Archive for the ‘Numbers 21’ Category

Judgment and Mercy, Part XIV   1 comment

Above:  Caduceus

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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Numbers 21:4-9 or Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6

Psalm 74:1-2, 10-17

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

Mark 12:35-44

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The promise of divine punishment for evil and of divine deliverance of the oppressed and righteous on the great Day of the LORD is one example of judgment and mercy being like sides of a coin.  The deliverance of the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors, who are, in a way, victims of themselves.

If we behave as we should–revere God, take care of each other, et cetera–we will not have to fear punishment from God for not doing so.  We may incur punishment from human authorities, as in Tobit 1, but God did not promise a peaceful life in exchange for righteousness.

Two stories require more attention.

The cure in Numbers, cited also in John 3:14-15, in the context of the crucifixion of Jesus, our Lord and Savior’s glorification, according to the Fourth Gospel, is a textbook case of sympathetic magic.  It is related to Egyptian imagery of kingship, divinity, and protection from cobra saliva.  A commonplace visual echo is the caduceus, the medical symbol.

Pay attention to what precedes and follows Mark 12:41-44.  Our Lord and Savior’s condemnation of those who, among other things,

eat up the property of widows,

precedes the account of the widow giving all she had to the Temple.  Immediately in Chapter 13, we read a prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  I conclude that Jesus found the widow’s faith laudable yet grieved her choice.

May our lives bring glory to God and lead others to faith and discipleship.  May we, in our zeal, not go off the deep end and embarrass God and/or accidentally drive people away from God or get in the way of evangelism.  And may we never mistake an internal monologue for a dialogue with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/devotion-for-proper-28-year-b-humes/

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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS (SEPTEMBER 14)

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-5 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-holy-cross-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS (SEPTEMBER 14)

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-holy-cross-september-14/

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This is post #1900 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Grace and Obligations   1 comment

mosesandsnake

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world through

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 21:4-9 (11th Day)

Isaiah 65:17-25 (12th Day)

Psalm 128 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (11th Day)

Romans 4:6-13 (12th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-third-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/proper-28-year-c/

Hebrews 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Romans 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/devotion-for-january-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/week-of-proper-23-friday-year-1/

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Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in the ways of the LORD!

–Psalm 128:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The story in Numbers 21:4-9 is a good place to start this post.  It sent me scurrying to commentaries.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) tell me of the Rabbinic discomfort with the sympathetic magic in the account.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2011), makes the connection between the bronze serpent and the incident concerning the snake in the court of the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10).  Friedman also refers to 2 Kings 18:4, in which King Hezekiah orders the destruction of the bronze serpent, to which some people had been burning incense.  Volume 2 (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible says that the bronze serpent was an example of spiritual homeopathy or at least an example thereof, one which

rests on a sound basis in human experience

whereby

wounds heal wounds.

–page 243

The best, most helpful analysis, however, comes from Walther Eichrodt, as translated by J. A. Baker:

The terrifying power of God, who will turn his weapons of leprosy, serpent and plague (cf. Ex. 4.1-7, Num. 21:6ff; 11:33) even against his own people leaves men in no doubt that the covenant he has created is no safe bulwark, behind which they can make cunning use of the divine power to prosecute their own interests.  The covenant lays claim to the whole man and calls him to a surrender with no reservations.

Theology of the New Testament, Volume One (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1961), pages 44-45

Thus this post continues a line of thought present in its immediate predecessor in order of composition.  God calls the blessed people to function as blessings to others.  The faithful, redeemed people of God have a mandate to cooperate with God in reforming society for the common good and divine glory.  In the Bible righteousness and justice are the same thing.  Hence we read prophets’ condemnations of economic exploitation and judicial corruption as opposites of righteousness.  To live in the household of God is to have both privileges and duties.

