Archive for the ‘Psalm 115’ Category

In Defense of Ritualism   1 comment

conf_9764

Above:  The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, December 14, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 28:29-38 (Monday)

Numbers 8:5-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 115 (Both Days)

Philippians 1:3-11 (Monday)

Titus 1:1-9 (Tuesday)

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God might be present and imminent, as I concluded in the previous new post, but how we approach God still matters.  We should do so with deep reverence.  That is why the priestly vestments in Exodus 28 were so elaborate and the ritualism of preparation for service to God in Numbers 8 occurred.  Likewise important in the texts is character, for not only must one person perform the rituals dressed properly, but one must do so according to other rules.  One of those rules is not to mistake any sacred ritual for a talisman which protects insincere people from the consequences of their sins.

One of the advantages of belonging to and attending a more formal church is participating frequently in a series of sacred rituals presided over by clergy in vestments.  The air of formality sets the rituals apart from other occasions in life.  With that formality comes reverence.  Many congregations, I am convinced, are too informal, especially with regard to the professional and ritual attire of ministers and to rituals themselves.  All this helps to explain why I am a practicing ritualist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part V: Illusions and Attachments as Idols   1 comment

500-bill-1918

Above:  A United States $500 Bill from 1918  

$500 in 1918= $7,470 in 2011 (Consumer Price Index)

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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 14:1-25 (43th Day of Easter)

Numbers 14:26-45 (44th Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–43th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–44th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–43th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–44th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:18-34 (43th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:35-19:10 (44th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Numbers 14:1-25

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 18-19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

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I found Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah (2001) helpful in understanding what happened in Numbers 14.  (Aside:  If you, O reader, do not have a copy of that excellent book, you might want to purchase one.)  The spies/scouts have returned from their mission.  Some have warned in dire tones of the dangers there.  As Friedman pointed out and I did notice, they had not mentioned God.  But Caleb was more optimistic, ready to go back with the rest of the population.

In Numbers 14 the community laments the possibility of going to Canaan.  Dying in the desert seems preferable.  Even returning to Egypt, where they had been slaves, seems better than going to Canaan.  Caleb and Joshua try to calm the people, to no avail.  God, angry, threatens to destroy the faithless people, but Moses talks God down.  Instead, God decrees, the people will get their wish:  they will die in the desert.  This does not make them happy either.  And those who, against divine instructions, go up against the Canaanites and the Amalekites without God’s blessing and the Ark of the Covenant perish.

As Friedman stresses, the problem was a slave mentality.  The faithless people had not had to act before.  The Egyptians had acted upon them and made decisions for them.  God had liberated them and provided them with manna and quail in the desert.  (They did have to eat.)  But resettling Canaan would require effort.  It would require them to decide then to act.

An entire generation’s experience is not easily reversed.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 475

The faithless Israelites clung tenaciously to nostalgia (for slavery, oddly enough) and to a slave mentality.  The rich man in Luke 18:18-23 clung to his wealth, which blinded him to his total dependence on God.  Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:1-10) preferred an attachment to Jesus to one to wealth and the illusion of independence.

Illusions and attachments can be the most difficult idols from which to divorce ourselves.  An idol, of course, is anything which distracts us from God.  Statutes of pagan deities are obvious idols, but concepts can be less obvious and more powerful ones.  We depend entirely on God.  We cannot pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps.  Yes, we have an obligation to cooperate with God, but we cannot save ourselves.  And grace–that which we do not do–requires much of us.  It requires us to decide then to act.  It is free, not cheap.

Which illusions and attachments are your most powerful idols, O reader?  I must recognize and confront mine.  May you do the same to yours.  And may we succeed via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-third-and-forty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part I: Respecting God   1 comment

return-of-the-prodigal-son-leonello-spada

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada

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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 3:1-16, 39-48 (36th Day of Easter)

Numbers 8:5-26 (37th Dayof Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–36th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–37th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–36th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–37th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:25-15:10 (36th Day of Easter)

Luke 15:11-32 (37th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 14-15:

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-thursday-year-1/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter/

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I belong to a wonderful congregation in Athens, Georgia.  It is friendly, generous, socially progressive, and open to free intellectual and spiritual inquiry.  The parish has become a community leader in environmental stewardship, with plans to improve according to this standard.  Of all the churches to which I have belonged, it is the closest fit for me.  Yet I think that my parish is too casual.  This is not a deal breaker for me, but the place is too casual.  So I come to church most Sundays dressed in a suit, a tie, and a fedora.  I stand out.  In a place where I, once the resident heretic in southern Georgia, am now relatively orthodox (without having changed my mind much), I stand out in another way.  Blending in is overrated.

