Archive for the ‘Matthew 22’ Category

Holiness, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Woodland Stream, by Alexander Demetrius Goltz

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 1

1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10

Matthew 22:34-40 (41-46)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity;

and, that we may obtain what your promise,

make us love what you command;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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Almighty God, we pray,

show your humble servants your mercy,

that we, who put no trust in our own merits,

may be dealt with not according to the severity of your judgment

but according to your mercy;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 87

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Holiness, in the Bible, pertains to separation from the profane/common (Leviticus 10:10; 1 Samuel 21:5-6; Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23; etc.).  Holiness is about complete devotion to God.  Holiness, however, is not about legalism, self-righteousness, and serial contrariness.  No, holiness is more about what it favors than what it opposes.

Holiness–in its proper sense–manifests itself in life:

  1. The Holiness code, as in Leviticus 19:1-37, includes honoring parents; keeping the sabbath; refraining from idolatry; offering a sacrifice of well-being properly; feeding the poor; dealing honestly with people; defrauding no one and stealing from nobody; not insulting the deaf; not placing a stumbling block before the blind; rendering impartial justice; loving one’s kinsman as oneself; not mixing different types of cattle, seeds, and cloth; refraining from sexual relations with a slave woman meant for another man; reserving the fruit of the food tree for God for the first three years; eating nothing with blood; avoiding divination and soothsaying; avoiding extreme expressions of grief and mourning; not forcing one’s daughter into harlotry; and eschewing necromancy.  Most of the items on this list are absent from the assigned portion of Leviticus 19.  Cultural contexts define them.
  2. “The man” (literal from the Hebrew text) is a student of the Torah.  He finds his stability in God, in contrast to the unstable scoffers.  When the scoffers find stability, they do not find it in God.
  3. Holiness is contagious in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10.
  4. Jesus knew the influence of Rabbi Hillel (Matthew 22:34-40).  Holiness manifests in how we treat each other.

In a dog-eat-dog world, more spiritually toxic since the advent of social media and internet comments sections one does well not to read, loving God fully and loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself (assuming that one loves oneself, of course) does separate one from the profane/common.  Holiness is love, not legalism.  Many particulars of holiness vary according to context, but the timeless principles remain constant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DAVID CHAMBERS, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HRYBORII KHOMYSHYN, SYMEON LUKACH, AND IVAN SLEZYUK, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS, 1947, 1964, AND 1973

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN KEMBLE AND JOHN WALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1679

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS PERCY, RICHARD KIRKMAN, AND WILLIAM LACEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1572 AND 1582

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Adapted from this post

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The Sovereignty of God VII   1 comment

Above:  Statue of Tiberius

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 45:1-7

Psalm 96

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5a

Matthew 22:15-21

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Almighty and everlasting God,

in Christ you revealed your glory among the nations. 

Preserve the works of your mercy,

that your Church throughout the world may persevere

with steadfast faith in the confession of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us

that we may continually be given to good works;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 86

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The Roman census tax of one denarius (a day’s wage for a laborer) per year reminded the people of their subjugation.  The denarius in the story from Matthew 22 bore the image of the emperor Tiberius, as well as the Latin inscription that translates as

Tiberius Caesar, Divine Son of Augustus.

The coin was a graven image, according to the Law of Moses.  When Jesus requested to see the coin and one of the Herodians produced it, Christ reversed the trap meant for him.  Jesus taught that God outranked Tiberius and deserved full allegiance.  It was a skillful answer that got him in trouble with nobody among the Romans, whose soldiers were watching the religious pilgrims filling Jerusalem ahead of Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  And those Jewish religious leaders could not dispute that God deserved complete allegiance.

Most Jews of the time assumed that, regardless of the name of the Roman emperor at any given moment, Satan was the power behind the throne.  Jesus taught that Tiberius, despite himself, had to answer to and worked for God.  That would have been news to Tiberius.

The assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible affirm the sovereignty of God, evident in nature, as well as in potentates, the moral characters of whom varied.  The Bible favors Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes, who ended the Babylonian Exile.  In fact, most Persian kings named in the Bible–except in that work of fiction called the Book of Esther–receive good press.

God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.  Some rulers and other people are consciously agents of God.  Others are agents of God despite themselves.  The sovereignty of God is sufficient reason to persevere in hope.  Writing the previous sentence is easier than fulfilling it.  I write during extraordinarily dark times.  Therefore, when I write about persevering in hope, I address myself first then everyone else second.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACCHAEUS, PENITENT TAX COLLECTOR AND ROMAN COLLABORATOR

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Adapted from this post

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Posted August 20, 2022 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 1, Isaiah 45, Matthew 22, Psalm 96

Three Banquets   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unworthy Wedding Guest, by Claes Corneliszaen Moeyaert

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 23

Philippians 4:4-13

Matthew 22:1-10 (11-14)

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Almighty God, source of every blessing,

your generous goodness comes to us anew every day. 