One task for those with a slave mentality is to abandon it and to embrace freedom in God.  I know that eating the same thing repeatedly gets old rapidly, but at least the Israelites were not starving.  God does provide; gratitude is in order, even if manna is crystallized insect feces.  Often our mentalities stand between us and God, whose manna does come with the condition of servitude to the source.  What we receive from God might not be what we want or expect, but it is what we need.  May we accept it gratefully and accept the obligation to serve God and leave our world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part IX: Fairness and Grace   1 comment

conquest-of-the-amorites-james-tissot

Above:  The Conquest of the Amorites, by James Tissot

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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:

Numbers 21:10-35

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 21:20-38

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 21:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

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NOTE:

The sequence to which this post belongs continues at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, beginning with the following URL:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/.

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Israelite victories and conquests prior to the arrival in Canaan fill Numbers 21:10-35.  The narrative tells us that so long as they obeyed God, they won.  I wish that life were always as simple as obedience to God leading to success and prosperity.  Yet, as we read in Luke 21:12-19, sometimes it leads to persecution and betrayal.  Indeed, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot opens the next chapter.

I have no easy answers as to why bad things happen to good people.  Observation and the study of history have taught me some lessons.  Jealousies arise.  We see those who are better than ourselves and we seek to tear them down rather than to improve ourselves.  Or we misunderstand others, and we learn to hate those we do not understand.  Sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Yet some people seem to have all the luck while others seem to have none.  The fact that I know all this does mean than I understand it very well.

I do know that the world is an unfair place.  I have railed against this to God.  The world is still horribly unfair, however.  But perhaps fairness is not the proper standard.  Grace is not fair either, but I try not to complain about that reality.  No, the standard I really seek is grace–to everybody.  And, when I perceive the absence of it, I become disturbed.  And I rail about it to God.  But to what extent are we–you, O reader, and I–supposed to function as agents of that grace more than we do?

Now that is a hard lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part VIII: The Sin of Pride   1 comment

moses-striking-the-rock-pieter-de-grebber

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebber

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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:

Numbers 20:1-21 (48th Day of Easter)

Numbers 20:22-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–48th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–49th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–48th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–49th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:19-44 (48th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:45-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 20-21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

Luke 20-21:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-2/

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The readings for today occur against the backdrop of death.  Miriam and Aaron die.  Jesus will die soon.  And, in the midst of all this, the main sin common to the readings from Numbers and Luke is pride, being spectacular.  That was the sin of Moses, whose disobedience detracted from the glory of God.  And the scribes in Luke 20:45-47 reveled in public acclaim while devouring the property of widows.  Furthermore, those who wasted our Lord’s time with a political trap and with sophistry earlier in Luke 20 probably thought their rhetorical powers and mind games clever.  They were mistaken.

To have a balanced self-image, or ego, is crucial.  We are neither worms nor demigods.  We are, however, bearers of the image of God.  And, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote in poetic terms, we are slightly lower than the angels.  So we ought to acknowledge our potential, its source, and our limitations.  To miss the mark–to aim too high or too low–is to arrive at an inaccurate estimate of our true worth.

May we therefore think neither too highly nor too lowly of ourselves.  And may we let God appear as spectacular as possible.  Not to do so is to commit the sin of pride.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-forty-eighth-and-forty-ninth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Brass Serpent   1 comment

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Numbers 21:4-9 (Revised English Bible):

From Mount Hor they [the Israelites] left by way of the Red Sea to march round the flank of Edom.  But on the way the people grew impatient and spoke against God and Moses.

Why have you brought us up from Egypt,

they said

to die in the desert where there is neither food nor water? We are heartily sick of this miserable fare.

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them, and they bit the Israelites so that many of them died.  The people came to Moses and said,

We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and you.  Plead with the LORD to rid us of these snakes.

Moses interceded for the people, and the LORD told him to make a serpent and erect it as a standard, so that anyone bitten by a snake could look at the bronze serpent and recover.

Psalm 102:15-22 (Revised English Bible):

The nations will revere your name, LORD,

and all earthly kings your glory,

when the LORD builds Zion again

and shows himself in his glory,

when he turns to hear the prayer of the destitute

and does not spurn their prayer.

