Archive for the ‘Luke 4’ Category

Denunciation of Pharisees and Lawyers   Leave a comment

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXIX

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

Luke 11:37-54

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

Jesus had made enemies, who observed him and attempted to entrap him in his words.

Leaving Gentile anti-Semitism and stereotypes of Judaism behind, let us–you, O reader, and I–consider that the meal and the concern for ritual purity existed in a cultural context.  Jesus, as a devout Jew, accepted the validity or ritual purity and impurity.  Christ’s holiness destroyed the causes of ritual impurity, though.

Without sounding like a Pietist (I am not one.), the focus on externals at the expense of spiritual depth is a legitimate criticism of many people, past, present, and future.

One Interpretation of the Lucan version of the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth (4:14-30) is that Jesus likened the villagers of Nazareth to persecutors of old.  That is precisely Jesus’s critique of his hosts in 11:37-54.  It is a critique that applies to many people today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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

The Identity of Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXIII

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

Luke 9:1-36

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

Who was Jesus?  That theme from Luke 8 continues in chapter 9.

St. Luke’s “orderly” account” is especially orderly in 9:1-36.  The question of Herod Antipas contrasts with the Confession of St. Peter and with the Transfiguration.  We read that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and consistent with the Law of Moses and the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  We read that Jesus was greater than Elijah.  We read that Jesus, who was the master of demons, gave mastery over them to his disciples.  We read that Jesus did feed people (see Luke 4:3-4).

Jesus is central.  The verses tell us of what he did and of what others did by the power of God.  However one may interpret feeding thousands of people with a small amount of food then having leftovers, the focus is on Jesus’s actions.  Attempts to rationalize these mass feedings by suggesting that people shared food they had brought with them shift the focus away from Jesus’s actions and miss the point.

A range of messianic interpretations existed within Second Temple Judaism.  (The Dead Sea Scrolls have discredited the old idea that one messianic interpretation was universal.  Nevertheless, that old idea has persisted, unfortunately.)  At the time of Christ, national deliverer was one of these hopes.  It was a common one, for understandable reasons.  The crucifixion was not part of most believers’ understanding of the Messiah’s role.  And the resurrection made sense only after the fact.

Taking up one’s cross–or having a cross to bear, alternatively–has become a trite statement.  “This must be my cross to bear,” one may say about an annoyance, for example.  In reality, though, taking up one’s cross indicates a reordering of priorities.  One should not seek self-fulfillment in indulging one’s ambitions and interests.  No, true fulfillment comes by loving self-sacrificially, as Jesus did.  How this plays out for each person may vary, according to circumstances.  If one is fortunate, one may not have to become a martyr.

Luke 8:27 makes sense if one interprets the Transfiguration (8:27-36) as fulfilling it, at least partially.  Otherwise, one must wrestle with objective reality.  Look around, O reader:  Do you see the fully-realized Kingdom of God around you?  I do not.  And I opt not to accept the easy answer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, CIRCA 351

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

Teaching and Healing in Capernaum   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins of Capernaum, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-10655

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART X

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

Luke 4:31-44

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

The influence of the Gospel of Mark is evident in these verses.  One may detect the Messianic Secret, a Marcan motif, when Jesus silenced “evil spirits” (whatever they were in modern categories).

I, educated in science, think differently than people did in Hellenistic times.  I have categories such as mental illness.  I know that schizophrenia and manic depression do not result from demonic possession, for example.  Having loved a woman who suffered from these mental illnesses until she died, I understand why people not educated in science thought demonic possession caused them.  Therefore, when I read of demons and evil spirits in the Bible, I often wonder what was happening.  Depending on the passage, I may not necessarily know if the cause was demonic or organic.  Or I may know that the cause was organic.

Thematically, Luke 4:31-44 follows the temptation story.  Satan has left Jesus until later, but the demons seem plentiful.

These verses also contrast with the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  We read that the reception of Jesus at Capernaum contrasted with that at his hometown.

