Archive for the ‘Nehemiah’ Category

The Sin of Favoritism   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

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 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Good Society, Part II   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Sabbath   1 comment

Church of the Resurrection February 8, 2015

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Sautee, Georgia, February 8, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 15:32-41 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 8:12-15 (Friday)

Nehemiah 13:15-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:1-8 (All Days)

Hebrews 12:13-17 (Thursday)

Acts 17:1-9 (Friday)

Luke 6:1-5 (Saturday)

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Bless Yahweh, my soul,

from the depths of my being, his holy name;

bless Yahweh, my soul,

never forget all his acts of kindness.

–Psalm 103:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Keeping divine commandments is one way of manifesting love for God.  Observing the Sabbath is the dominant issue in these days’ readings, so I focus on it.

Sabbath is an indication of freedom.  When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they had no days off.  Since they were free, however, they had a day off each week.  Violating it carried a death sentence, though.  (That was unduly harsh!)  The reality of the death penalty for that infraction indicated the importance of keeping Sabbath in that culture, which understood that individual violations led to communal punishment.

Our Lord and Savior’s Apostles plucked grain with their hands one Sabbath.  This was permissible in Deuteronomy 23:25 yet not in Exodus 34:21.  Jesus preferred to cite the former, but his accusers favored the latter.  He also understood the precedent David set in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, in which, in an emergency, he and his soldiers consumed holy bread.  Jesus grasped a basic reality–people need the Sabbath, but there should be flexibility regarding the rules of the day.  In this respect he fit in nicely with his Jewish culture, with its various understandings of Sabbath laws.

Life brings too many hardships to endure (often for the sake of righteousness).  Fewer of them would exist if more people would be content to mind their own business.  Why, then, do so many observant people add to this by turning a day of freedom into one of misery?  I suppose that legalism brings joy to certain individuals.

May we keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, relaxation, and freedom, not legalism and misery.  If we must work on our usual Sabbath, may we keep Sabbath another day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-16-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Economics, Politics, and the Demands of Piety   1 comment

Icon of Nehemiah

Above:  Icon of Nehemiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 5:1-13

Psalm 19

Luke 2:39-52

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The law of the LORD inspires reverence and is pure;

it stands firm, for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true;

they form a good code of justice.

–Psalm 19:10, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The economic crisis in Judea was one which entailed some Jews exploiting other Jews–poor returnees, to be precise–in violation of Exodus 22:24-26.  Seizing property put us collateral for a loan to a poor person violated the letter of the Law of Moses and contradicted the underlying ethos of mutuality.  Both civic and religious leaders were guilty, but at least Nehemiah used his gubernatorial power to correct the injustice.  He possessed much wisdom and righteousness.

Jesus, a figure far greater than Nehemiah, also possessed much wisdom and righteousness–more than Nehemiah.  Our Lord and Savior–a sage yet more than just that–taught in a particular geographical and historical context, one in which the realities of the Roman occupation frustrated the already-harsh realities of peasants’ lives.  Much of Christian tradition has ignored or minimized the economic-political background of Christ’s sayings, unfortunately.  Perhaps doing otherwise would have led to unpleasant and inconvenient political situations for ecclesiastical organizations and leaders loyal to governments and potentates, or at least dependent upon them.  More figures such as Nehemiah among civic leaders as well as among ecclesiastical shepherds would have helped many people.  The same thought applies well to current times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part IV: Performing Good Deeds at Every Opportunity   1 comment

esdras-ezra

Above:  Ezra

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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:

Nehemiah 7:1-4 (September 22)

Nehemiah 8:1-18 (September 22)

Nehemiah 9:1-21 (September 23)

Nehemiah 9:22-38 (September 24–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 9:22-10:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 67 (Morning–September 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–September 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–September 24)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–September 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–September 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–September 24)

1 Timothy 5:1-16 (September 22)

1 Timothy 5:17-6:2 (September 23)

1 Timothy 6:3-21 (September 24)

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Some Related Posts:

Nehemiah 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

1 Timothy 5-6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-saturday-year-1/

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The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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These days’ readings speak of lamenting sins and of vowing to reform errant ways.  They also offer culturally specific advice as to how to do the latter.  I, as a Christian, do not follow the Law of Moses, for Jesus has fulfilled the Law.  And I read 1 Timothy 5-6, my jaw dropping because of the sexism and the failure to condemn slavery.  I, when pondering Old and New Testament moral advice, find the following statements helpful:

Identifying general principles is important because the real purpose of the Law is to inculcate general principles and values and to apply them in specific instances.  This is done by stating general principles and by illustrating, with specific examples, how general principles can be applied in specific cases.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, pages 24-25)

The best moral advice I have located in these days’ readings is to preform good deeds

at every opportunity.

