Archive for the ‘Mark 3’ Category

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part II   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

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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Job 33:1-33

Psalm 34:11-18

Matthew 12:1-21 or Mark 3:7-19 or Luke 6:1-16

Hebrews 12:(1-3) 4-17

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When the righteous cry for help,

the LORD hears,

and rescues them from all their troubles.

–Psalm 34:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The speeches of Job in most of the Book of Job say otherwise.

Elihu, sounding pious and spouting a mix of truth and bad theology, blames the victim in Job 33.  Job must be suffering because of a sin, Elihu is certain.  Elihu is correct that

God does not fit man’s measure.

–Verse 12b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Nevertheless, Elihu fails to recognize that God does not fit his measure.  Spiritual discipline by God is a reality, of course, but it does not explain all suffering.

One can quite easily become fixated on a set of rules and fail to recognize that they do not describe how God works.  For example, keeping the Sabbath is a healthy spiritual exercise.  It is properly an indication of freedom.  It is properly a gift.  It is properly a form of recognition of the necessity of rest.  It is improperly an occasion of legalism, such as in the cases of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and of he and his Apostles picking corn and grain on that day.  They did have to eat, did they not?  And did the man with the withered hand deserve to wait another day to receive his healing?

That healing on the Sabbath, according to all three accounts of it, prompted some of our Lord and Savior’s critics to plot his death.  Luke 6:11 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) reports that they were “filled with fury.”

Compassion is a timeless spiritual virtue, one frequently sacrificed on the altars of legalism and psychological defensiveness.  To be compassionate is better than to seek to sin an argument or to destroy one’s adversary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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Posted September 8, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 12, Job III: 32-37, Luke 6, Mark 3, Matthew 12, Psalm 34

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Burden-Bearing Community   1 comment

Crucifix I July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes, July 15, 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 6:1-13

Psalm 102:12-28

Mark 3:7-12

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The days of my life are like a lengthening shadow:

though I am withering away like grass

You remain, LORD, for ever:

succeeding generations will be reminded of you.

–Psalm 102:12-13, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)

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Today we have readings about two men–one fictional, the other real–who suffered, but not for any sin they had committed.

The titular character of the Book of Job was righteous.  He suffered because God permitted it as a test of loyalty.  Job’s alleged friends defended their orthodoxy, which held that Job must be suffering for a sin or sins he had committed, for God, being just, would never let an innocent person suffer.  They blamed a victim and even gloated as he suffered.  After Eliphaz the Temanite stated that a righteous person’s merit can shield him or her from harm, Job said:

…What strength have I, that I should endure?

How long have I to live, that I should be patient?

–6:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jesus had made deadly enemies as early as Mark 3:6.  (His offense had been to heal on the Sabbath.)  Throngs of people seeking healing pursued him, pressed upon him, and caused him great physical stress.  At least Jesus had Apostles to prepare a getaway boat.  But he still died at the hands of powerful political enemies.  Fortunately, there was also the Resurrection.

A few weeks ago I heard a new (to me, anyway) take on the statement that God will never give us more to bear than we can handle.  An individualistic understanding of that statement is erroneous, for we exist in spiritual community.  Thus God will not impose a burden too heavy for the community to bear.  This is about “we,” not “me.”  May we support each other and not be like Job’s alleged friends.  And there is more:  we have the merits of Christ.  That merit is sufficient, although it has not protected martyrs from harm.  The message I take away from that fact is that safety is not necessarily part of God’s promise to the faithful.  God will, however, be present with them.  How is that for burden-sharing community?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Call of God, Part IV   1 comment

Jesus and His Apostles

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 46

Mark 3:13-19a

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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One understanding of divine wisdom in the Bible is that it became part and parcel of Jesus, the incarnated Logos of God, per John 1.  That thought fills my mind as I read from Proverbs 8.  The cry to all humankind filled the preaching of Christ’s Apostles.  It echoes down the corridors of time.

I wonder how many of those men would have followed Jesus had they known what awaited them.  One became disappointed in Jesus, whom he betrayed before committing suicide.  Ten became martyrs.  The twelfth lived to a ripe old age and died in exile.  Will we also follow Jesus?  Will we become disappointed in him then betray him somehow also?  Might we face danger and perhaps die for the faith we profess?  If we knew what awaited us from the beginning of our walk with Christ, would we have accepted the invitation?