By the work of your Spirit,

lead us to acknowledge your goodness,

give thanks for your benefits,

and serve you in willing obedience; 

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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Enlighten our minds, we pray, O God,

by the Spirit who proceeds from you, 

that, as your Son has promised,

we may be led into all truth;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 85

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The eschatological banquet is a motif in the Bible.  It is a powerful image, given that (a) most people were poor, and (b) most land was not arable.  The eschatological banquet speaks of divine abundance.  Isaiah 25 comes from the great proto-apocalypse of Third Isaiah (see chapters 24-27).  The Parable of the Wedding Feast tells of God’s inclusiveness in inviting guests and of the dire consequences of attending without the “garment” of repentance of sins.  Psalm 23 depicts God as overpowering yet not destroying the Psalmist’s enemies, who must watch the banquet to which God has not invited them.

Philippians 4:8 meshes well with the theme of repentance, present in the parable:

Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire–with whatever is good and praiseworthy.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

That is a fine description of a metaphorical wedding garment.

Recall also, O reader, that in Psalm 23, only goodness and mercy pursue or accompany (depending on the translation) the Psalmist.  The enemies cannot keep up with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS III, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF BLAISE PASCAL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCIENTIST, MATHEMATICIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF GEERT GROOTE, FOUNDER OF THE BRETHREN OF THE COMMON LIFE

THE FEAST OF IGNAZ FRANZ, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAGNUS AND AGRICOLA OF AVIGNON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF AVIGNON

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HAMMOND, ENGLISH MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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False Significance and True Significance   Leave a comment

THE QUEST FOR FALSE SIGNIFICANCE IS A FORM OF IDOLATRY.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, “Master, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in; or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to see you?”  “In solemn truth I tell you,” the King will answer them, “that inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you had done it unto me.”

–Matthew 25:37-40, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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And lo, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

–Luke 13:30, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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The ethics and morals of Jesus of Nazareth shape my ethics and morals.  I am a professing Christian, after all.  

The increase in political extremism defined by hatred, xenophobia, nativism, and conspiracy theories concerns me deeply.  This is a global problem.  As one hears in this video clip, the “quest for significance” is one of the “pillars of radicalization.”  

We are dealing with idolatry.  Sin, in Augustinian terms, is disordered love.  God deserves the most love.  Many people, activities, ideas, et cetera, deserve lesser amounts of love.  Others deserve no love.  To love that which one should not love or to love someone or something more than one ought to do is to deny some love to God.  One bears the image of God.  One is, therefore, worthy of much love.  In fact, Judaism and Christianity teach that one has a moral obligation to love others as one loves oneself, assuming that one loves oneself as one should (Leviticus 19:18; Tobit 4:15; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 31:15; Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).  After all, the other human beings also bear the image of God.  Judaism and Christianity also teach people to love God fully, and link love of God and love of other people (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 22:36-40).  Therefore, true significance comes from loving God fully and loving God, as God is present in human beings, especially the “least of these.”

Two stories from 1 Maccabees pertain to my theme.  

In 1 Maccabees 5:55-64, two Hasmonean military commanders named Zechariah and Azariah sought to make a name for themselves.  They succeeded; they caused military defeat and won ignominy to define their names.  However, in 1 Maccabees 6:42-47, Eleazar Avaran acted selflessly, in defense of his oppressed people and the Law of Moses.  He died and won an honored name from his people.  Those who sought honor earned disgrace.  He who sacrificed himself gained honor.

I could quote or mention a plethora of Biblical verses and passages about the folly of seeking false significance.  The Bible has so many of them because of the constancy of human nature.  I could quote or mention more verses and passages, but to do so would be triply redundant.

Simply, true human significance comes from God, compared to whom we are all insignificant.  That significance comes from bearing the image of God.  The sooner more of us accept that truth, the better off the rest of us will be.  The social, societal, economic, and political costs of the quest for false significance to extremely high.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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The Defiance of the Seven Brothers   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Mother and Her Seven Sons

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IX

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2 Maccabees 7:1-2

4 Maccabees 8:1-9:9

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Strap yourselves in, O reader.  We are plunging into the core of the Fourth Book of the Maccabees, complete with improbable speeches placed in the mouths of victims of torture.  We will also read vivid descriptions of those tortures.

