Archive for the ‘Psalm 119 Yodh’ Category

Judgment, Mercy, Hope, and Repentance   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino

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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Jeremiah 32:36-44

Psalm 119:73-80

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

John 7:53-8:11

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 32:36-44, for example, we read that the Babylonian Exile will come yet will also end.  The author of Psalm 119 understands that God, whom he trusts, has humbled him.  In 2 Corinthians 1 the emphasis is on mercy, via Christ.

Judgment and mercy also coexist in John 7:53-8:11, a frequently misunderstood and subtle passage with some ambiguity.  It has been part of the Johannine Gospel since the 200s and is actually of Synoptic origin–probably from the Gospel of Luke.  It flows naturally in some manuscripts from Luke 21:37-38 and into Luke 22.  John 7:53-8:11 us a free-floating pericope; I treat it as such.  Indeed, one can skip over it, reading 7:52 then 8:12, and not miss a beat.

Certain religious leaders set a trap for Jesus.  This was quite a pastime in the canonical Gospels.  These particular officials, in setting this trap, violated the Law of Moses.  First, the man and woman involved in adultery were subject to the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).  Where was the man?  Second, there were supposed to be witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).  The Roman authorities had deprived the Jewish authorities of the right to execute under the Law of Moses (John 18:31), so there was probably a political element to the trap–Rome or Torah?  (Those who set the trap were Roman collaborators.)  Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, recognized the trap for what it was.  He reversed the trap.  What did he write with his finger?  Some Patristic exegetes suggested Jeremiah 17:13:

LORD, on whom Israel’s hope is fixed,

all who reject you will be put to shame,

those who forsake you will be inscribed in the dust,

for they have rejected the source of living water, the LORD.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

But we cannot be sure.

Also, the witnesses were to be the first to stone the adulteress (Deuteronomy 17:7):

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

–John 8:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The woman’s accuser, of course, left the scene.  Jesus, instead of condemning her, instructed her to repent.

Then, if we accept the Lukan placement of the pericope, the chief priests and scribes plotted the death of Jess that fateful Passover week.

(Aside:  I have heard a Roman Catholic joke based on the pericope.  After John 8:11 Jesus and the woman were standing together.  Then a stone came, seemingly from nowhere.  Jesus exclaimed, “O, mother!”)

In God exists judgment and mercy.  Mercy includes opportunities to repent–to turn one’s back on sin.  God likes repentance, I keep reading in the Bible.  There is hope in repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/devotion-for-proper-19-ackerman/

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Christ, Victorious I   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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:

Hosea 14:1-9

Psalm 64 or 119:73-96

John 16:16-24

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17

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The reading from Hosea is interesting.  Thematically it is similar to the assigned portions from the Book of Psalms, with the exception that exile would certainly occur but that return will follow it.  The rub, so to speak, is that Hosea 14 refers to exiles returning from captivity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, not the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The prophetic book refers to the Ten Lost Tribes.  Genetics and cultural anthropology have revealed the locations of those tribes, from South Africa to Afghanistan.  Although some members of this diaspora have emigrated to the State of Israel, most have not.  The fulfillment of this prophecy resides in the future.

Jesus is about to die in John 16.  Nevertheless, future joy is on his mind.  As one reads, that joy will be complete, by the power of God.  In God one will find deep joys that people are powerless to take away.

Joys–fleeting and timeless–seem off the table in the reading room from 2 Corinthians.  St. Paul the Apostle spends time attempting to soothe the hurt feelings of some overly sensitive Corinthians, who have mistaken his kindness for an insult.  Eventually he makes the point that faithful Christians are the aroma or fragrance of Christ–the scent produced by the burning of incense in worship.  People, depending upon how they respond to this aroma, will go onto either salvation or destruction.

