Archive for the ‘Luke 21’ Category

Judgment, Mercy, Hope, and Repentance   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

Jeremiah 32:36-44

Psalm 119:73-80

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

John 7:53-8:11

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

Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 32:36-44, for example, we read that the Babylonian Exile will come yet will also end.  The author of Psalm 119 understands that God, whom he trusts, has humbled him.  In 2 Corinthians 1 the emphasis is on mercy, via Christ.

Judgment and mercy also coexist in John 7:53-8:11, a frequently misunderstood and subtle passage with some ambiguity.  It has been part of the Johannine Gospel since the 200s and is actually of Synoptic origin–probably from the Gospel of Luke.  It flows naturally in some manuscripts from Luke 21:37-38 and into Luke 22.  John 7:53-8:11 us a free-floating pericope; I treat it as such.  Indeed, one can skip over it, reading 7:52 then 8:12, and not miss a beat.

Certain religious leaders set a trap for Jesus.  This was quite a pastime in the canonical Gospels.  These particular officials, in setting this trap, violated the Law of Moses.  First, the man and woman involved in adultery were subject to the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).  Where was the man?  Second, there were supposed to be witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).  The Roman authorities had deprived the Jewish authorities of the right to execute under the Law of Moses (John 18:31), so there was probably a political element to the trap–Rome or Torah?  (Those who set the trap were Roman collaborators.)  Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, recognized the trap for what it was.  He reversed the trap.  What did he write with his finger?  Some Patristic exegetes suggested Jeremiah 17:13:

LORD, on whom Israel’s hope is fixed,

all who reject you will be put to shame,

those who forsake you will be inscribed in the dust,

for they have rejected the source of living water, the LORD.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

But we cannot be sure.

Also, the witnesses were to be the first to stone the adulteress (Deuteronomy 17:7):

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

–John 8:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The woman’s accuser, of course, left the scene.  Jesus, instead of condemning her, instructed her to repent.

Then, if we accept the Lukan placement of the pericope, the chief priests and scribes plotted the death of Jess that fateful Passover week.

(Aside:  I have heard a Roman Catholic joke based on the pericope.  After John 8:11 Jesus and the woman were standing together.  Then a stone came, seemingly from nowhere.  Jesus exclaimed, “O, mother!”)

In God exists judgment and mercy.  Mercy includes opportunities to repent–to turn one’s back on sin.  God likes repentance, I keep reading in the Bible.  There is hope in repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

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

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/devotion-for-proper-19-ackerman/

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

The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part III   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32:40 or Isaiah 65:10-16 (17-25) or Ezekiel 7:(1-9) 10-27 or Zechariah 14:(1-3) 4-9 (10-21)

Psalm 50:(7-8) 9-21 (22-23) or Psalm 105:(1-6) 12-15 (26) 27-36 (37, 43-45)

Matthew 24:15-22 or Mark 13:14-20 or Luke 21:20-24

1 Corinthians 10:(14-17) 18-11:1

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

The ominous tone of judgment hangs over the readings for this Sunday.  How dare those who have witnessed the power and the mercy of God disregard Him?  Yet we find mercy combined with judgment.  Besides apocalyptic destruction of the corrupt human order, based on violence and exploitation, precedes the establishment of God’s new order on Earth.

I think it important to point out that offenses in the readings are not just personal peccadilloes.  Social injustice is a recurring theme in apocalyptic literature, which therefore emphasizes institutionalized sins.  The pericope from 1 Corinthians reminds us of the truth that whatever we do affects other people.  We should therefore act according to the moral obligation to consider the scruples of others.  I propose that this is a fine principle one can take too far, for, if we become too sensitive regarding the scruples of others, we will do little or nothing, certainly little or nothing good.  The guiding principle (from 10:31) is to behave for the glory of God.

There is no sin in glorifying God and effecting the common good.  There is no sin in not exploiting anyone.  There is no sin in loving one’s neighbors and recognizing one’s obligations to them in the societal web of interdependence.  There is no sin in making love the rule of life (2 John 5b-6).

Doing so does not prompt the judgment of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

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

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

Adapted from this post:

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

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

Freedom in God   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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

The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 17:1-5 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 21:10-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 12 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Tuesday)

Luke 20:45-21:4 (Wednesday)

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

“Because the needy are oppressed,

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

–Psalm 12:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

Justice done is a joy to the righteous,

To evildoers, ruination.

–Proverbs 21:15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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

He who mocks the poor affronts his Maker;

He who rejoices over another’s misfortune will not go unpunished.

–Proverbs 17:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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

If the reading from Luke 20 and 21 seems familiar, O reader who has also read the last few posts attentively, it is.  That pericope is, in fact, a retelling of Mark 12:38-44.  My comments about the story of the widow’s mite remain unchanged.