I have read every book of the Russian Orthodox canon of scripture.  I read some of them–including 4 Maccabees–so long that they seem now to me when I reread them.  Rediscovering the purple prose of 4 Maccabees is a literary delight.

For like a most skillful pilot, the reason of our father Eleazar steered the ship of religion over the sea of the emotions, and though buffeted by the stormings of the tyrant and overwhelmingly by the mighty waves of tortures, in no way did he turn the rudder of religion until he sailed into the haven of immortal victory.

–4 Maccabees 7:1-3, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Wow!  Just, wow!

Seven brothers and their mother insisted on keeping kosher.  They arrested, willingly faced torture and martyrdom.

2 Maccabees covers that material in two verses.  4 Maccabees uses thirty-eight verses for the same purpose.  One of the brothers comes across as a verbose Stoic philosopher in 4 Maccabees 9:1-9.  In 9:7-8, for example, we read a reference to the Stoic principle that suffering cannot affect the essential nature of the wise.

In this post, I choose to focus on another point:  the clash of civilizations, with a dose of imperialism.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a committed Hellenist.  That would not have been a problem for pious Jews had he been tolerant.  But, no!  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, believing he had the superior form of civilization, imposed it on diverse populations.  Thus, those who refused to eat pork became enemies of the state.

I disagree with many people.  I consider their political ideas to be misguided and sometimes dangerous.  I may differ with their theology or lack thereof.  I am open about calling superstition what it is.  But I never support torturing any of these people.  Furthermore, as a matter of history, rulers who pursue policies of religious toleration decrease the probability of rebellion.

Also, why should any ruler care if Jews refuse to eat non-kosher food?  Why not respect that religious conviction and keep the peace?  When I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, one of my professors was Dr. John Steinberg.  One of his male ancestors had been a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The army did not respect kosher food laws.  Therefore, that ancestor, a pious Jew, evaded the military draft and came to the United States of America.

I understand.  Jesus said it best:

Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

–Matthew 22:21b, The New American Bible (1991)

The state has no right to impose certain demands on the people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCUS AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CORNELIA HANCOCK, U.S. QUAKER NURSE, EDUCATOR, AND HUMANITARIAN; “FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OF NORTH AMERICA”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MATEO CORREA-MAGALLANES AND MIGUEL AGUSTIN PRO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1927

THE FEAST OF ORANGE SCOTT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, ABOLITIONIST, AND FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE WESLEYAN MEXICAN CONNECTION

THE FEAST OF SAINT VEDAST (VAAST), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARRAS AND CAMBRAI

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To Glorify and Enjoy God III   Leave a comment

Above:  Some of My Great-Grandfather’s Sermon Notes, Dated 1905

“Reared in a Christian home.”  Really?

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, 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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O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee;

mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 218

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2 Kings 18:1-18

Psalm 114

Acts 20:17-38

Matthew 22:34-36

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Jesus stood within Judaism, not outside of it.  Much of Christian tradition missed that point for a very long time–well into the twentieth century.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, my great-grandfather, the Reverend George Washington Barrett, of the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, preached that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  (I have the notes for that sermon.)  Despite advances in New Testament scholarship along the lines of Jesus being a devout Jew, much Gentile discomfort with “Jesus the Jew,” as Geza Vermes referred to our Lord and Savior in book titles, has persisted.

Jesus seems to have belonged to the school of Rabbi Hillel, based on Matthew 22:34-40.  Our Lord and Savior, quoted the great rabbi, stopping prior to

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Jesus knew the Law of Moses well.

The readings from 2 Kings 18 and Psalm 114 speak of God acting on behalf of the people of Israel.  2 Kings 18 (in its entirety) describes God defending Judah against Assyrian invaders.  Psalm 114 recalls the Exodus from Egypt.

Above:  The Ancient City of Miletus

Image Source = Google Earth

The reading from Acts 20 closes St. Paul the Apostle’s sojourn in Miletus.  He had functioned as an agent of grace to the Christian congregation there for three years.  To spend three years in the company of St. Paul must have been quite an experience.

St. Paul’s parting device at Miletus, combined with the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:34-40, constitute sound advice for any faith community.  That counsel is to love God fully, love neighbors (all people) as one loves oneself, and preserve the truth (in love).  Christianity is a faith in which doctrines matter.  Loving orthodoxy is good; orthodoxy minus love is no virtue.  I am not doctrinaire.  In fact, I fail most doctrinal purity tests spectacularly.  Nevertheless, I insist on at least a few doctrines as being essential.  These include:

  1. The existence of God,
  2. The Holy Trinity,
  3. The jealousy of God,
  4. The sovereignty of God,
  5. The Incarnation,
  6. The crucifixion of Jesus, and
  7. The Resurrection of Jesus.

