Archive for the ‘Psalm 137’ Category

Love and Forgiveness   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:1-6

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13

John 12:44-50

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Isaiah 52:1-6 speaks of a time, in our past yet in the original audience’s future, when foreigners would no longer hold sway in Jerusalem.  One might imagine faithful Jews saying, in the words of Psalm 65:1,

You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet, in John 12, Jerusalem was not only under Roman occupation, but a Roman fortress sat next to and towered over the Temple complex, the seat of a collaborationist and theocratic state.  Jesus, about to die, is in hiding and the Temple rulers have been plotting since John 11:48-50 to scapegoat Jesus, for in the words of High Priest Caiaphas,

…it is better for you to have one man die to have the whole nation destroyed.

–John 11:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That was not the only germane conflict, for the Gospel of John came from marginalized Jewish Christians at the end of the first century C.E.  They had lost the argument in their community.  Certainly this fact influenced how they told the story of Jesus.  I know enough about the retelling and reinterpretation of the past to realize that we humans tell history in the context of our present.  The present tense shapes our understanding of events which belong in the past tense; it can be no other way.

What must it be like to experience great hope mixed with subsequent disappointment–perhaps even resentment–inside which we frame the older hope?  Faithful Jews of our Lord and Savior’s time knew that feeling well when they pondered parts of the Book of Isaiah and other texts.  The Johannine audience knew that feeling well when it considered Jesus.  Perhaps you, O reader, know that feeling well in circumstances only you know well.

And how should one respond?  I propose avoiding vengeance (in the style of Psalm 137) and scapegoating.  Anger might feel good in the short term, but it is a spiritual toxin in the medium and long terms.  No, I point to the love of Jesus, which asked God to forgive those who crucified him and consented to it, for they did not know what they had done and were doing.  And I point to Isaiah 52:3, in which God says:

You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I point to the agape God extends to us and which is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  Love and forgiveness are infinitely superior to anger, resentment, and scapegoating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-10-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Increased Faith   1 comment

28990v

Above:  A Drawing of a Mulberry Tree, 1919 or 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2008009491/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-28990

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The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:1-6 and Lamentations 3:19-26 (as a canticle) or Psalm 137

or 

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 37:1-10

then 

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 22, Year A:

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

Proper 22, Year B:

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

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Lamentations 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/proper-8-year-b/

Habakkuk 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-2/

2 Timothy 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-ninth-fortieth-and-forty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

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The readings from Habakkuk and Lamentations speak of suffering because of sins.  Thus they reflect a major theological theme of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Yet, amid widespread apostasy, faithful people remain.  And sometimes the faithful suffer because of their piety.  There is more than one cause for suffering.

“Faith” is a word with more than one meaning in the Bible.  In some instances it indicates an intellectual assent to a proposition or to propositions.  Thus, in the Letter of James, where this is the definition, works must accompany faith.  For the Apostle Paul, however, faith was inherently active, so works were already part of the formula and faith sufficed for justification to God.  The Letter to the Hebrews contains a third understanding, one in which faith is

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

–11:1, New Revised Standard Version

There it is a valid way of knowing that which we can neither confirm nor debunk by another means.

Faith, in Luke 17:5f, follows the Pauline definition.  It must do so, for the Gospels exist to, among other things, encourage discipleship–following Jesus.  The request for increased levels of faith is a prayer to be able to obey God and follow Jesus better.

That is a proper spiritual gift to seek to increase.  It can enable one to survive suffering and hardship falling prey to anger and resentment, thereby poisoning one’s soul.  No, may we avoid poisoning our souls, by faith.  And may we have more of it, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/proper-22-year-c/

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Commitments   1 comment

Above:  The Far West of the Persian Empire in 525 B.C.E.

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Nehemiah 2:1-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, wine was set before him; I took the wine and gave it to the king–I had never been out of sorts in his presence.  The king said to me,

How is it that you look bad, though you are not ill?  It must be bad thoughts.

I was very frightened, but I answered the king,

May the king live forever!  How should I not look bad when the city of the graveyard of my ancestors lies in ruins, and its gates have been consumed by fire?

The king said to me,

What is your request?

With a prayer to the God of Heaven, I answered the king,

If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah, the city of my ancestors’ graves, to rebuild it.

With the consort seated at his side, the king said to me,

How long will you be gone and when will you return?

So it was agreeable to the king to send me, and I gave him a date.  Then I said to the king,

If it please the king, let me have letters to the governors of the province Beyond the River, directing them to grant me passage until I reach Judah; likewise, a letter to Asaph, keeper of the King’s Park, directing him to give me timber for roofing the gatehouses of the temple fortress and the city walls and for the house I shall occupy.

The king gave me these, thanks to my God’s benevolent care for me.  When I came to the governors of the province of Beyond the River I gave them the king’s letters.  The king also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

Psalm 137 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,

when we remembered you, O Zion.

2  As for our harps, we hung them up

on the trees in the midst of that land.

3  For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,

and our oppressors called for mirth:

“Sing for us the songs of Zion.”

4  How shall we sing the LORD’s song

upon alien soil?

5  If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

let my right hand forget its skill.

6  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth

if I do not remember you,

if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

7  Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD,

against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it!  even to the ground!”

8  O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back

for that which you have done to us!