This will be written down for future generations,

that people yet unborn may praise the LORD:

The LORD looks down from his sanctuary on high;

from heaven he surveys the earth

to hear the groaning of the prisoners

and set free those under sentence of death.

So shall the LORD’s name be declared in Zion

and his praise told in Jerusalem,

when peoples are assembled together,

and kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

John 8:21-30 (Revised English Bible):

Again he [Jesus] said to them [the people],

I am going away.  You will look for me, but you will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.

At this [some of] the Jews said,

Perhaps he will kill himself: is that what he means when he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?

Jesus continued,

You belong to this world below, I to the world above.  Your home is in this world, mine is not.  That is why I told you that you would die in your sins; and you will die in your sins unless you believe I am what I am.

They asked him,

And who are you?

Jesus answered,

What I have told you all along.  I have much to say about you–and in judgement.  But he who sent me speaks the truth, and what I heard from him I report to the world.

They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.  So Jesus said to them,

When you have lifted up the Son of Man you will know that I am what I am.  I do nothing on my own authority, but in all I say, I have been taught by my Father.  He who sent me is present with me, and has not left me on my own; for I always do what is pleasing to him.

As he said this, many put their faith in him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, through the incarnate Word you have caused us to be born anew of an imperishable and eternal seed: Look with compassion upon those who are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant that they may be built as living stones into a spiritual temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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These readings prompted spiritual digestion for a few days.  After some reading, listening, and pondering, however, some coherent thoughts have occurred to me.

1.  The Jewish Scriptures arose from oral tradition, which interpreted certain natural events as the wrath of God.  Snakes bite people sometimes.  Yet God did not send venomous serpents to bite human beings, no matter how irritating they became.  One might think that liberated people would know better than to wax nostalgic about Egyptian leftovers, but one would be mistaken.

2.  “Sacred violence” is a terrible notion.  God does not commit or condone violence, for God is love.  The idea of sacred violence underpins the interpretation in the reading from Numbers, as well as the mindset which led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Did not the story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham make this point clear?  It did not, to the satisfaction of many people, apparently.

3.  Gazing upon the bronze snake was an example of sympathetic magic.  The cure was related to the affliction.  In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul wrote, “…with the testing he [God] will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”  The way out of affliction is related to the nature of the affliction itself.

4.  The Christus Victor interpretation of the Atonement proves helpful in the context of these readings.  Given the trajectory of Jesus’ life, one outcome was likely.  He would collide with religious authorities and the Roman Empire, and therefore die in a painful and humiliating manner.  Such was the consequence to himself.  (Now to Christus Victor).  The death and resurrection (Let us never forget to move on to the Resurrection.) of Jesus constituted the vanquishing of evil schemes and the liberation of people from the bondage of sin.  (They need to trust in him, of course.)  The Resurrection constitutes a great display of divine power.  Imagine if God were from South Philly:  “What else you got?  Bring it on!”

Just as sin and evil led to the crucifixion, and the crucifixion had to precede the Resurrection, the Resurrection contains the antidote to the power of sin and evil.  Hence we see the connection between a bronze snake on a pole and the cross of Jesus.

5.  Lent is a time for many people to prepare for Baptism, which is Christian initiation, not proverbial fire insurance.  Through the sacramental waters of baptism Christians enter into the faith community.  Other sacraments mark further steps in the journey.  I, for example, have gone through confirmation once and reaffirmation twice.  But I have had only one baptism, and only one is necessary.  And every time I have witnessed a baptism, confirmation, or reaffirmation I have reaffirmed my baptismal vows in the congregational context.  Just as Jesus demonstrated the relative impotence of evil and sin with his bloodshed and glorious resurrection, we of church today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, bury sins sacramentally with water.

6.  My Presbyterian brethren emphasize the sovereignty of God.  They are correct in this.  God will win–perhaps not via Divine Plan A–but God will win. Deo Gratia!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF DUNWICH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPRHEY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

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Posted February 14, 2012 by neatnik2009 in John 8, Numbers 21, Psalm 102

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