Keep the faith, in other words, but be sure to do so lovingly.  Doctrine matters, but keeping orthodoxy does not constitute a saving work.

We Christians will do well to remember another fact:  each of us is a heretic, according to many other Christians.  Even fundamentalists of one stripe are heretics, according to fundamentalists of other stripes.  Can we Christians bring ourselves to admit that what we do not know outweighs what we do know?

Besides, we are all heretics, in the light of God.  Much of theology–even classical Christian theology–consists of best guesses.  Ultimate, divine reality exceeds the human capacity for comprehension.

May we mere mortals enjoy and glorify God forever, by grace.  May relatively unimportant doctrinal disputes and differences fall away.  And may we affirm what is essential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART III

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Daniel 3:1-31 (Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican)

Daniel 3:1-100 (Roman Catholic)

Daniel 3:1-97 (Eastern Orthodox)

The Song of the Three Young Men

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Satire is a feature of the Book of Daniel.  Satire is evident in the uses of humor and in the exaggeration of pomp, circumstance, and numbers.  The portrayal of kings as pompous, blustery, and dangerous people is another feature of Biblical satire.  The two main examples who come to my mind are Nebuchadnezzar II (the version from Daniel 1-4), the fictional Darius the Mede (Daniel 6, 9, and 11), and Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace unsinged and in the company of a mysterious fourth man is familiar.  It is one of the more commonly told Bible stories.  If one overlooks the references to Nebuchadnezzar II, one misses some satirical and theological material.

The story portrays King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool who defeats his own purposes.  (Aren’t we glad such people no longer exist?  I am being sarcastic.)  Verse 15 depicts the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch accidentally invoking YHWH, not any member of the Chaldean pantheon.  And, implausibly, the end of the chapter portrays the king deliberately blessing YHWH.  In other words, King Nebuchadnezzar II was no match for YHWH.

Who was the fourth man?  The Jewish Study Bible suggests that he was an angel.  Much of Christian tradition identifies him as the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  I prefer the first option.  Besides, Daniel 3 is a work of fiction.  It is folklore, not history.  And the authors were Jews who died before the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men fall between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24, depending on versification and one’s preferred definition of the canon of scripture.  Set inside the fiery furnace, the additional, Greek verses identify the fourth man as an angel.  

  • The Prayer of Azariah links the suffering of the three pious Hebrews to the sins of their people.  The text expresses communal remorse for and repentance of sin.  God’s punishments are just, the prayer asserts.
  • The Song of the Three Young Men is one of the literary highlights of the Old Testament.  Two canticles from Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) come from this Greek addition.  I adore the John Rutter setting of part of the Song of the Three Young Men (“Glory to you, Lord God of Our Fathers,” S236 in The Hymnal 1982).  The Song of the Three Young Men calls on all of nature to praise God and celebrates God’s deliverance of the three pious Hebrews.

The question of submission to authority is a thorny issue in the Bible, which provides us with no unified answer.  Many people cite Romans 13:1-7 to justify obedience to authority no matter what.  However, one can point to passages such as Exodus 1:15-22 (Shiphrah and Puah the midwives), Daniel 3, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the lions’ den), Tobit 1:16-22 (burying the dead in violation of a royal edict), and Luke 6:22-26 (from the Woes following the Beatitudes) to justify civil disobedience.  Perhaps the best way through this comes from Matthew 22:15-22.  We owe God everything.  We bear the image of God.  And we ought not to deny God that which belongs to God.  The proper application of that timeless principle varies according to circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULÉN AND HIS PROTÉGÉ AND COLLEAGUE, ANDERS NYGREN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Caesar’s Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, 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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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace,

that they may be cleansed from all their sins,

and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 221

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Proverbs 16:1-20

Psalms 126 and 129

Ephesians 5:1-16

Matthew 22:15-22

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The Synoptic Gospels tell many of the same stories, but not identically.  That is how oral tradition works; the core remains consistent yet the margins are variable.  Identifying the constant and the variable elements of repeated stories from one Synoptic Gospel to another is easy.  One may, most simply, see them in parallel columns in books of Gospel parallels.  I have two such volumes–Gospel Parallels (Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr.) and Synopsis of the Four Gospels (Kurt Aland).

Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26, and Mark 12:13-17 are parallel to each other.  The question was superficially about taxes in general in Luke 20.  In Mark 12 and Matthew 22, however, the tax in question was a census/poll/head tax of one denarius per year.  A denarius, a worker’s wage for one day, at the time bore the image of Emperor Tiberius,

son of the divine Augustus.

