theological works, not thoroughly-documented histories.  Theological concerns override objective history.  After all, St. Luke stated his purpose in 1:4:

…so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The last line is not:

…so that your Excellency may read a historically accurate account of the ministry of Jesus.

Biography is not theology, and theology is not biography.

With the prologue out of the way, the Lucan infancy narratives await our attention.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Posted December 20, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1

Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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The whole of Luke’s gospel is about the way in which the living God has planted, in Jesus, the seed of that long-awaited hope in the world.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 2

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The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a larger work.  The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume.  One can read either volume spiritually profitably in isolation from the other one.  However, one derives more benefit from reading Luke-Acts as the two-volume work it is.

Each of the four canonical Gospels bears the name of its traditional author.  The Gospel of Luke is the only case in which I take this traditional authorship seriously as a matter of history.  One may recall that St. Luke was a well-educated Gentile physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul the Apostle.

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.,. “give or take five to ten years,” as Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) wrote in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  Luke-Acts, having a Gentile author, includes evidence that the audience consisted of Gentiles, too.  The text makes numerous references to the inclusion of Gentiles, for example.  Two of the major themes in Luke-Acts are (a) reversal of fortune, and (b) the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  The smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. inform the present tense of the story-telling.

Many North American Christians minimize or ignore the imperial politics in the New Testament.  In doing so, they overlook essential historical and cultural contexts.  Luke-Acts, in particular, performs an intriguing political dance with the Roman Empire.  The two-volume work unambiguously proclaims Jesus over the Emperor–a treasonous message, by Roman imperial standards.  Luke-Acts makes clear that the Roman Empire was on the wrong side of God, that its values were opposite those of the Kingdom of God.  Yet the two-volume work goes out of its way to mention honorable imperial officials.

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

  1. This weblog is contains other blog posts covering Luke-Acts, but in the context of lectionaries.  I refer you to those posts.  And I will not attempt to replicate those other posts in the new posts.  Finding those posts is easy; check the category for the book and chapter, such as Luke 1 or Acts 28.
  2. I know far more about the four canonical Gospels, especially in relation to each other, than I will mention in the succeeding posts.  I tell you this not to boast, but to try to head off anyone who may chime in with a rejoinder irrelevant to my purpose in any given post.  My strategy will be to remain on topic.
  3. My purpose will be to analyze the material in a way that is intellectually honest and applicable in real life.  I respect Biblical scholarship that goes deep into the woods, spending ten pages on three lines.  I consult works of such scholarship.  However, I leave that work to people with Ph.Ds in germane fields and who write commentaries.
  4. I am a student of the Bible, not a scholar thereof.
  5. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian who places a high value on human reason and intellect.  I value history and science.  I reject both the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture for these reasons.  Fundamentalists think I am going to Hell for asking too many questions.  I try please God, not fundamentalists. I know too much to affirm certain theological statements.
  6. I am a sui generis mix of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theological influences.  I consider St. Mary of Nazareth to be the Theotokos (the Bearer of God) and the Mater Dei (the Mother of God).  I also reject the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception with it.

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Empowered by God, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Ascension, 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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Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe

thy only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into the heavens;

so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell,

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

The Book of Worship (1947), 175

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Daniel 7:9-14

Psalm 110

Hebrews 4:1-16

Luke 24:44-53

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My text is Luke 24:44-53.

The written Gospels are theological documents.  The organization of material is not accidental.

At the beginning of Luke, Zechariah the priest could not pronounce a blessing (1:22).  At the Ascension, Jesus, using priestly notions (see Leviticus 9:22 and Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 50:20-21), as well as words, provided a concluding blessing.  Thus ended the first volume of Luke-Acts.  The second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, carried the narrative forward.  People, empowered by God, carried on the Church’s work.  That work has never ended.

That work is community-based, not individual-based.  “Jesus-and-me” is a narcissistic style of religion and a heresy.  The individual aspect of religion belongs in the context of faith community, of “God and us”–in Christian terms, “Jesus and us.”

The Gospel of Luke opens and concludes in the Temple.

They worshipped him and they went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

–Luke 24:52-53, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

What might Jesus do through churches–congregations and denominations–in these days if they were more receptive to the voice of God calling them?  Congregations and denominations are doing much already, fortunately.  But what else has God empowered them to do that they are not doing yet?