Another interesting aspect of these verses is the indirect reference to the wife of St. Simon Peter.  Related to this matter is 1 Corinthians 9:5, in which St. Paul the Apostle mentioned that St. Simon Peter’s wife accompanied her husband on evangelistic travels.

Luke 4:31-44 speaks of the power of God working in Jesus–the power to heal the sick, teach authoritatively, and expel evil spirits.  The Gospel of Luke teaches that Jesus was powerful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR C

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

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth   Leave a comment

Above:  View of Nazareth (1842), by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART IX

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

Luke 4:14-30

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

Each of the Synoptic Gospels includes an account of the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  The three accounts are not identical, especially regarding when the audiences rejected Jesus.  In this post, I focus on the Lucan account.

The version in the Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as possessing not only the Holy Spirit (a Lucan motif) but scribal literacy, as well.   The Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as being able to read and to navigate a scroll that lacked chapter and verse numbers, and to find the passages he had in mind.  (That is impressive!)  The Jesus of Luke 4:18-19 read Isaiah 61:1-2 then Isaiah 58:6.  (That is even more impressive!)  Scribal literacy required much advanced education.  Many scholars of the New Testament have debated how realistic this depiction of Jesus is.

That is a valid question, but not one I feel qualified to address conclusively.  I would not be surprised to learn that St. Luke possessed scribal literacy, though.

The point of rejection in Luke 4:28 was Jesus citing divine blessings on Gentiles from the Hebrew Bible.  What about this enraged the audience?

Interpretations vary:

  1. The rejection resulted from the villagers’ xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
  2. The rejection resulted from villagers resenting Jesus likening them to persecutors of old.
  3. The rejection resulted from Jesus’s refusal to provide his hometown with messianic blessings.

Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), reject (1) and propose (3).  They point out that Jews generally had positive relations with Gentiles and expected the redemption of righteous Gentiles (Zechariah 8:23).  That may be so.  However, I suppose that some Jews were ethnocentric and xenophobic.  I am a citizen of the United States of America, a nation with a strong tradition of welcoming immigrants and another strong tradition of practicing xenophobia and Nativism.  Jewish acceptance of righteous Gentiles (as elsewhere in the Gospel of Luke) need not rule out the ethnocentrism and xenophobia of certain Jews.  Likewise, neither Judaism nor Christianity are legalistic religions when people practice them properly.  Yet legalistic adherents, congregations, movements, and denominations of both religions exist.

The second interpretation on the list comes courtesy of Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (1981), 538.  That villagers resented Jesus likening them to persecutors of old may be accurate.  Hearing negative comparisons rooted in the uncomfortable past angers people in the present day.  In the United States of America, many White people continue to chafe against criticism of pro-slavery secessionists of 1861 while professing to reject race-based slavery, what Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens boasted in March 1861 was the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy.

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.

–William Faulkner

I also suggest that more than one motivation may have played out in the Lucan account.

Accepting the traditional Christian interpretation–xenophobia and ethnocentrism–need not lead one down the path of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism.  Bigotry is a defense mechanism against dealing with one’s faults and failings anyway.  Be honest with yourself, O reader.  Do you not categorize some groups of people as being undesirable?  If they were to receive extravagant grace, would you become enraged?  Grace is scandalous; it does not discriminate.

Alternatively, how much of your identity is bound up with your ancestors?  If you learn that they were total bastards, does that anger you and threaten your ego?  If so, why?  You are not your ancestors.  Recall the previous post in this series.  God should be the source of your identity.  You are one of the apples of God’s eyes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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

The Temptations of Christ in the Desert   1 comment

Above:  Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART VIII

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

Luke 4:1-13

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

The story of the tempting of Jesus in the desert is replete with meanings.  I cover some of them in this post.

The Lucan account begins with a reference to the Holy Spirit, a motif in Luke-Acts.

