Archive for the ‘Micah 4’ Category

Eschatological Ethics V: Compartmentalization   2 comments

Above:  Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16601

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ became man that we might become the partakers of the sons of God:

grant, we beseech thee, that being made partakers of the divine nature of thy Son

we may be conformed to his likeness;

who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Micah 4:1-4

1 Peter 2:1-10

Luke 3:4-17

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Eschatological expectations permeate the assigned readings for this Sunday.

In this post I choose to avoid repeating certain germane statements, which I have made in recent posts, and focus instead on the link between private morality and public morality.  One may think of certain figures who committed criminal acts related to the Watergate Scandal, and how, despite their avoidance of certain personal peccadilloes, their public morality was wanting.  I also think of certain political figures of various partisan affiliations who obviously led to morally compartmentalized lives, as well as of some who do.  As I acknowledge that outlawing everything that is immoral is not a feasible option, and that sometimes outlawing certain morally reprehensible practices is not the most effective way to combat them, but actually leads to moral blowback, I seek to find a balanced position, for I know that theocracy is destructive to both church and state, perhaps more so to the former.  I, as a historian, know of politicians with glaring, persistent immorality in their private lives who nevertheless were forces for good in their country and the world.  I also know of politicians whose glaring, persistent immorality in their personal lives compromised their ability to be good leaders.   Furthermore, I know of politicians who had impeccable private lives and were terrible leaders.  I prefer politicians with impeccable private lives who are also effective leaders for positive ends.

Life in a free society entails much mutual forbearance and toleration, within necessary legal limits.  I have no legal or moral right, for example, to drive on the wrong side of the road; public safety is an overriding public good.  Much of what makes a society good bubbles up from the bottom and reaches to the top.  The Biblical principle, evident in the Law of Moses, that we human beings are interdependent and responsible to and for each other is a good place to start.  May we be good to each other, seeking the best for each other.  May we seek to follow the Golden Rule.  Sound morality in private life should influence a politician’s commitment to help the “least of these,” foreign and domestic.  Often abstractness is the greatest enemy of the good.  I propose that pondering details of circumstances then applying the Golden Rule to them is a better way to proceed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY CARY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Peace With Justice   Leave a comment

Above:  Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereshchagin

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR WORLD ORDER SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, the King of righteousness, lead us in ways of justice and peace;

inspire us to break down all tyranny and oppression,

to gain for all people their due reward, and from all people their due service,

that each may live for all and may care for each;

in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 191

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Micah 4:1-5

Psalm 43

James 4:1-12

Matthew 5:43-48

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The theme of World Order Sunday, in October, was peace with justice.

The prophet Micah predicted a glorious future in which Jerusalem would be the political and spiritual center of the world, complete with Gentiles streaming to the holy city to study the Torah.  Another aspect of that prediction was the end of warfare.

That remains an unfulfilled prediction, unfortunately.  Psalm 43, James 4:1-12, and Matthew 5:43-48 remain as relevant as when each was a new texts.  The causes of conflict, as always, are troubled people.  Yet we can, by grace, love our enemies and seek their redemption, not their destruction, or at least leave them alone and get on with our lives.  Sometimes the former is unattainable initially, but the latter is a good start.  It is certainly better than nursing a grudge.

Whoever said

You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy

was not quoting the Jewish Bible.  Certain revenge fantasies in the Book of Psalms aside, Leviticus 19:18 forbade seeking vengeance or bearing a grudge against fellow Hebrews and ordered people to love the neighbors as they loved themselves.  Jesus made the commandment universal.  He also challenged his followers to be perfect–in this case, suited for one’s purpose.

In Christ one’s purpose entails being filled with God’s love, not seeking revenge or nursing grudges.  That is a great challenge, one we can accomplish only via divine power.  When we struggle with that challenge, at least we are trying; that much is positive.

On stages ranging from the individual to the global the peace of sweeping the past under the proverbial rug is a brittle and temporary one.  Although confession need not necessarily precede forgiveness, honesty regarding what one has done is a crucial component of clearing the air mutually.  Once the naming of the sins has ended, a new relationship founded on honesty and shalom can begin.  Getting there can be quite difficult–even emotionally taxing and politically inconvenient–but it is worthwhile.  It is also the way we will avoid blowing ourselves up.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR

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Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord, who commanded your apostles to go into all the world,

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

Let your name be great among the nations from the rising of the Sun

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Habakkuk 2:18-20; 3:2-4

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

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The assigned reading from 1 Peter is too brief.  One should, for full comprehension of 2:4-10, back up into chapter 1 and start reading.  We read that Gentile Christians are a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a temple all at once, via divine mercy.  With grace come obligations, of course.  We ought to put away

all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

–1 John 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Not putting them away is inconsistent with being a light to the nations.

1 John 2:3 affirms that God is good, in an echo of Psalm 34:8.  That segue brings me to Habakkuk.  Once again the assigned reading is unfortunately truncated.  The overall context of the Book of Habakkuk is the Babylonian Exile.  The text struggles with how to affirm the goodness of God in light of a violent and exploitative international order.  The author seems less certain than the man who wrote Psalm 52.  The central struggle of Habakkuk is timeless, for circumstances change and time passes, but certain populations experience oppression at any given moment.

I have no easy answer to this difficult question, nor do I aspire to have one.  God has some explaining to do, I conclude.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land was in full effect at the time of Christ.  A portion of the Jewish population sought a military savior who would expel the Romans.  Jesus disappointed them.  He did, however, astound St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All Jesus had to do was say he had seen the future Apostle under a fig tree.