The concept of one’s Sunday Best is a dated one in my increasingly casual North American culture.  Without turning church into an occasion for a fashion show, I affirm the underlying principle of Sunday Best:  One ought not approach God with a casual attitude.  That principle also undergirded the purity and Levitical codes in the Law of Moses.

This God whom we should not approach casually is the one whom we should love more than any person, possession, or other attachment.  This is the God who seeks us out when we are lost.  This is the God who listens to our insults, waives the death penalty from the Law of Moses, awaits our return, and welcomes us home.  (The son in the parable had told his father, via his early request for his inheritance,

I wish that you were dead.

This met the definition of cursing or insulting a parent, an offense which carried the death penalty.)

This is God, worthy of all our respect.  May our manner and attitude of approaching God in public and private reflect that reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-and-thirty-seventh-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Leviticus and Luke, Part V: Like a Broken Record   1 comment

phonograph

Above:  A Long-Playing Record

Image Source = Tomasz Sienicki

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gramofon_1_ubt.jpeg)

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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:

Leviticus 20:1-16, 22-27 (29th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 21:1-24 (30th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 23:1-22 (31st Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–29th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–30th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–31st Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–29th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–30th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–31st Day of Easter)

Luke 11:37-54 (29th Day of Easter)

Luke 12:1-12 (30th Day of Easter)

Luke 12:13-34 (31st Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 21-23:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/proper-25-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

Luke 11-12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-1/

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/week-of-proper-23-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-1/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter/

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 I admit it; I sound like a broken record:  Loving people and seeking justice for them matters far more than does keeping an obscure element of the Law of Moses.  Speaking of that law code, shall we consider some provisions of it?  We read some sexual laws and an order to execute one for the offense of idolatry.  Then there is this law:

If anyone insults his father or his mother, he shall be put to death; he has insulted his father and his mother–his blood guilt is upon him.

–Leviticus 20:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

To insult is also to curse, the sort of activity the Prodigal Son committed in Luke 15.  Yet the father, the God figure in the parable, forgave the son.

We read in Leviticus 21:16 forward that physically handicapped or deformed Levites were forbidden to serve as priests.  It seems that such men were not supposed to serve God in that way because their physical imperfections reflected the divine form inadequately.  I am glad of progressive attitudes regarding physical differences in modern times; may these ideas flourish.

Then we read about what makes a sacrifice acceptable.  I do not care, for none of that has mattered since the first century CE.

Jesus criticized people who were meticulous about legalistic details while they ignored the imperative of social justice.  He advocated humility before God, trust in God, and active concern for the conditions and circumstances of others.  I think that he cared about blind and disabled Levites, who got to eat well yet were still second-class spiritual citizens.

Speaking of Levites, contact with a corpse made one unclean (Leviticus 22).  That concern played a role in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).  And who was the hero in that story?

People matter more than arcane laws.  Here ends the lesson, again.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Leviticus and Luke, Part II: God Concepts   1 comment

sin-of-nadab-and-abihu

Above:  The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

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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:

Leviticus 9:1-14 (23rd Dayof Easter)

Leviticus 10:1-20 (24th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–23rd Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–24th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–23rd Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–24th Day of Easter)

Luke 9:18-36 (23rd Day of Easter)

Luke 9:37-62 (24th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/week-of-proper-21-tuesday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-2/

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My point of reference is that of a modern, liberal, intellectual North American Christian.  God is love, I affirm, and the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate.  So my God concept leads me to ask what Jesus would do.  Hence the God concept in Leviticus 10 is foreign to me.  The sacrifices in Leviticus 9 are likewise alien to me.  Parts of the Letter to the Hebrews played back in my head as I read these chapters from Leviticus.

Although I am a ritualist, I do not attach life or death stakes to performing a certain liturgical act just so.  What, I wonder, did Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, do that was so bad that they died on what was supposed to be a joyous occasion?  I found the following note from the The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004) helpful:

In biblical thought, however, ritual crimes are dire.  Further, the sin of the two brothers was not simply that they went too far in their misguided super-piety.  Rather, they acted in utter disregard for the deity.  God intended that the manifestations of His Presence would ignite the altar fire, marking His acceptance of His peoples’ devotion.  Their intent was for the divine fire to ignite their pans; that is, they were attempting to arrogate control of the deity to themselves.  (page 227)

Trying to control God is one sin; misunderstanding God can lead to others.  Consider Simon Peter, who grasped that Jesus was the Messiah but not what that entailed–suffering for the Messiah.  Then, at the Transfiguration, the Apostle would have institutionalized the event, not distinguishing among Jesus, Moses, or Elijah.  Our expectations and best attempts prove inadequate, do they not?