Forty is a symbolic number.  It is a round number that indicates a fairly long time in terms of human existence or endurance.  One may recall forty years–in the wilderness after the Exodus, the approximate length of King David’s reign, and the length of a generation.  One may also recall the forty days and forty nights of the mythical Great Flood, as well as the symbolic forty days between the resurrection and Ascension of Jesus in Acts 1.  (However, the resurrection and the Ascension occurred on the same day, according to Luke 24.)

Satan quoted scripture for his purposes.  Jesus quoted scripture in reply.

The Lucan treatment of this story fulfills four functions:

  1. To clarify the nature of Jesus’s work as the Son of God,
  2. To identify Jesus with the heritage of Israel (testing in the desert),
  3. To mirror the conflict of God’s reign with Satan’s reign, and
  4. To offer Christians a model for resisting temptation.

The temptation to turn a stone into bread has become the subject of competing interpretations:

  1. To be relevant,
  2. To exploit being the Son of God for his benefit,
  3. To express independence from God, and
  4. To perform a popular sign for the people.

This was a temptation with practical implications.  Jesus was hungry.  Also, bread was a precious commodity in a place where most land was not arable.  Turing stones into bread would have made Jesus popular, on the basis of what he could do for people.

In the first century C.E., Judaism affirmed that Satan was the power behind the great empires.  In that context, the temptation to gain worldly power by worshiping Satan fit, culturally.  This was the temptation to gain power by making improper compromises.  Yet Jesus affirmed God as the sole source of his identity.

The temptation to jump from the southwest corner of the Temple in Jerusalem was the temptation to be spectacular and to challenge God’s good faith.

I, as a historian, know better than to attempt to historicize the temptations of Jesus.  I do, however, apply them to myself and my society.  Little happens without compromises, so many compromises are necessary and proper.  Yet other compromises are wrong.  We need to be careful not to compromise ourselves, individually and collectively.  We also need to follow Jesus because of who he is and not because of what he can do for us.  And we should never challenge God’s good faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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

Posted December 25, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 1, Luke 24, Luke 4

Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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

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

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

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

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

The Healing of Naaman   Leave a comment

Above:  Naaman

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

PART LXXXIV

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

2 Kings 5:1-27

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

Pride was not created for men,

nor fierce anger for those born of women.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:18, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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

King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

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

Given that I have already covered various elements of this story in previous posts, I choose to:

  1. narrow the focus on this post, and
  2. refer you, O reader, to follow the tag “Naaman” and the category “2 Kings 5” for other comments on this story.

The Gospel of Luke, with its pro-Gentile theme, is unique among the canonical Gospels in having Jesus cite the healing of Naaman in the Rejection of Nazareth story (Luke 4:27).  In that version of a story also present in Matthew and Mark, the hometown crowd turned on Jesus after he made comments indicating divine openness to Gentiles.  (For the other canonical versions of the Rejection at Nazareth, read Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-58.)

Perhaps the most overlooked theme in 2 Kings 5 is the sanctity of the land of Israel.  This sanctity explains the sufficiency of the River Jordan and the insufficiency of the rivers in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Naaman concluded that he could worship the sole deity only on the sacred land, and never in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Elisha had no objection to Naaman worshiping in pagan temples in Aram after having professed faith in the one God, YHWH.

I am a monotheist–a Christian, to be precise.  I worship God, my understanding of whom depends heavily on Judaism.  I worship God in the State of Georgia, U.S.A., far from Israel.  I also live within walking distance of the local synagogue.  I feel confident in saying that the members of Congregation Children of Israel worship God in Athens, Georgia.  I detect a change in theology between the time of the original telling of 2 Kings 5 and much of the rest of the Bible, as well as between the time of the original telling of the story of the healing of Naaman and today, October 29, 2020.  If one accepts that God–YHWH, Adonai, El Shaddai, et cetera–regardless of the name one prefers to use–is the sole, universal deity, one may also accept that one can worship God from any geographical location.  God is not a tribal or national deity, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EASTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 1885

