Archive for the ‘Psalm 124’ Category

The Sin of Exclusionary Identity Politics   1 comment

lake-umbagog-wilderness-refuge

Above:  Umbagog Lake State Park, New Hampshire, United States of America

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:

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Psalm 143

John 7:14-36 (37-39)

James 2:(14-17) 18-26 or James 2:(1-10) 11-13 (14-17) 18-26 or Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21)

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Water is essential for life; one can life longer with water and without food than without water.  The preciousness of water is especially obvious in a parched and barren place.  In that context we read, from the early stage of the Babylonian Exile, a prediction of God’s recreation of the world and the restoration of the Kingdom of Judah and of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.  The rebuilt temple will occupy the central place in creation, we read, and from beneath the new Temple will flow life-giving waters.

That vision of post-exilic paradise on earth proved to be overly optimistic, however.  Life in post-exilic Judea did not match the vision of Ezekiel 47.  Nevertheless, God had acted.  Certainly many post-exilic Jews recited Psalm 124 with gratitude.

Part of post-exilic Judaism was a renewed focus on obeying the Law of Moses.  Some, however, took this principle to legalistic extremes.  One was supposed to do no work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), under pain of death (Numbers 15:32-36), with few exceptions.  Among these exceptions was circumcising a newborn boy on the eighth day, even if that day fell on the Sabbath (Leviticus 12:3).  Jesus healed on the Sabbath, pronounced the performing of good deeds on that day holy, and even noted the value of basic human needs, such as gathering food, permissible on that day.  He pointed to the hypocrisy of certain critics, who condemned him for healing on the Sabbath yet approved of removing valuable livestock from peril on that day.  In John 7 had Jesus committed a capital offense by healing on the Sabbath?  Some thought he had.  The poor man stoned in Numbers 15 had only gathered sticks on the Sabbath.

As James 2 reminds us, faith without works is dead and one should fulfill the law by acting according to the Golden Rule.  When I read the lection from John 7 I detect identity politics among the critics of our Lord and Savior.  I recall that they had set themselves apart from the Gentile-dominated world via their religion, with its laws and rituals.  I also detect such identity politics in the background of Galatians 2, although St. Paul the Apostle won approval for his mission to Gentiles, fortunately.

Religion should be about glorifying God, not our psyches.  It should teach us of our proper identities in God, not function as an excuse to exclude others, whom God considers insiders, wrongly.  Religion, with necessary rules, ought never to become an excuse for ignoring the commandment to act compassionately.

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-second-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Grace and Misfortune   1 comment

Flood

Above:   Flood, 1924

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-11224

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 1:1-21

Psalm 124

Luke 1:46b-55

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…our help is in the name of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The theme of divine favor unites the readings for this day.  Daniel and his companions obey kosher food laws in a foreign land.  They are therefore healthier than they would have been otherwise.  They also gain the favor of a Gentile potentate.  Of course, their fidelity pleases God.  Psalm 124 thanks God for delivering the people from threats.  One might note that the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles still occurred, of course.  Nothing in Psalm 124 denies the reality of both divine judgment and mercy, however.  And the Magnificat speaks of God’s favor for St. Mary (later of Nazareth) and the downtrodden.  The theme of the reversal of fortune, which is prominent in the Gospel of Luke, is on display in the passage from chapter 1.

I have learned the hard way that certain misfortunes come simply because one has breath.  Sometimes one is merely unfortunate–even in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Even then one is never alone, for God is ever-present.  Grace transforms unfortunate circumstances into occasions of abundant grace.  Even as one suffers God sets a table for one cup in the presence of one’s enemies, and one’s cup overflows.  One can, during times of adversity, speak as the author of Psalm 124 wrote:

Then water was washing us away,

a torrent running over us;

running right over us then

were turbulent waters.

Blessed be Yahweh for not letting us fall

a prey to their teeth!

–Verses 4-6, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/devotion-for-wednesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Light of Christ   1 comment

Light bulb in darkness

Above:   Lightbulb in Darkness

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:4-21

Psalm 124

Ephesians 5:15-20

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If Yahweh had not been on our side

–let Israel repeat it–

if Yahweh had not been on our side

when people attacked us,

they would have swallowed us alive

in the heat of their anger.