As for the reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in Chapter 9 that our freedom in God is for the purposes of God–not to glorify oneself or to obstruct or ignore God.  As my Presbyterian brethren state correctly, the chief and highest end of people is to glorify and enjoy God forever.  How we treat our fellow human beings, especially those who are vulnerable, is telling.  Whenever we help them, we help Jesus.  Whenever we do not help them, we do not help Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).

How do you, O reader, use your freedom in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Two Killings   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod--James Tissot

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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

The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 118:26-29

Psalm 27

Matthew 23:37-39

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

Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

–Psalm 27:7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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

Psalm 118 is a song of praise to God after a military victory.  Literary echoes of the text are apparent in the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Consider this verse, O reader:

Blessed be who enters in the name of Yahweh,

we bless you in the house of Yahweh.

–Psalm 118:26, The Anchor Bible:  Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), by Mitchell Dahood, S.J.

That allusion fits well, for, when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he did so not as a conquering hero but as one who had conquered and who was en route to the peace talks.  A victorious monarch rode a beast of burden to the negotiations for peace.  Jesus resembled a messianic figure who had won a battle.  He was not being subtle, nor should he have been.

The tone of the assigned reading from Matthew 23 fits the tone of the verse from Psalm 27 better, however.  Psalm 27 consists of two quite different poems with distinct tenors.  Part I is happy and confident, but Part II comes from a place of concern and a context of peril.  The latter distinction is consistent with Christ’s circumstances between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or seeker-sensitive Jesus.  That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed.  His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground.  He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt. 19:14; cf. Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16).  The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort.  He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach.  This Jesus’s hair is untamed.  His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle.  His face and neck are reddened by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused.  There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 39; cf. 23:16).  His message ends not with a head pat to a child and an aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).

When you finish reading Jesus’s tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath.  Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reassess wholesale their idea of Jesus.  At the very least, we can point to the text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.

–Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite:  The Origins of the Conflict (2014), page 5

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

You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters!  Damn you!

–Matthew 23:29a, The Complete Gospels:  Annotated Scholars Version (1994)

Literary context matters.  Immediately prior to Matthew 23:37-39, the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, our Lord and Savior, having engaged in verbal confrontations with religious authorities, denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, power plays, impiety, violence, and inner impurity.  Immediately after Matthew 23:37-39 comes Matthew 24, in which Christ speaks apocalyptically, as in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  (The order of some of the material differs from one Synoptic Gospel to another, but these are obviously accounts of the same discourse.)  Jesus is about to suffer and die.

Matthew 23:34-39 echoes 2 Chronicles 24:17-25.  In 2 Chronicles 24 King Joash/Jehoash of Judah (reigned 837-800 B.C.E.), having fallen into apostasy and idolatry, orders the execution (by stoning) of one Zechariah, son of the late priest Jehoiada.  Zechariah’s offense was to confront the monarch regarding his apostasy and idolatry.  The priest’s dying wish is

May the LORD see and avenge!

–2 Chronicles 24:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theology of the narrative holds that God saw and avenged, given the subsequent killing of Joash/Jehoash by servants.

A contrast between that story and the crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear.  Never does Jesus say

May the LORD see and avenge!

or anything similar to it.  One cannot find Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for the crown and those who crucified him in Matthew or Mark, but one can locate it at Luke 23:34, which portrays him as a righteous sufferer, such as the author of Part II of Psalm 27.

The example of Jesus has always been difficult to emulate.  That example is, in fact, frequently counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Love your enemies?  Bless those who persecute you?  Take up your cross?  Really, yes.  It is possible via grace.  I know the difficulty of Christian discipleship.  It is a path I have chosen, from which I have strayed, and to which I have returned.  The goal is faithfulness, not perfection.  We are, after all, imperfect.  But we can do better, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Difficult Questions   1 comment

Question Mark

Above:  Question Mark

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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

The Assigned Readings:

Job 1:1-22

Psalm 17

Luke 21:34-22:6

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

The assigned readings for this day present a composite picture of dire circumstances.

The Lukan Apocalypse, set immediately prior to the execution of Christ, advises spiritual vigilance for the return of the Son of Man, that is Jesus.  (“Son of Man” is an apocalyptic term in the Bible.)  Goodness does not spare Jesus from the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, however.

In the Book of Job God permits the titular character to suffer as part of a wager with the Adversary (the Satan), still one of God’s employees, according to the theology of the time.  One might imagine that the author of Psalm 17 was thinking of Job when he wrote that short poem.  Certainly the tone of Psalm 17 is consistent with Job’s speeches.

Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

–Psalm 17:1-2, Common Worship (2000)

Feel-good religion fails to deal properly with such circumstances.  Easy answers prove inadequate when the questions are difficult.  Human inadequacy becomes obvious and the need to rely on divine sufficiency becomes clear.  But what if one understands God to be at least partially responsible for one’s troubles?  I offer no easy answers, for the questions are difficult.  I do, however, embrace the wonderful Jewish practice of arguing with God faithfully.  It recurs throughout the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Posted November 13, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Job 1, Luke 21, Luke 22, Psalm 17

Tagged with ,

Leaving the World Better Than We Found It   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD —
a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above: The Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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

The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 9:6-15 (Thursday)

Nehemiah 9:16-25 (Friday)

Nehemiah 9:26-31 (Saturday)

Psalm 76 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (Friday)

Luke 21:20-24 (Saturday)

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

For all those who hope in you shall not be ashamed:

but only those who wantonly break faith.

–Psalm 25:2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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

One message from the Hebrew Bible is that God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them orders to live in a just society.  Yet, as prophets attested, rebellion against God became the norm, not the exception to the rule.  Consequences ensued and God showed both judgment and mercy to the Hebrews.

The Jews of Nehemiah 9 were returned exiles living in a province (a satrapy, technically) of the Persian Empire.  They were home, but circumstances did not live up to high expectations and they lived in a foreign empire.  Living under occupation remained the reality of Jews in Judea for most of the time during the following centuries.  In the time of Jesus of Nazareth the occupying power was the Roman Empire, against whom many Jews fought a war from 66 to 73 C.E.  The writing of the four canonical Gospels occurred in the context of the First Jewish War, shaping the telling of stories of Jesus.  Certainly that context influenced the understanding of Luke 21:20-24.  Jesus might have said something similar to those words, but the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. by Roman forces made that text poignant after the fact.

In 1 Thessalonians, which St. Paul the Apostle probably dictated circa 50 C.E., about four decades prior to the composition of the Gospel of Luke, apocalyptic expectations were alive and well.  Some members of that community either used the hope that Jesus would return quite soon as a reason or an excuse to refrain from good works and necessary, even mundane tasks.  The Apostle’s sage advice was to keep working.  That remains wise counsel, for Jesus has yet to return as of the writing of this sentence, and the necessities of life continue to exist.  Waiting for God to act is a poor excuse not to work for justice and to attempt to leave one’s corner of the world better than one found it.  The world might not resemble the best hopes for it, but that fact is a reason to continue working, not to become lazy or to give into apathy or hopelessness.  God will save the world, but we have a moral imperative to leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

 

Listening to God   1 comment

Silas Benjamin

Above:  God Speaking to King Silas Benjamin Through a Storm in New King, Part 2, the Final Episode of Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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

The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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

The Assigned Readings:

Job 37:1-13

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

Luke 21:25-28

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

Some went down to the sea in ships

and plied their trade in deep waters;

They beheld the works of the LORD

and his wonders in the deep.

Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,

which tossed high the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril.

they reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper

and quieted the waves of the sea.

Then they were glad because of the calm,

and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

Let them exalt him in the congregation of his people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

–Psalm 107:23-32, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

The imagery of the storm god, common in the ancient Near East, appears in the Bible.  We find this imagery in the three readings for today, in fact.  Elihu, speaking in Job 37, uses it.  Later, in Chapters 38-41, God speaks out of the tempest.  Psalm 107 (the reading from which I extended) describes a storm at sea.  And we read of natural disasters and of Jesus descending on a cloud in Luke 21.  (Cue “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,” everyone.)  The imagery of clouds associated with God is rich in the Bible, from the Book of Exodus to the Transfiguration, Ascension, and Second Coming of Jesus.  And, in the NBC series Kings (2009), based on stories of David and Saul yet set in contemporary times, God speaks to King Silas Benjamin (the Saul figure) from storm clouds.

Nevertheless, another passage of scripture comes to my mind.  In 1 Kings 19 the prophet Elijah is hiding from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who want to kill him.  God speaks to Elijah, but not from any storm or natural disaster:

The LORD was passing by:  a great and strong wind came, rending mountains and shattering rocks before him, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a faint murmuring sound.

–1 Kings 19:11b-12, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Then God spoke to Elijah.

I extended the reading from Psalm 107 to include the calmed waters of the sea because doing so works well with the reading from 1 Kings 19.

God does some of God’s best speaking in the quietness, I am convinced.  Certainly some occasions justify dramatic demonstrations, but we mere mortals will miss God’s still, small voice if we focus on God’s booming voice.  God speaks to us often via a range of channels, from the spectacular to the mundane.  My experience has taught me that God has spoken most profoundly to me in the silence and in the conversational speaking tones of people around me.  Sometimes God has whispered to me, but usually God has simply spoken to me.  Those messages have proven most spiritually helpful in my life.

I invite you, O reader, to make a habit of being quiet and listening for whatever God says to you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-7-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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