St. Paul turns a metaphor on its head in 2:14.  The triumphal procession is a reference to a Roman military procession following a conquest.  Victorious soldiers and defeated prisoners, led either to death or slavery, were participants in such a procession.  But in which category does one find oneself–soldier or prisoner?  Is Christ the victorious general in the metaphor?  St. Paul argues that point of view.

Christ, whom the Roman Empire executed as a threat to national security, is like a victorious Roman general leading Christian forces in triumph and glory.  That is an intriguing metaphor from St. Paul.  I am uncertain what Jesus might have to say about it, had someone suggested it to him.  Christ was (especially in the Gospels of Mark and John) a powerful figure, but he declined to accept the definition of himself as a king, at least in conventional human terms.  As he said, his kingdom was not like any earthly kingdom; the two were, actually opposites, as he said.  Also, the image of Christ leading conquered people to death or slavery does not sit well with me.

I do, however, like the reminder that Christ proved victorious over human evil.  That is a worthy theme for the Second Sunday of Easter.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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With and Without Excuses   1 comment

Ruins at Chorazin

Above:  Ruins at Chorazin

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01110

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 23:1-16

Psalm 119:73-80

Luke 10:13-16

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I know, Yahweh, that your judgements are upright,

and in punishing me you show your constancy.

–Psalm 119:75, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The brief reading from Luke 10 follows Jesus sending the 70 (or 72) members of his outer circle on a missionary journey.  He concludes his instructions by commanding them to leave paces where they encounter rejection.

I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

–Luke 10:12, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In Luke 10:13-16 punishment for those who reject God and should have known better will be worse than the penalty for those who had no opportunity to know better.  The historical context is the spread of early Christianity, so Luke means the rejection of the Christian gospel.

The reading from Joshua 23 foreshadows much subsequent Biblical material.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile in the Hebrew Bible is that it resulted from habitual and widespread disregard for the Law of Moses, especially the principles against idolatry and economic injustice.  I cannot read Joshua 23 without thinking of Hebrew prophets thundering against judicial corruption, the exploitation of the poor, and the cynical use of sacred ceremonies as talismans meant to shield victimizers from the wrath of God.

With regard to certain theological propositions many people have  no way of knowing better, for the message has yet to reach them.  Nevertheless, the Golden Rule exists in almost all of the world’s religions.  Nobody has an excuse for violating that commandment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Spiritual Blindness   1 comment

Ephesus

Above:  Ephesus

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23106

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 6:10-19 (Monday)

Jeremiah 8:4-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:73-78 (Both Days)

Acts 19:21-27 (Monday)

Acts 19:28-41 (Tuesday)

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Your hands have made me and held me firm,

give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments.

–Psalm 119:73, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Among the sins of people in Jeremiah 6 and 8 was having an attitude other than that manifested in Psalm 119:73-80.  If they did not know better, they should have.  They lacked any legitimate excuse for their sins, especially those that harmed the vulnerable.  This sinful population reaped what it sowed.

One might wonder if Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus, had a way of knowing better.  He profited by making and selling silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, and the spread of Christianity threatened his business.  Demetrius incited violence against traveling companions of St. Paul the Apostle.  Fortunately, the town clerk refused to submit to mob rule.  Judaism was not unknown among Gentile populations in the Hellenistic age, so perhaps that fact deprived Demetrius of an excuse.  Yes, Christianity was young and misconceptions regarding it were commonplace.  Even the Roman historian Tacitus repeated some inaccurate information regarding Christians and Christianity as if it were accurate.  He could have conducted a fact check easily, but he did not.  Likewise, Demetrius could have learned much about Christianity, for there was a church in the city.  He was also without an excuse.

Sometimes we humans become accustomed to certain sets of propositions, even those which are false.  Yet we might not recognize them as being such.  Greed is another spiritually blinding factor, as in Jeremiah 6 and Acts 19.  Righteousness becomes economically inconvenient.  Regardless of the reason(s) for our spiritual blindness, may we repent of it and may God forgive us for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part II: Judgment, Mercy, and Apostasy   1 comment

crucifix-with-votive-candles

Above:  A Crucifix with Votive Candles

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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 9:1-28

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Hebrews 2:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Hebrews 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-monday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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Before I arrive at my main point I choose to indulge myself in raising two points.