–Psalm 124:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The wisdom literature of the Old Testament identifies the power of God as masculine and the wisdom of God as feminine.  Thus, for example, we read Psalm 124, in which God has delivered Israel, and Proverbs 8, in which Lady Wisdom (Sophia) offers spiritual discipline more valuable than gold or rubies.  Spiritual discipline is also the theme of Ephesians 5:15-20.  Be filled with God; do not be drunk, it says.

The context of that passage is the renunciation of pagan ways.  Christianity was a young and small religion, and was still a school of Judaism.  The author’s concern in the passage was that Ephesian Christians behave themselves–be good examples.  This entailed curtailing certain appetites and resisting temptations.

That can prove difficult to do in any time and at any place.  Indeed, I think of a cocktail napkin I saw years ago.  It read,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

My own temptations keep me busy.  Among my spiritual difficulties is the fact that, quite often, virtues and vices resemble each other.  I know well that resolving to do the right thing is easy, but succeeding is frequently challenging.  Fortunately, God knows that I, like my fellow human beings, am dust, and grace is abundantly available.

In some ways my cultural context is similar to that of Ephesians 5.  Christianity is old, not new, but, in the Western world, it is increasingly in the position of occupying minority status.  In the United States, for example, the fastest-growing religious category is “none.”  Some people are overtly hostile to religion; Reza Aslan calls them antitheists, a category distinct from atheists.  Some adherents of other religions are openly hostile to Christianity.  In such contexts the advice from Ephesians 5:15-20 proves especially helpful.  May the light of Christ shine through us who identify as Christians.  May it scatter the darkness of ignorance and antipathy.  May we, by grace, comport ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ, our Master.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/devotion-for-tuesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted February 26, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 5, Proverbs, Psalm 124

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Free to Love in God   1 comment

Apples

Above:   Apples, Currier & Ives, 1868

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-3226

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 7:1-4

Psalm 124

Ephesians 4:7-16

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…our help is in the name of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The main two lections for this day urge the readers to heed God’s wisdom.  Proverbs 7 uses the imagery of binding divine decrees to one’s fingers and writing them on the tablet of one’s heart, even identifying Wisdom as one’s sister and Understanding as one’s kinswoman.  We read in Galatians that St. Paul the Apostle had become vexed by the influence of Judaizers and the willingness of many Christians in that city to heed their words, not his.  They had surrendered their freedom in Christ, the Apostle insisted.  Even keeping the Jewish liturgical calendar was too much for St. Paul.

I, as a historian of religion, know that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the old “Southern Presbyterian Church”) of 1899 passed a resolution condemning the religious observance of Christmas and Easter.  I found the text of that resolution on page 430 the journal of that General Assembly:

There us no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of gospel in Jesus Christ.

I also denounce any such interpretation of that verse, for the rhythms of the liturgical year facilitate my spiritual life and define my three lectionary-based weblogs, including this one.  To focus in Galatians 4:10 outside of its textual, cultural, and historical contexts is to miss the point.

The point is that we, through Christ, are heirs of and members of the household of God.  We are free to love God, love each other in God, and glorify God.  We are free to knock down, not erect, artificial barriers to God–barriers which people have created and maintained for their own purposes, not those of God.  We are free to include those whom God includes, not to exclude them wrongly.  (The wrongly excluded in Galatians 4 were Gentiles.)  We are free to root our identity in God (in whom is our help) alone, not in the fact that we are not like those other people we dislike so much.

That is a teaching I am comfortable calling the apple of my eye.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/devotion-for-monday-after-trinity-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Fresh Start   1 comment

icon_second_coming

Above:  Second Coming Icon

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:1-10

Psalm 124

Matthew 24:23-35

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 54:

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 24:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-8-and-9-lcms-daily-lectionary/

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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Blessed be the LORD,

who has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

–Psalm 124:6-7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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This is just like the days of Noah to me:

Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth,

so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you.

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,

but my steadfast love will not depart from you,

and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,

says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

–Isaiah 54:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version

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Isaiah 54:1-10 speaks of the return of exiles who have never known their ancestral homeland to that homeland.  God will act, the text says, and all will be better than it has ever been.  Sin might have led to the exile, but the faithful descendants of those sinners will have a fresh start.

A fresh start will follow what God will do, as described in the reading from Matthew 24.  The text does not cover that fresh start, but said fresh start will occur nevertheless.