Why don’t we find out?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Restoration and Revelation   Leave a comment

Above:  The Healing of Tobit, by Bernardo Strozzi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART IX

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Tobit 11:7-12:22

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Tobit had the money he needed.  He also had a new daughter-in-law (Sarah) and the restoration of his eyesight.  He did not expect these blessings.  Tobit, being pious, praised God at the top of his voice.  He, prepared to die, had new, better life.  Even Ahikar (1:21-22; 2:10) joined the celebration (11:18).

Tobias, assuming that his guide was a mere mortal, paid “Azarias” handsomely and attributed the success of the journey to him.  “Azarias,” really the archangel Raphael, gave all the credit to God then revealed his identity and departed.  I guess the dog did, too.  If the canine was also an angel in disguise, why not?

Anyway, the last mention of the dog occurs in 11:4.  The dog may indeed be a remnant from folklore.  The author of the Book of Tobit seems to have had little interest in the canine.

According to Judeo-Christian angelology, there are seven archangels (Tobit 12:15; 1 Enoch 20:1-8).  We have the names of all of them:

  1. Raphael (Tobit 3:16-17/18, depending on versification; Tobit 5-4-8:3); Tobit 9:1-6; Tobit 11:1-12:22; 1 Enoch 20:3);
  2. Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21; 1 Enoch 20:7; Luke 1:19, 26);
  3. Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; Daniel 12:1; 1 Enoch 20:5; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7);
  4. Uriel (2 Esdras 4:1; 2 Esdras 5:20; 2 Esdras 10:28);
  5. Raguel (1 Enoch 20:4);
  6. Saraqael (1 Enoch 20:6); and
  7. Suruel (1 Enoch 20:2).

A Greek fragment of 1 Enoch adds another name:  Remiel, perhaps an alternative name for Uriel, and definitely not an alternative name for any of the other six archangels.

In the story, Raphael insisted that he was merely performing God’s bidding, so God deserved all the praise and glory.  The angel, who could not exist apart from God, was an agent of God.

May we also be agents of God, by grace.  And may we glorify God, not ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBURG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF SOPHIE KOULOMZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR

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This is post #2400 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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The Birth and Consecration of Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Before Eli

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART II

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1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

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I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

–Psalm 9:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Hannah’s culture, infertility was a curse and a source of humiliation for women.  Several Biblical authors wrote of formerly barren women, including Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mother of Samson, as well as Hannah.  (See Genesis 21:1-8; Genesis 25:19-26;l Genesis 30:1-2, 22-24); and Judges 13:2-3, also.)  In each case, the offspring entered the world with a divine purpose.  Samuel, in particular, provided moral guidance to his people.  Many people ignored him, but he continued to offer the moral advice.

Elkanah, despite being a kind man and a loving husband, seems to have been oblivious to the bad blood between Hannah and Peninnah.  He favored Hannah (“charming” or “attractive”) and had children with Peninnah (“fertile” or “prolific”).  The double portion of the sacrifice Elkanah gave to Hannah contrasted with the portions he gave to Peninnah, his sons, and his daughters with her.

Hannah was pious.  Her manner of prayer at Shiloh was unusual; moving one’s lips yet not speaking was a rare method of praying in that culture at the time.  The priest Eli mistook her desperation and her way of praying for intoxication.

Hannah asked.  God granted.  Hannah kept her word.

Grace is the foundation of this story.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it carries obligations.  Grace also transforms despair into thanksgiving and creates a better future out of a bleak present.

The Song of Hannah (2:1-10) is a later text.  It mentions a king in verse.  That reference to a monarch cannot be contemporary with Hannah, whose lifetime preceded the Israelite monarchy.  The themes fit her circumstances, though.  And, if the text reminds you, O reader, of another song, you may be thinking of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), modeled on the Song of Hannah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Collective Sins   3 comments

Above:  Gleaners Beating Out Their Sheaves, Palestine, 1938

Photographer = John David Whiting

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-03080

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For the First Sunday Before Lent, Year 1

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

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

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O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth;

send thy Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues,

without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee.

Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 141

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

Psalm 23

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Luke 1:18-31

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God loves us, we read.  God cares about us, we hear.  Only goodness and kindness will either attend or pursue us in Psalm 23, depending on the translation.  Our enemies must watch, powerless, as we feast in a divine banquet.

Grace descends.  It is free yet not cheap.  Grace demands that we extend love and respect to God and each other.  The Law of Moses contains much practical, usually culturally-specific guidance about how to do that.  How might we find new practical examples in our contexts?

The instructions in Leviticus 19:1-18 contain guidance about how to treat God and each other.  The two are inseparable.  How can we love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love people, whom we can see?  The commandments call for reverence for God and justice for people, especially parents, the poor, the hungry, the deaf, the blind, and anyone who is vulnerable, powerless, or less powerful.  Exploitation is not an option in Leviticus 19:1-18.

Challenges to living according to this high standard are different to overcome.  Sin is not just a personal matter.  No, it is also a societal and an institutional problem.  Sinful institutions and societies restrict the non-sinful options of their members, even the most pious ones.  Who makes our clothes and towels, and under what circumstances, for example?  And what about our beloved devices, some of them essential to our lives and the world?  Checking out of a society built on cheap labor is not easy and rarely feasible.  As we go about our days, trying to do good work and pay bills, we find that our time to care about who made our towels in a foreign sweatshop is scarce.  Our societies make us complicit in collective sins.

Only God can save the world by replacing the corrupt world order built on violence and exploitation.  We can, however, do something, even if only a little.  We can make ethical shopping choices when possible.  We, as members of society, can improve it by changing our minds and acting accordingly.

It is something, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Pointing Toward Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 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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Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy power, and come,

with great might to succor us, that by the help of thy grace

whatsoever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished,

through thy mercy and satisfaction;

who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

ever, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 111

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-12

Luke 1:59-80

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Before I get to my main point, two assigned passages call out for elucidation.

  1. The literal translation of the line from Psalm 8 is, “a little lower than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  The “gods,” or elohim, in Hebrew, are members of YHWH’s heavenly court.
  2. Isaiah 9:2-7 speaks of the ideal Davidic king.  Perhaps the original monarch was Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.).  The description fits Jesus better.

The juxtaposition of Luke 1:59-80 and Hebrews 12:1-12 may seem odd at first.  Upon reflection, however, its purpose becomes clear and plain.  This juxtaposition functions as a reminder of the purpose behind the Incarnation:  the Atonement, via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  One may recall that Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into the Christmas Oratorio.  We are correct to rejoice during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, but one must not stop there.  No, we need to follow Jesus to Calvary then to an empty tomb, too.

We read foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus in the lesson from Luke 1.  Do we not know the fat that befell St. John the Baptist?

What then will this child become?

–Luke 1:66b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

A question for each of us is,

What then will I become?

May all of us become agents of God whenever and wherever we are.  We cannot, temporally, be forerunners of Jesus.  We can, however, point to him, as St. John the Baptist did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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Feeling Uncomfortable   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

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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Micah 5:1-5

Luke 1:46-56

Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent is, appropriately, a time to focus on the Messiah.  As I wrote in the previous post, Zephaniah 3:14-20 is not a messianic prophecy.  Micah 5:105 is, however.

The Magnificat is a beautiful and a familiar text.  Perhaps the main problem one has when reading a familiar text is going on autopilot.  I challenge you, O reader, as much as I challenge myself, to resist that temptation.  Read the Magnificat again, with eyes as fresh as possible.  Consider the theme of reversal of fortune; that theme is prominent in the Gospel of Luke.  Does that portrayal of God make you uncomfortable?  Does it challenge any of your values?

The Magnificat is one of the texts that remind me of an observation I read on the back of a church bulletin years ago:

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

That description applies to the Gospel of Luke.

Then turn with me, O reader, to Hebrews 10:5-10, usually a text for Good Friday.  One may recall that the Passion Chorale is present in the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Reading Hebrews 10:5-10 on this Sunday and hearing Hans Leo Hassler‘s Passion Chorale in the Season of Christmas reminds us of why the Incarnation occurred.

That becomes very uncomfortable quite quickly.  If we find it uncomfortable, we need to consider how Jesus felt on the cross.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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