Sometimes wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible promises prosperity as a reward for faithfulness to God.  Such passages lead to Prosperity Theology, a heresy.  Often, actually, fidelity to God leads to hardship.  As Proverbs 8, verse 19 states that the fruits of wisdom are superior to fine gold and verse 21 says that any financial reward for faithfulness will be honest wealth.  There is an offset to Prosperity Theology in that pericope.

May we follow God in Christ wherever the path leads.  If we become disappointed, may we realize that the fault resides within us, not God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 23, 2014 by neatnik2009 in John 1, Mark 3, Proverbs 8

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Mother Mary   Leave a comment

Mary Figurine January 19, 2014

Above:  A Mary Figurine, January 19, 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

All images in this post come from the camera which is part of my laptop computer.

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Yesterday a certain thought occurred to me.  I enjoy writing,  so why not use the camera in my laptop computer and take some pictures to use as prompts for poems?  Some of those texts have proven appropriate for BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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Mother Mary, whose soul magnifies

the Lord, who treads the adder,

who reigns as Queen of Heaven,

you I thank whenever I rise

and think of the love of the Father

evident in Christ’s incarnation.

Mary Icon January 19, 2014

Mother Mary, your faithfulness

and strength I do ponder,

for you raised a unique Son.

That must have been a great mess

at time, but, based on the Master,

you did indeed get the job done.

Mary Picture January 19, 2014

Mother Mary, if you did not always

understand Jesus, we join your

company, for all of us in that

sometimes falter; he does us faze,

for we think that we know more

than we do; our answers are inadequate

Mary Statue January 19, 2014

much of the time; the truth exceeds

the bounds of our imaginations often;

reality proves more wonderful than

that which we ponder, of which we read.

The glory of God we ought not soften

or minimize; it we cannot fully understand.

Mary Wall Hanging January 19, 2014

Mother Mary, whom God did choose

for a life and mission most special

and full of great joy, risk, and sorrow,

may we, learning from you, never lose

the desire to love Jesus, of splendor full,

and him forevermore to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER, U.S. STATESMAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY OF UPPSALA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT WULFSTAN OF WORCESTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Posted January 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Luke 2, Luke 8, Mark 3, Matthew 1, Matthew 12, Matthew 2

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Genesis and Mark, Part VII: God and Crises   1 comment

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Above:  The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge, by Thomas Cole

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 7:11-8:12

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Mark 3:20-35

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 7-8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/proper-5-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-for-tuesday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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The world of early Genesis mythology was a flat with a dome on top.  There were waters beneath the land and there were waters above the dome.  Thus, in 7:11b (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures), we read:

And the fountains of the great deep burst apart,

And the floodgates of the sky broke open.

As Richard Elliott Friedman wrote of the flood on page 38 of his Commentary on the Torah (2001),

It is more than ordinary rain.  It is a cosmic crisis, in which the very structure of the universe is endangered.

Meanwhile,  in Mark 3, some of our Lord’s relatives think that he might be out of his mind.  Parts I and II of this story bracket an allegation by some scribes that Jesus is in league with Satan. This is how the author the the Gospel of Mark presents the material.  So, in Mark, Jesus has to contend with disbelief by scribes and

his mother and his brothers (verse 31, The New Jerusalem Bible)

In the Gospel of Mark our Lord’s true identity is apparent to demons, God, and himself–yet not to his family members and to his Apostles–that is, until his death.  Wilhelm Wrede, in Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien (1901), called this the Messianic Secret.  (There was much more to his hypothesis, of course, but I will not chase that rabbit here and now.)  In contrast, in the Gospel of John, there is no secret.  In Mark, Jesus tells people he has healed to say nothing.  (They disobey, of course.)  Yet, in John, he never tries to conceal anything.  The Markan premise makes sense to me, for it fits well with human relationships.  We have blind spots regarding people who are very close to us, do we not?  Often a stranger has more insight than does a friend, a relative, or an associate.

Anyhow, on to my main point..

In Genesis the world itself was in danger.  The only protection for the intended survivors came from God.  Certainly the boxy boat was not much compared to the water.  And, in Mark our Lord’s personal world was in turmoil.  Even worse, his life had been at risk since 3:6.

The Pharisees went out and began at once to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

Even the life of the incarnate Son of God was endangered.