A denarius was, therefore, an idol.  Why did Pharisees carry idols around with them?  The tax, which started in 6 C.E., led to the zealot movement.  Jesus avoided alienating zealots on one side and Romans on the other.  Those who sought to entrap Jesus retreated in humiliation (Psalm 129).

We belong to God.  We depend entirely on God.  Most of Ephesians 5:1-16 consists of commentary or advice consistent with the first two sentences of this paragraph:

Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, in offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

–Ephesians 5:2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Value wisdom more than gold and silver.  Seek to build up each other, not to entrap and tear down each other.  Forgive one another as God has forgiven one.  Live generously.  All this advice is consistent with Ephesians 5:2.

Living this way may require one to surrender the idol of wanting to be right, of not want wanting to admit error.  A rare saint may not struggle with this temptation.  I am not part of that company.  I report accurately, however, that this struggle has decreased within me during the last few years.  Do not praise me, O reader; God has caused this change.

Anyhow, those who confronted Jesus in the Gospel story for today wanted to be right.  They sought to prove that they were right by placing Jesus in greater peril than he was in already.  He evaded their trap and showed them up, however.  They still refused to admit error.

Psychological defense mechanisms are powerful.  Many people, although confronted with objective evidence of their error or an error, refuse to admit being wrong.  They have leaned on ego instead.  Such defense of ego is destructive, both individually and collectively.  It contributes to the polarization of politics, whereby factions argue about what constitutes objective reality.  This ego defense also prevents individuals from maturing in their thinking and in their spiritual lives.

How much better would society be if more people were trying to build up each other, not beat each other into political, intellectual, and theological submission?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Golden Rule VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Kurdish Refugee Camp in Turkey

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, 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 God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee;

mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 218

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Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalms 113 and 114

2 Corinthians 7:6-10

Matthew 22:34-36

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You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

–Deuteronomy 10:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Before I begin in earnest, I make a comment about two of the readings; they are too short.  The lesson from Deuteronomy should back up to 10:12.  The pericope from Matthew 22 should terminate at verse 40.

Deuteronomy 10:12-21, in the voice of Moses speaking to a population preparing to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, reminds them of obligations we know most of them and the majority of their descendants for generations went on to ignore.  According to the text, people are to:

  1. Revere YHWH;
  2. Walk only in YHWH’s paths; and
  3. Serve YHWH completely.

YHWH upholds the cause of the fatherless and the the widow.  YHWH befriends the stranger and fulfills the stranger’s basic needs.  Therefore, the people of God, acting collectively, have a mandate to do the same.  The society, acting together, must obey this commandment, or else sin.

Functionally, government is one way a society works together.  Private-sector efforts can go far, but some issues are, by necessity, policy matters.

If behaving humanely toward strangers, such as refugees from war zones, sounds like a radical policy proposal, political norms are inhumane.  If recognizing strangers as neighbors in God seems odd to one, one needs to check one’s moral compass.  This message is the Law of Moses 101 and the Gospel of Jesus Christ 101.

Many Christians and Muslims saved the lives of many of their Jewish neighbors during World War II.  The heroic deeds many Muslims in northern Africa have received less attention and publicity than those of many European Christians.  Not surprisingly, members of historically persecuted groups wee among the Christians most active in sheltering and smuggling Jews.  Many Huguenots (French) and Waldensians (Italian) eagerly came to the aid of their Jewish neighbors.  So did many Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, some of whom their churches have subsequently canonized, often as martyrs.  Most of the population of predominately Lutheran Denmark rose up against their Nazi overlords in stunning acts of civil disobedience, made themselves ungovernable, and saved the lives of nearly all Danish Jews.  Were these Righteous among the Nations (whether formally recognized as such or not) radicals?

Yes, if following the Golden Rule is radical.  Following the Golden Rule individually and collectively seems to be radical.  That seems odd, from a certain perspective, for the Golden Rule exists in most of the world’s religions.  So does violating it and justifying the violations.

The world would be a better place if more individuals, families, faith communities, communities, institutions, societies, corporations, and governments committed to obeying the Golden Rule.  That would constitute positive, radical change.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND RELIGIOUS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JAMES EDWARD WALSH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP AND POLITICAL PRISONER IN CHINA

THE FEAST OF SIMON B. PARKER, UNITED METHODIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, WELSH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Faithful Attitudes   Leave a comment

Above: The Uninvited Wedding Guest, by Vincent Malo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 1

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

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

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

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

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

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

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-19

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 22:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is a faithful attitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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

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

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