This is an interesting section of John 1.  Every time I study 1:47-51 I consult resources as I search for more answers.  The Gospel of John is a subtle text, after all; it operates on two levels–the literal and the metaphorical–simultaneously.  St. Nathanael/Bartholomew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and follows him.  The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4 (one verse after nations end their warfare and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks) and in Zechariah 3:10 (one verse after God promises to remove the Israelites’ collective guilt in one day, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  The context of the confession of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew then, is apocalyptic; an ideal future in which God reigns fully on the Earth is the hope.  So as for Jesus seeing St. Nathanael/Bartholomew under a fig tree, that feat seems to have indicated to the future Apostle that possessed unique insights.

The apocalyptic nature of the vision of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew sitting under a fig tree is juicier material, though.  I also wonder how well the future Apostle understood the messiahship of Jesus at the time of his confession.  The answer is that he did so incompletely, I conclude.  I do not mean that as a criticism; I merely make a statement of what I perceive to have been reality.

The question of now to make sense of the divine goodness in the context of a violent and exploitative world order remains.  I offer a final thought regarding that:  Is not hope superior to hopelessness?  Deferred hope is still hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Authority and Grace   1 comment

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Recognizing and Glorifying God   1 comment

Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

Above:  Paul and Barnabas in Lystra, by Johann Heiss

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in signs and wonders your Son revealed the greatness of your saving love.

Renew us with your grace, and sustain us by your power,

that we may stand in the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:18-26 (Monday)

Micah 4:1-7 (Tuesday)

Psalm 38 (Both Days)

Acts 14:8-18 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger

or discipline me in your wrath.

–Psalm 38:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Polytheists can blame negative (from a human point of view) divine actions on certain deities, thereby letting others off the proverbial hook.  We monotheists, however, lack that option, so judgment and discipline come from God, as do mercy and consolation.  It is a theological problem sometimes, but life without theological problems is not worth living, I suggest.

We humans interpret stimuli and other information in the context of our filters, many of which we have learned.  Other germane factors include our age, level of educational attainment, and cognitive abilities.  Yes, there is an objective reality, which we are capable of perceiving (at least partially) much of the time, but the range of perceptions persists.  Often we need to question our assumptions, as many people in Lystra (Acts 14:8-18) should have done.  God has spoken and acted, but how many of us have been oblivious to this reality or misinterpreted it?

We cannot, of course, grasp God fully.  We can, however, have partial knowledge of the deity.  And we can, out of love and devotion to God, recognize the source and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, by grace.  That will glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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“But I Say to You”   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

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

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

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

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 4:1-5 (Monday)

Micah 4:6-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 79 (Both Days)

Revelation 15:1-8 (Monday)

Revelation 18:1-10 (Tuesday)

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Do not remember against us the sin of former times:

but let your compassion hasten to meet us, for we are brought very low.

–Psalm 79:8, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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Psalm 79 prays for divine violence against enemies while seeking forgiveness for sins and deliverance from the consequences of sin.  Micah 4 and Revelation 18 speak of that deliverance, which comes with divine violence in Micah 5 and Revelation 15 and 18.  Yet I recall Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:43-48 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You have heard how it was said:  You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you:  love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad man as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.  For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit?  For the tax collectors do as much, do they not?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Even the pagans do as much, do they not?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Perfect,” in this case, indicates being suited to one’s purpose.  Thus a sacrificial animal which met the standards was perfect, even though it had some physical imperfections.  If our purpose as human beings is to love, glorify, and enjoy God forever, as the Westminster Catechisms tell us, that is our standard of perfection.  Grace will enable us to attain it.

We cannot be suited to our high calling if we carry grudges around.  This baggage is too heavy a burden and a distraction from our sacred vocation.  Yes, sometimes oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, so good news for the oppressed is dire news for the oppressors, but the righteous ought not to rejoice in the bad fortunes of others.  The Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist, has compassion for the Chinese oppressors of Tibetans.  The Chinese oppressors are hurting themselves also, he says correctly.  He puts many Christians to shame with regard to Christ’s teaching about loving one’s enemies.  He puts me to shame in this matter.

Recognizing that a problem exists is the first step in the process of correcting it.  I know well the desire for vindication at the expense of those who have wronged me.  I also know the spiritual acidity of the desire for revenge.  God has intervened in my life with regard to this issue.  Grace has arrived and continues to be necessary, for I am weak.  Yet I keep trying to become stronger.  Even a minimal effort is something which God can use, I am convinced.  A humble beginning plus ample grace equals wonderful results.

This is a devotion for Advent, the season of preparation for the arrival of Jesus.  Liturgically the build-up is to Christmas (December 25-January 5), but the assigned readings include references the Old Testament Day of the Lord and to the Second Coming of Jesus.  The expectation in such lessons is that Yahweh or Jesus will replace the old, corrupt, and exploitative human order with the new, divine, and just order.  This has yet to happen, obviously, but that vision of how things ought to be should propel we who call ourselves Christians to oppose all that exploits our fellow human beings and denies them all that a proper respect for human dignity affords them.  The test of whether we should support or oppose something comes from Jesus himself:  Is it consistent with the command to love others as ourselves?

A perhaps apocryphal story tells of the aged St. John the Evangelist/Divine/Apostle.  He visited a congregation, the members of which anticipated what he might tell them.  The Apostle said,

My children, love one another.

Then he left the room where the congregation had assembled.  One person followed John and asked an ancient equivalent of

That’s it?  Is there not more?

The Apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Often we cannot even love those similar to ourselves, much less pray for our enemies.  Thus we are not suited to our divine calling.  We can be so, however.  May Christ, who entered this world long ago on a mission of mercy, find in many people metaphorical stables in which to continue arriving among us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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