Such passages and themes of scripture cause me to wonder how anyone can, with a straight face, defend Prosperity Theology.   Not only does the Book of Job raise questions regarding it, but the life of Christ and those of he Apostles (including Paul) disprove it.  Furthermore, what about almost two thousand years of Christian martyrs?  And there is the matter of the suffering prophets of God.  But Jesus, Paul, and others knew that God was in charge.  So, when one’s world is falling apart, God is still in charge.

That is a lesson worth taking to heart.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

 THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/devotion-for-the-sixth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part VI: Survival in God   1 comment

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Above:  Noah’s Ark, by Edward Hicks

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-7:5

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Mark 3:1-19

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6-7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Mark 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/week-of-2-epiphany-friday-week-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/prayer-for-monday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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Before I got to my main point I choose to geek out regarding the Hebrew text.  We have part of the familiar tale of Noah’ Ark.  It is a composite from various sources; I checked Richard Elliott Friedman’s The Bible with Sources Revealed:  A New View Into the Five Books of Moses (2003) to see his color-coding scheme.  But one does not need that book to notice two sets of instructions regarding how many animals to take into the Art:  in 6:9-22 and 7:2-4.

I needed commentaries to explain that “Noah” in Hebrew is “favor” spelled backwards.  Thus 6:8, which reads

But Noah found favor with the LORD  (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

contains a wordplay.  And, as Professor Friedman explains in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), it is one of six wordplays on “Noah.”  The others are found in 5:29, 6:6, 6:7, 8:4, and 8:21.

A further piece of information comes from The Jewish Study Bible (page 21).  The Hebrew word translated “ark” appears in this story and in one other place:  Exodus 2.  There the mother of Moses places her son in an ark (there translated as “basket.”  The Jewish Study Bible note on pages 21-22 tells me that

Noah foreshadows Moses, even as Moses, removed from the water, foreshadows the people Israel, whom he leads to safety through the death-dealing sea that drowns their oppressors (Exodus 14-15).  The great biblical tale of redemption occurs first in a shorter, universal form, then in a longer, particularistic one.

Everett Fox, in a note on page 33 of Genesis and Exodus:  A New English Rendition, explains further:

God, not human engineering, is the source of survival in the story.

I have no interest in engaging in pointless argument at the moment.  We are reading mythology of the highest order.  Mythology of such variety teaches transcendent truth while not being literally true.  There it is.  Accept it.  Deal with it.  Accept science for all its great value.  And accept mythology for its worth.  But do not try to turn a myth into a scientific historical account.

No, I do not want to quarrel.  Rather, I seek to pursue a line of reasoning based on the essence of the flood myth, in the words of Everett Fox:

God, not human engineering, is the source of survival in the story.

God has always been the source of survival.  The man with the withered hand found God via Jesus to be the source of his future means of survival.  May we, unlike the Pharisees and Herodians of Mark 3, not quarrel with God’s methods and timing.

This is a difficult task for many people.  (I count myself among them.)  Although I seldom argue with divine tactics in my life, timing is a different matter.  The methods by which God has provided survival have surprised me often, but I tend to accept them as such.  But could they not occur sooner?  I am not alone in this spiritual state, am I?  Of course not!

So I have a spiritual problem to which I seek resolution.  It is an opportunity for growth and learning, not a reason for condemnation.  And you, O reader, have your own spiritual problems, just as I have mine.  May you seek and find resolution via God.  And may the journey to that resolution be an occasion for spiritual joy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITION OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP, AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Donatism of a Sort   1 comment

Above:  The Divided Monarchy

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

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1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

During that time Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem went out of Jerusalem and the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh met him on the way.  He had put on a new robe; and when the two were alone in the open country, Ahijah took hold of the new robe he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces.

Take ten pieces,

he said to Jeroboam.

For thus said the the LORD, the God of Israel:  I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands, and I will give you ten tribes.  But one tribe shall remain his–for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel….

Solomon dies and Rehoboam succeeds him and maintains and makes more severe his policies regarding “the harsh labor and the heavy yoke,” per 12:4 and 12:11

Thus Israel revolted against the House of David, as is still the case.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Partial Chronology:

Reign of Solomon, a.k.a. Jedidiah or Yedidiah, King of (united) Israel = 968-928 B.C.E.