But, for a God concept, I still prefer Jesus to the Yahweh of Leviticus 10.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA  ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GILBERT KEITH (G. K.) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-and-twenty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part VIII: Damaged Relationships   1 comment

epitaph-of-a-roman-centurion

Above:  Epitaph of a Centurion

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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:

Exodus 33:1-23 (16th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 34:1-28 (17th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–16th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–17th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–16th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–17th Day of Easter)

Luke 7:1-17 (16th Day of Easter)

Luke 7:18-35 (17th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 33-34:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

Luke 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-wednesday/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-thursday/

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

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/

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The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelite people, ‘You are a stiffnecked people.  If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.  Now, then, leave off your finery, and I will consider what to do to you.’”

–Exodus 33:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I detect several consistent patterns in my life.  One of them pertains to what happens after I fall out with an institution.  I return after some time, but never with the same enthusiasm.  The water might be under the bridge, but I cannot forget the flood.  So the breach remains in my memory.  Things can be better, but not as they were before.  Perhaps this is a spiritual failing.  (Relationships with individuals are a different matter; I have reverted to a pre-falling out state with them.  Institutions are frequently impersonal by nature, however.)   I offer neither a defense nor a condemnation of myself relative to this reality relative to institutions; no, I am content at the moment to make an objectively accurate statement.

The relationship between God and the Israelites was damaged, not broken, in Exodus 33.  Moses functioned as an intermediary, for there was a distance between God and the people.  The narrative would have us believe that the people were entirely to blame, but I argue that God, as the narrative presents God, shared in the blame.  Were the people supposed to love and follow a deity who sent away those who had not adored the Golden Calf as punishment for the adoration of that idol?

The relationship between Jesus and the religious authorities (eventually broken) in the Gospel of Luke.  And, in Luke 7, our Lord found a Gentile–a Roman officer, no less–whose great faithfulness impressed him.  This spoke well for the Centurion but not of those religious authorities.

To tie everything together in a big theological bow, God did come among many of our forebears, and they did not perish. The Incarnation of God in Jesus constituted God among us, with us, and for us.  It was how God bridged the gap.  Things would not be as they were before.  No, they would be better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part II: Together in Society   1 comment

migrant-worker-1935

Above:  A Migrant Worker in California, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa1999000001/PP/)

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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:

Exodus 22:20-23:13

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening)

Luke 4:16-30

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 21-23:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

Luke 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-2/

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I began my preparations for this post by reading Exodus 21:1-23:13 closely.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary skips Exodus 21:1-22:19.  This statement does not constitute a criticism, for one must skip around sometimes when creating a lectionary.  Yet I thought that the skipped-over verses might pertain to the assigned material.  I was correct.

Exodus 22:20 forward commands the Israelites to show kindness, mercy, and respect to strangers, widows, and orphans, to refrain from usury (a rule which credit card companies violate daily), to make good sacrifices to God, to return wandering livestock to its owner, to grant justice to the poor, to leave food in the fields for the hungry, and to honor the Sabbath.  The guiding principle is that what one person does affects others.  There is no room for careless individualism which harms the society.

But what does one find in Exodus 21:1-22:19?  Slaves (more like indentured servants in the U.S. historical context) have rights.  Women have many of the same rights as men.  One dies for a variety of offenses, from cursing or insulting one’s parents to committing murder.  One can sell one’ s daughter into slavery.  Retribution is in proportion to the offense.  For  many offenses restitution–not death–is the penalty.  An Israelite who offers a sacrifice to a deity other than Yahweh must die.  A reader can find other laws there; this is just a sampling.

Historical and cultural contexts matter.  There were traditional Semitic notions of family honor and parental authority.  Any offense which carried the death penalty was one deemed especially dangerous to society.  And the people were nomads in the desert.  Resources were precious, and there was no jail or prison.

I, of course, live in a settled society which draws influences from the Enlightenment.  Despite poverty not far from my front door (a few miles away, elsewhere in Athens, Georgia, a street separates university dormitories from public housing projects), there is an abundance of food and drink.   And the local jail is frequently overcrowded.  I wonder how a modern version of the Law of Moses would compare the biblical one.

In Luke 4:16-30 we read an account of our Lord’s rejection at Nazareth, his hometown.  Plotting to overthrow someone off a cliff, as some residents of Nazareth meant to do Jesus, was not nice.  Perhaps some people thought that it was consistent with the death penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).  Or maybe it was just a case of homicidal rage.  If they had succeeded that day, would they not have been subject to death themselves (Exodus 21:14)?

One must, if one is to understand the Bible properly, consider it intelligently, taking into account all the germane contexts, avoiding the error of prooftexting, and not transforming the Bible into an idol.  May we use the Bible as an icon–through which we see God–not as an idol–which we see in lieu of God.  And may we remember that we are here on the planet together, so what one person does affects others.  And God expects us to avoid wronging or oppressing one another.  After all, we all bear the image of God; may we treat each other accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/devotion-for-the-ninth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionay/

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