ALPHA

All the livestock of the Egyptians died in Exodus 9:6.  That is what the text says.  Where, then, did the Egyptians get the livestock mentioned in 9:19?  My inquiring mind wants to know.  The source of both verses is presumably the Elohist (E), so I cannot explain away this detail by pointing to the editing together of different documents.  And I assume that the Hebrews kept all their livestock, of which we will read later in the Book of Exodus.

I did find one attempt to explain this detail.  The NIV Study Bible (1985), page 98, offers this weak explanation:

That is, all that were left out in the fields.  Protected livestock remained alive (see vv. 19-21).

But that is not what 9:6 says.  It does not say that all the unprotected livestock died.  No, even in the New International Version, it reads:

All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but one one animal belonging to the Israelites died.

The sooner we abandon misconceptions of Scriptural infallibility and inerrancy, the better off we will be.  We ought not to transform texts into allegedly error-free idols.  No, an error crept in somewhere during the transmission of the saga of the plagues.  That is the simplest explanation.

BETA

Hebrews 2:15 is one source for the Conquest Satan theory of the Atonement.  One finds three understandings of the Atonement in the writings of the first five centuries’ worth of the Church Fathers.  The other two are Penal Substitution and the Incarnation itself.

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Now for my main programming….

Exodus 9:20-21, for the first time in that book, makes a distinction between those Egyptians who obeyed God’s instructions and those who did not.  Those who did as Moses said reaped the benefits.  And, in Hebrews 2:1-4, we read a stark warning not to neglect salvation

so that we do not drift away.

–2:1b, The New Jerusalem Bible

Yes, I affirm Single Predestination and its partner, free will, and therefore recognize the possibility of committing apostasy.  I do not advocate apostasy, however.  Free will plays a vital role in gaining and retaining salvation for many people.

The original audience for the Letter to the Hebrews risked suffering for the Gospel.  So here in Chapter 2 we find yet another passage which contradicts the idea that suffering necessarily equals punishment for sin.  In fact, the text tells us, Christ’s suffering “perfected” him, that is, completed the divine plan of salvation.  So Christ, who has suffered, can identify with and help suffering Christians.

This is excellent news.  It should encourage us in our struggles.  But if we drift away, there remains the possibility of returning.  I do not presume to know the extent of divine mercy.  It is vast, however.  But there is also judgment.  All of these matters are for God, not me, to decide and decree.  If we are prodigal sons or daughters, may we return to home and stay there.  And, if we are elder brothers or sisters, may we not resent divine mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Exodus and Mark, Part II: To Flee Or Not To Flee; That is the Question   1 comment

passing-through-gethsemane-02

Above:  Brother Edward from Babylon 5: Passing Through Gethsemane (1995)

Image = A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD

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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 2:1-22

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Mark 14:32-52

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-1/

Babylon 5:  Passing Through Gethsemane:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/babylon-5-passing-through-gethsemane-1995/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/prayer-for-monday-in-the-fifth-week-of-lent/

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Before I get to my main point I desire to share an interesting feature of the Gospel of Mark as a literary composition.  In 14:52 a young man flees Gethsemane naked.  Yet, in 16:5, a young man wearing a white robe sits in the empty tomb.  I had not noticed the juxtaposition of these two verses until I watched Professor Luke Timothy Johnson’s Jesus and the Gospels course from The Teaching Company.  Is the young man in Chapter 14 the young man in Chapter 16?  And what the significance, if any, of two mentions of a young man in relation to the death (before it and after it) of our Lord?  The Gospel of Mark is a brilliant composition, so I wonder about this matter, which does not seem accidental to me.

Now for my main point….