Reign of Rehoboam, King of Judah (southern kingdom) = 928-911 B.C.E.

Reign of Jeroboam I, King of Israel (northern kingdom) = 928-907 B.C.E.

Reign of Hoshea, last King of Israel = 732-722 B.C.E.

Reign of Zedekiah (Mattaniah), last King of Judah = 597-586 B.C.E.

–courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible, page 2111

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“What,” [King Rehoboam] asked [the elders who had served his father Solomon], “do you advise that we reply to the people who said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father placed upon us’?”  And the young men who had grown up with him answered, “Speak thus to the people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now make it lighter for us.’  Say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins.  My father imposed a heavy yoke on you, and I will add to your yoke; my father flogged you with whips, but I will flog  you with scorpions.’”

–1 Kings 12:9-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Rehoboam obeyed that advice, to the detriment of his kingdom, which sundered during a predictable and predicted rebellion.  The leader of that uprising was Jeroboam, a former underling (in charge of forced labor in the House of Joseph–1 Kings 11:28) of Solomon who had been living in exile in Egypt.  There was popular support for Jeroboam, soon to become King Jeroboam I, but there might also have been Pharonic support, for Egypt attacked Rehoboam’s Judah but not Jeroboam’s Israel.  And, during the dueling reigns of Rehoboam and Jeroboam I, the two Jewish kingdoms were openly hostile to each other, fighting a war.

The text lays much of the responsibility for this state of affairs upon Solomon, but does not let Rehoboam off the hook either.  The new monarch of the House of David could have done as his people asked of him, but he chose not to do so.  For the best explanation of what happened immediately after the death of Solomon I turn to Voltaire:

Injustice in the end produces independence.

And, with two Jewish kingdoms, where there used to be one, fighting among themselves off and on, it became easier for foreign and more powerful powers to play them off each other and subdue and conquer them.

None of this had to happen.  It occurred because people in positions of power made certain decisions, which had consequences.  As the Gospel of Mark quotes Jesus in a different context,

…If a kingdom is divided against itself, then that kingdom cannot last…. (Mark 3:24, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972)

There is an obvious lesson here for leaders of nations, regardless of geography, timeframe, or political persuasion.  But what ought the rest of us learn from it?  What can we take away from it and apply in our public lives?

I am a student of ecclesiastical history.  In ancient Church history I point to the Donatist controversy, which divided northern African Christianity from the time following the Diocletian persecution to the spread of Islam. Beginning in the early 300s, there was a raging and divisive question:  Should the Church have forgiven and readmitted to its fellowship those who had repented of buckling under the harsh Diocletian persecution?  They had managed to avoid suffering by renouncing their faith.  The Roman Church, being in the forgiveness business, accepted heartfelt confessions.  This did not satisfy the holier-than-thou Donatists, however, so they broke away.  The Donatist schism persisted long after the original cause, weakening Christianity in that part of the world.

Modern-day Donatists of various types are with us today.  Every time some group breaks away to the ideological right (Church schisms are usually to the right.), there is Donatism of a sort.  Every time an exclusionary message leads to a denominational or congregational split, one sees evidence of Donatism of a sort.  Donatism in any age is that message which says, “Those people are not pure enough to be part of my church, for they are too lax.”  In the context of the Civil Rights Era U.S. South, some white congregations chose to exclude African Americans from membership.  That was also Donatism.  ”Those people are not pure enough to be part of my church, for they are not white.”  There should be standards in the church, of course, but there is no way for loving Christian discipline to coexist with a holier-than-thou attitude.  And there should never be room for racism in the Church.

The Church is stronger when it is relatively unified, maintaining a balanced discipline while remaining in the forgiveness business.  We Christians have much work to do:  people to visit, feed, clothe, convert, and disciple.  This work is more than sufficient to keep us busy.  So I must conclude that, when we find the time to argue about issues Jesus never addressed, we are falling down on our jobs.  When we become so concerned about being theologically correct that we choose not to accept sincere confessions of sin and to forgive others, we have gone wrong.  Did not Jesus associate in public with disreputable and repentant people?

Here are the probing questions with which I leave you, and which only you, O reader, can answer:  Are you a Donatist?  If yes, what will you do about that?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST ENGLISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITING CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FISHER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROCHESTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/week-of-5-epiphany-friday-year-2/

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