–1 Timothy 5:10d, The Revised English Bible

What that looks like depends on the opportunities.  May we focus on that principle and not become bogged down in legalistic details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY EUPHRASIA PELLETIER, FOUNDER OF THE CONTEMPLATIVES OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

THE FEAST OF PARDITA MARY RAMABAI, SOCIAL REFORMER IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF CHAISE DIEU, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/devotion-for-september-22-23-and-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part III: Leadership and Economic Justice   1 comment

20156v

Above:  Vineyards and Gazebo, 1905-1915

Photographed by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-prokc-20156

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/prk2000002599/)

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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:

Nehemiah 4:7-23 (September 20–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 4:1-17 (September 20–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Nehemiah 5:1-16 (September 21)

Nehemiah 6:1-6, 15-16 (September 21)

Psalm 130 (Morning–September 20)

Psalm 56 (Morning–September 21)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–September 20)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–September 21)

1 Timothy 3:1-6 (September 20)

1 Timothy 4:1-16 (September 21)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Timothy 3-4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-1/

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Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight;

this I know, for God is on my side.

–Psalm 56:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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1 Timothy 3 and 4 concern themselves with the trust which is leadership and the imperative of true teaching in the context of the church.  Those matters relate to Nehemiah, who led by example for the common good in Jerusalem centuries before the author of 1 Timothy wrote.  Nehemiah faced stiff opposition in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but he succeeded with divine help.  And, in response to economic injustice, he declared a jubilee, something out of Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15.  He even set an example by denying himself his legal portion of the governor’s food allowance.

Economic justice is among the great preoccupations of the Bible.  How one ought to practice it differs according to one’s individual circumstances as well as one’s time and societal setting, but the imperative is timeless.  Those who exercise authority have an obligation to think of the common good and to act for it.  May they not only seek to do so, but, by grace, succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/devotion-for-september-20-and-21-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part II: Overcoming Opposition the Godly Way   1 comment

persian-empire-500-bce

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire Circa 500 B.C.E.

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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:

Nehemiah 2:11-20

Nehemiah 4:1-6 (Protestant Versification)/3:33-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 36 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening)

1 Timothy 2:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

1 Timothy 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

Feast of Aquilla, Priscilla, and Apollos (February 13):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/feast-of-aquila-priscilla-and-apollos-february-13/

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Restore us, O God of hosts:

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I doubt that St. Paul wrote 1 Timothy.  Consider, O reader, 2:9-15.  Allowing for culturally specific conditions regarding hair, jewelry, and clothing, I still detect the stench of patriarchy.  Although St. Paul was a product of his patriarchal context, I contrast 1 Timothy 2:9-15 with the case of Prisca/Priscilla, who taught with the Apostle’s approval.  (See Acts 18:2, 18, and 26; Romans 16:3; and 1 Corinthians 16:19).  That is not my main point, but I feel the need to articulate it first.

Now, for the main idea….

Jewish exiles residing in their ancestral homeland lived within the Persian Satrapy of Beyond the River.  The complicated politics of rebuilding the walls of and Temple at Jerusalem, as told in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, lived up to the joke that politics consists of many small, bloodsucking creatures.  Although King Artaxerxes I (reigned 464-424 B.C.E.) had authorized Nehemiah for a set of tasks, our hero faced opposition from local interests.  Sanballat (the governor of Samaria), Tobiah (the governor of Ammon), and Geshem (the governor of Edom) knew of Nehemiah’s authorization yet tried to stop him anyway.  Did our hero’s role threaten their power, at least in their minds?  That was a likely scenario.  So they resorted to lies and other forms of interference.  Yet they failed for divine and human forces (some of the latter armed with lances, shields, swords, and bows) acted.  The construction workers did need guards, after all.

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for sovereigns and for all in high office so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life, free to practise our religion with dignity.

–1 Timothy 2:1-2, The Revised English Bible

Yes, it is right to pray for everyone, especially those in authority.  I note the difference between praying for someone and praying about that person.  To pray for a person indicates confidence that he or she can change for the better and remain steadfast in the good.  But to pray about a person can reflect an attitude of hopelessness regarding him or her.  As good as we who claim to follow God ought to be, we should not be naive because, despite the power of prayer, some people will not change their negative attitudes and corresponding actions.  So it is wise to obey our Lord and Savior’s advice to his Apostles:

…be wary as serpents, innocent as doves.

–Matthew 10:16b, The Revised English Bible

May each of us, by grace, maintain that balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DURER, MATTHIAS GRUNEWALD. AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/devotion-for-september-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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