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMAUS HELDER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

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

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

PART LXXI

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

1 Kings 17:1-24

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

And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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

For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

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

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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

Rejecting Grace   Leave a comment

Above:  Nazareth, 1875

Image Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-14154

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

For the Sunday Next Before Advent, Year 1

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

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)

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

Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through 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), 236

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

Haggai 2:1-9

Psalms 149 and 150

Revelation 21:1-7

Luke 4:16-24

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

The glory of God is a major topic in the Bible.  Many of the Psalms deal with that subject.  Prophecies of the Day of the Lord/Parousia in both Testaments employ poetic imagery to describe the world order once the fully-realized Kingdom of God becomes reality on the planet.  Regardless of the full reality at which human poetry can only hint and imagination can never fully grasp, such descriptions do have an immediate function.  They cast the world as it is in a negative light, exposing how far short societies, institutions, norms, and governments fall, relative to divine standards.  The apocalyptic imagination is a moral and ethical imagination.

The Gospels contain two accounts of Christ’s rejection at Nazareth.  They are plainly two very similar yet slightly different versions of the same event.  The key difference from one account to the other is when the audience turns against Jesus.  In Matthew 13:54-58, it happens when Jesus speaks wisdom.  In that account, people respond by asking,

Where does he get this wisdom from, and these miraculous powers?  Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary, his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?  And are not all his sisters here with us?  Where then has he got all this from?

–Matthew 13:54-56, The New English Bible (1970)

In Luke 4:16-24, however, the turn toward hostility comes later, after verses 25-27.  Those verses are about God having mercy on Gentiles, including Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-27) and the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9-24).  Given that the original audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile, telling the story of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown this way makes sense.

The Lukan version of the rejection at Nazareth also challenges us to confront our provincialism.  I am a Gentile, so I like reading about divine graciousness to Gentiles.  Nevertheless, to be uncomfortably honest, I must admit that the reminder of divine generosity to certain people and populations can and sometimes does offend me.  You may resemble that remark, O reader.  If you do, you are not unusual.

All of us need reminders of how far short of divine standards we fall.  We may tell ourselves how kind and loving we are.  We may even be kind and loving.  Nevertheless, all of us can be kinder and more loving.  When God shows us how far short of that divine standard we fall, do we reject the message?  Or do we confess our sin, repent, and strive, by grace, to do better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

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

Sin and Individual Responsibility   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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

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)

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

We beseech thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation,

to arm us with the same mind that was in him toward all evil and sin;

and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline,

that our minds may be always ready to resist temptation,

and obey the direction of thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 146

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

Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 1:1-20

Luke 4:1-13

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

The mythology in Genesis 3 does not identify the snake with Satan, but subsequent tradition does.  There are traditions and there are traditions.  Some are trustworthy; others are not.  Anyhow, I suppose the framers of the old lectionary I am following in this series of posts sought to encourage reading the pericopes from Genesis 3 and Luke 4 as counterpoints.

Some points are worth noticing.

  1. Eve misquoted God (from Genesis 2:17) in 3:3.  Misquoting God creates an opening evil can exploit.
  2. Adam (unlike the author of Psalm 51, as well as St. Paul the Apostle) did not accept individual responsibility he rightfully owned.  No, he blamed Eve.  Many who misinterpret Genesis 3 still blame Eve.

Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Ignoring or minimizing one of the varieties of responsibility is not a virtue.  Neither is passing the buck.

I have written about the temptations of Jesus so much that I have nothing new to contribute.  Follow the appropriate tag, O reader, and read, if you desire to do so.  I do ask you, however, some germane questions:

  1. How many of us would, in the same weakened physical state, exasperated by hunger, resist the temptation to acquire food in a way we should not?
  2. How many of us, with our egos, would resist the temptation to glorify ourselves?
  3. How many of us would (if we have not done so already) serve anyone other than God, in hope of a reward in this life?

Each of us has the responsibility to resist temptations, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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