9  Happy shall be he who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

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Let us ground ourselves in time and space before we proceed.  Cyrus II “the Great” of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  He permitted the first group of Jews to return to their ancestral homeland one year later, 538 B.C.E.  He died in 530, and Cambyses (reigned 530-522) succeeded him.  After Cambyses came Darius I (reigned 522-486), who permitted the construction of the Second Temple from 520 to 515.  Xerxes I (reigned 486-465) occupied the throne next, after which came Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424), Nehemiah’s king.  (Thanks to The Jewish Study Bible for the dates.)

Nobody had restored the walls of Jerusalem nearly a century after the first group of exiles had returned.  So, circa 445 B.C.E, Nehemiah, the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I, sought and received permission to oversee the restoration of those walls.  The diminished state of Jerusalem troubled Nehemiah so much that he had to do something about it.  He committed himself to that great task.

Although the Biblical authors are generally favorably disposed toward the Persian kings who helped the Jews, many of the writings from and about that time have an air of melancholy about them.  The reality of 538 B.C.E. and the following years exists in the shadow of pre-destruction Jerusalem.  The Second Temple was far less grand than the complex from Solomon’s time, the city walls were in a dilapidated state for almost century, and home was part of a far-flung yet generally benevolent empire they did not govern.  Furthermore, Judea was one of the poorer regions of the Persian Empire, a fact of which the residents were quite aware.  There were many reasons to feel discouraged.

Consider Psalm 137 also.  It speaks of a time prior to the Persian conquest of Babylon.  The frustrations of the exiled, conquered, and/or colonized are understandable in any time or place.  These are on full display in Psalm 137, which I have typed in its entirely.  The lectionary said to stop at verse 6, but the full impact of the text requires that one read all of it.  Verses 7-9 speak of violence and the desire for revenge, even upon innocent children unfortunate enough to have been born Babylonian.  The Book of Psalms is honest about raw human emotions, as we should be without condoning certain ones.  But let us not skip over the verses we find uncomfortable.

The text in Luke has a parallel reading in Matthew.  Follow the URL I have provided to read my thoughts about the Matthew version.  It is sufficed to say here that, as I interpreted the Matthew version in the light of the verses before it, I will do the same for this day’s reading from Luke.  Jesus has just set his course for Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week.  So he does not tolerate excuses from anyone.  He has committed himself, so he expects others to dedicate themselves.

It is also worth noticing that, in the next section, Jesus sends the outer circle of disciples out on a preaching mission.  Thus 9:60 makes sense.  It reads, “…your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

There is much work to do for God.  May we avoid distractions and excuses; may we begin or continue to fulfill our vocations.  Along the way we may need some help from others of a different religious or ethnic or social group or economic class.  May they do their parts too.  And may we leave behind all baggage that would weigh us down.  May the love of God fill us and drive away all that is not love.

That is a commitment worth keeping.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 21, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES, POET AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 21, 2011

Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted October 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Nehemiah, Nehemiah 2, Psalm 137

Tagged with , , , ,

Admitting the Existence of Our Dark Sides   1 comment

Above:  Zedekiah Chained

2 Kings 25:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.  And in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army.  He besieged it; and they built towers against it all around.  The city continued in a state of siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.  By the ninth day [of the fourth month] the famine had become acute in the city; there was no food left for the common people.

Then [the wall of] the city was breached.  All the soldiers [left the city] by night through the gate between the double walls, which is near the king’s garden–the Chaldeans were all about the city; and [the king] set out for the Arabah.  But the Chaldean troops pursued the king, and they overtook him in the steppes of Jericho as his entire force left him and scattered.  They captured the king and brought him before the king of Babylon at Riblah; and they put him on trial.  They slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes; then Zedekiah’s eyes were put out.  He was chained in bronze fetters and he was brought to Babylon.

On the seventh day of the fifth month–that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon–Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards, an officer of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.  He burned the House of the LORD, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down the house of every notable person.  The entire Chaldean force that was with the chief of the guard tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side.  The remnant of the people that was left in the city, the defectors who had gone over to the king of Babylon–and the remnant of the population–were taken into exile by Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards.  But some of the poorest in the land were left by the chief of the guards, to be vinedressers and field hands.

Psalm 137 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,

when we remembered you, O Zion.

2  As for our harps, we hung them up

on the trees in the midst of that land.

3  For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,

and our oppressors called for mirth:

“Sing for us the songs of Zion.”

4  How shall we sing the LORD’s song

upon alien soil?

5  If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

let my right hand forget its skill.

6  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth

if I do not remember you,

if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

7  Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD,

against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it!  even to the ground!”

8  O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back

for that which you have done to us!

9  Happy shall be he who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

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The Canadian Anglican Lectionary says to read Psalm 137:106 for this day.  I have chosen, however, to include all nine verses.  The first six verses are mournful; the final three are vengeful.  These are honest and understandable emotions, given the circumstances.

One of the virtues of the Book of Psalms is its honesty.  True, we ought not indulge our feelings of vengeance by encouraging and acting upon them, but neither should we pretend that these emotions do not exist.  ”Vindicate me” and “Crush my enemies” are predictable pleas to God.

The good news is that we can take everything to God in prayer.  God already knows us–the good, the bad, and the really ugly–better than we know ourselves.  To be honest with God is a positive sign.  It is better than bottling up the gremlins of our souls or ignoring them.  And, by grace, we can work through our dark sides.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PORCHER DUBOSE, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELENA, MOTHER OF EMPEROR CONSTANTINE I

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-2/

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