It is common for lectionaries to assign apocalyptic readings for Advent.  May we who follow these lectionaries grasp the liturgical setting–preparation for the First Coming of Jesus at Christmas.  Therefore some readings about the Second Coming  are appropriate at the end of the calendar year, especially over two thousand years after the First Coming.  And may we remember that a fresh start for humankind followed that event, which we will (if we do it properly) celebrate December 25-January 5 in Western Christianity.  (The Eastern Orthodox have their own calendar.)  May we keep the impending fresh start in mind when we ponder the Second Coming.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Unworthiness of the World   1 comment

noahs-thank-offering-koch

Above:  Noah’s Thank Offering, by Joseph Anton Koch

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 9:1-17

Psalm 124

Hebrews 11:32-40

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/first-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-lent-monday-in-holy-week/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/proper-15-year-c/

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If the Lord had not been on our side,

now may Israel say:

If the Lord had not been on our side

when our enemies rose up against us,

then they would have swallowed us up alive:

when their fury was raised against us.

Then the flood would have swept us away:

and the torrent would have covered us.

Then the raging waters

would have gone right over our heads.

–Psalm 124:1-4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Daily Lectionary from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) skips over Genesis 8:20-22 (over J, the Yahwist, and from P, the Priestly Source) to 9:1-17 (back to P), which covers much of the same ground–plus a rainbow.  In that composite narrative many people had died because of their sinfulness.  In Hebrews 11:32-40, however, we read of people who have died because of their righteousness, people

of whom the world was not worthy.

–Verse 38a, The New Revised Standard Version

These saints, the lesson tells us,

…were commended for their faith [yet] did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better, so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

–Verses 39-40, The New Revised Standard Version

Both readings contain the element of the unworthiness of the world.  Although the world might be unworthy God vows never to flood it again.  The world might be unworthy yet God does not give up on it, hence the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth and all that followed it–especially the death and resurrection of Jesus and their spiritual implications for us.  God has not given up on the world yet; unwritten chapters in the story of grace on this planet remain for people to see unfold.

Yes, we are unworthy; I take that as a given.  But does that reality constitute a topic upon which we should dwell?  No.  God knows what we are yet has identified with us by means of the Incarnation.  Our worthiness is in God alone.  May we respond lovingly to God, who loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted July 6, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Genesis I: 1-11, Hebrews 11, Psalm 124

Tagged with , ,

Erasing Sin   1 comment

subsiding-of-the-waters-of-the-deluge

Above:  The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge, by Thomas Cole

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 8:1-19

Psalm 124

Romans 6:1-11

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/devotion-for-the-sixth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-wednesday-year-1/

Romans 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/devotion-for-january-14-and-15-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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Our help is in the name of the Lord,

who has made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124:7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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With this post I commence new devotions for Advent 2013 and Church Year 2013-2014.

The story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood fascinates me.  For starters, it is a composite story with several literary traditions woven together.  The seams are obvious to anyone who knows what to look for, where to look for it, and who uses a fine-toothed comb.  So the story is not history.  That part does not disturb me, for I am comfortable with mythology in the highest sense of that word:  something which is true without being literally true.

The depiction of God in the composite account does disturb me, however.  God–here and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures–seems quite eager to destroy entire populations.  The English word for that is “genocide.”

The theology of the composite story of the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark is that God wanted to erase sin from the face of the earth–clean the slate–and start over.  So we have a story of creative destruction:  a remnant survives and rebuilds.  After our Genesis reading ends, however, YHWH vows never to do such a thing again (Genesis 8:20-22).  God’s change of mind comes from the Yahwist (J), while the preceding nineteen verses are a combination of the Yahwist and the Priestly Source (P), mostly P.

In Romans 6 we read of a new, better way out of sin–the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  The Apostle Paul uses those not only as literal truths but as metaphors for our lives:

For whoever has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

–Verses 7-8, The New Revised Standard Version

This is the same Jesus for whose First Coming we prepare liturgically during Advent.  So, as we rush from party to party and from store to store, may we never forget the “Christ” in “Christmas.”  And may we never neglect the season of Advent.  No, may it prove to be a spiritually edifying time for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 5–THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/devotion-for-monday-after-the-first-sunday-in-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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