Archive for the ‘Micah’ Category

Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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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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Laying Down Burdens, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Image in the Public Domain

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

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You have shown us, O Lord, what is good;

enable us, we pray, to perform what you require, even

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Micah 6:1-4, 5b-8

Psalm 44

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6

Matthew 8:23-27

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I prefer to use language correctly.  Therefore I like the title of S. I. Hayakawa‘s classic work, Use the Right Word.  Consider the word “faith,” O reader.  It, like many other words in the Bible, has a range of meanings in the sacred anthology.  In the Letter of James, for example, faith is intellectual, so works must accompany it; justification with God comes through works, not words, in James.  In Pauline theology, however, faith is inherently active; works are part of the package deal.  Thus justification comes by faith, not works, according to St. Paul the Apostle.  The two actually agree, for they arrive at the same point from different directions.  We read of another definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

If we have concrete evidence for a proposition, we have no need for faith to accept it.  With that in mind, O reader, consider the following statement:  Human depravity is not an article of faith for me, for I have evidence from the past and present for it.  I reserve faith for issues (such as the resurrection of Jesus) for which there is no concrete evidence to prove or disprove.

We cannot repay God for any, much less all, God has done for us and continues to do, but we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  If we cannot respond as faithfully as we know we should, we can do something, at least.  The inability to do everything is no excuse for not doing anything.  Storms of life leave us battered, do they not?  Frequently we emerge from them angry–perhaps justifiably.  Anger of a certain sort, channeled properly, can be socially constructive and spiritually beneficial.  However, frequently, if not usually, anger functions negatively in societies, communities, organizations, families, and individual lives.

By faith we can see the way to lay down that burden, and to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.  Laying down that burden of anger can prove difficult; I know this from experience.  I wish that doing what I know God tells me to do were easier and more appealing to me than the alternatives.  The struggle is palpable, but the strength necessary to succeed is divine, not human.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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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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Dependence on God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

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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Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

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For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part II   1 comment

testament-and-death-of-moses

Above:  The Testament and Death of Moses, by Luca Signorelli

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:(1-22) 23-29 or Micah 7:1-7 or Daniel (11:40-45) 12:1-13

Psalm 54

Matthew 10:17-22a; 24:9-14 or Mark 13:9-13

1 Corinthians 9:1-15

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Human nature is corrupt, we read in Deuteronomy 31 and Micah 7.  We do not require these or any other texts to grasp that truth, do we?  All we need to do is to understand ourselves and follow current events and study the past if we are to be aware of our flawed nature.  As St. Paul the Apostle reminds us down the corridors of time, our only proper basis is in God–Christ Jesus, to be precise.  God will ultimately destroy the corrupt human order, founded on violence and exploitation, and replace it with a just social, economic, and political order.  Certainly we are incapable of accomplishing that goal.

As much as we might seek divine destruction of our enemies, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of living as vengeful people.  As we read in 2 John 5b-6, love is supposed to be our rule of life.  Even during times of persecution love is properly the rule of life.  This is a lofty spiritual goal–one which requires us to resist our nature and to rely on divine grace.  How can we be God’s salt and light in the world if we do otherwise?  We are free in Christ Jesus to glorify God wherever we are, and no matter under what circumstances we live.  May we, in all circumstances, to quote my bishop, love like Jesus, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-11-year-d/

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