Moses, by Exodus 2:11-15, had come to identify as a Hebrew.  I wonder what would have happened had he not fled.  Later in the Book of Exodus he walks into the royal palace and confronts the next Pharaoh.  He (Moses) was no less a murderer than he was in Chapter 2.  And, later, he was also a fugitive.  Exodus 4:19 not withstanding, did not the Egyptians keep records?  Was there a statute of limitations on murder?  My counter-factual wondering aside, Moses did flee.  And it was a wise decision.

Jesus did not have to remain at Gethsemane.  Authorities would have apprehended then killed him eventually, but it did not have to be at that place and time.  But he stayed voluntarily.

Babylon 5 (1994-1998) is one of my favorite science fiction series.  In one episode, Passing Through Gethsemane (1995),  Brother Edward, a Roman Catholic monk on the space station, explains (when asked) the core of his faith to two aliens.  He explains that Christ did not have remain at Gethsemane.  Edward wondered if he would have had the same courage.

There is a time to remain in a difficult situation for the sake of others.  And there is a time to leave and live to fight another day, so to speak.  In military terms, there is no shame in a tactical retreat.  But may we know when to remain, when to advance, and when to retreat.  May we listen then obey when God tells us the proper course of action.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XXI: Reconciliation Versus Destruction   1 comment

parable-of-the-wicked-husbandmen

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen

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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:

Genesis 42:1-34, 38

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Mark 12:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 42:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/week-of-proper-9-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Matthew 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-for-monday-in-the-fourth-week-of-lent/

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Selling anyone into slavery is a wicked act.  That statement seems self-evident, does it not?  Yet that is what Joseph’s brothers plotted to do to him.  And so he went to Egypt involuntarily.  Years later, with severe famine widespread, most of these brothers met Joseph again without recognizing him.  And he tested them while setting in motion plans for a family reunion.  In return for wickedness there was grace, even if it wore a disguise.

In contrast we have the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, which we find in all three Synoptic Gospels.  (It also appears in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-19.)  The chronology in each case is quite similar:  It is Holy Week, Jesus having expelled the money changers from the Temple recently.  The accounts from Mark and Luke end in the same way, more or less, as does that of Matthew, but the latter adds an explicit wrinkle left implicit in the other Gospels:

I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

–Matthew 21:43, The New Jerusalem Bible

This is a troublesome parable.  God looks like an absentee landlord who demands the fruits of other’s labor.  So one might sympathize with the frustrations, if not the violence, of the wicked tenants.  Yet that is beside the point.  In textual context, Jesus is the murdered son and the Temple authorities are the wicked tenants.  Read in the context of the First Jewish War and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, events in the shadows of which the canonical Gospels exist, the Christians (many of them Jewish at the time) are the new tenants.

Such stories have become fodder for Anti-Semites.  This is most unfortunate.  I reject hatred toward any group of people, especially the Jews, the truck of the tree onto which my branch, the Gentiles, is grafted, by grace.

So we have two responses to evil:  reconciliation and destruction.  The latter attitude, as reflected in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, is understandable in the context of the long and messy separation of Christianity from Judaism.  The earliest canonical Gospel, Mark, dates to no earlier than 67 CE.  John, likely the latest one, probably comes from the 90s.  Mutual anger, resentment, and misunderstanding characterized the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, its offspring.  The canonical Gospels are documents from that particular era, so they reflect the time of their origin.  We humans recall and retell the past in the context of our present; the Gospels are consistent with this rule.

Reconciliation is preferable to destruction, anger, resentment, and misunderstanding.  It is not always possible, for reconciliation is a mutual state.  Yet, if reconciliation does prove impossible because one party is unwilling, the willing party can forgive and refuse to hold a grudge any longer, if at all.  And that is better than mutual hostility.  Did Jesus condemn from the cross?  No, he forgave!  May we, by grace, follow his example and forgive–reconcile, if possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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