Archive for the ‘Psalm 138’ Category

Restoration V: Exile and Restoration   1 comment

Foundation of the Tower of Antonia

Above:  Foundation of the Tower of Antonia, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1921

Image Creators = Jamal Brothers

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/item/mamcol.045/#about-this-item)

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-38

Psalm 138

Matthew 16:5-12

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All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,

that great is the glory of the Lord.

–Psalm 138:4-5, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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That was part of the vision of the Book of Ezekiel.  The theology of that text held that exile was divine punishment for persistent national sins and that God would act mightily to restore the fortunes of Israel for the glory of the divine name and the benefit of the people.  Surely such an impressive act would convince many skeptical people that God (YHWH) was not only real but great.  It was a hopeful vision, but life in post-exilic Judea fell far short of those expectations.  At the time of Christ the Roman Empire ruled in military might and with economic exploitation, with the collaboration of Jerusalem Temple officials in Jerusalem.  The exilic experience persisted, with the ironic twist that the exiles were home.

We human beings have a tendency to use logic to confirm our opinions.  Thus we tend to seek prooftexts, cherry-pick evidence, and seek not to become “confused by the facts.”  This reality helps to explain much political discord, especially when disputing partisans cannot agree even on the definition of objective reality.

Sadducees and Pharisees disagreed on many substantive issues, but members of both camps were in league with the Roman Empire and challenged Jesus.  Of course their stations in life and their theological opinions reinforced each other in a repeating feedback loop, but I suspect that many Sadducees and Pharisees were sincere in their doctrine.  They followed the Law of Moses as they understood it and recalled lessons from Hebrew tradition about the relationship between national sin and fortunes.  And certainly they understood our Lord and Savior as a threat in the overlapping realms of economics, politics, and religion.

I know which side I support, for I am a Christian, a partisan of Christ.  Both the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to perpetuate forms of piety dependent on wealth.  Peasants could not find enough time to keep all the Pharisaic rules and regulations, for they had to work for so many hours.  And Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, channeled considerable efforts into maintaining aristocratic status and estates for the next generation to inherit.  That brought them into disagreement with Jesus.

Exile can assume many forms.  People can be in exile at home or abroad, physically or spiritually.  Exiles might not even know that they are in exile and therefore in need of restoration.  Informing such exiles of their actual status might prompt not return, restoration, and gratitude but hostility and even violence.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will preserve me;

you will stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand will save me.

The Lord shall make good his purpose for me;

your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever;

forsake not the work of your hands.

–Psalm 138:7-8, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), page 266, offers a germane analysis:

God does not impose his gracious purpose on us, but waits until we ourselves desire it of him.  We sometimes hear it argued that if God is really eager to bless us, he will give up now what we need and not wait till we ask him.  But is that so?  Surely God is never concerned merely to give us things, but only in and through what he gives us to train to be his children, true men and women.  He can adequately bless us only when we ourselves are ready and eager for his blessing.  Thus some of us discover for the first time what if it really means to relish our food–because we come to it hungry.  It is as simple as that.

So, how eager are you, O reader, to receive the grace God has for you and the responsibilities which come with it?  Grace is free to us; we cannot purchase it.  But it is not cheap, for it costs us much.  Many have even died in faithful response.  They have died as free people–not exiles–in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF WALTER CRONKITE, JOURNALIST

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This post owes much to the scholarship of Richard Horsley.  Perhaps the most compact book in his oeuvre is Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003).

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-16-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Compassionately   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication

Above:  Byzantine Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Taghba, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 28:11-19 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 31:15-18 (Friday)

Psalm 138 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (Friday)

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The LORD is high, yet the LORD cares for the lowly

and perceives the haughty from afar.

–Psalm 138:6, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The assigned readings for these two days focus on the question of how we should treat others as opposed to how we behave toward them much of the time.  Exploitation comes in more than one form; economic, judicial, and sexual varieties of such bad behavior come to mind immediately.  That which builds one up at the expense of others–by taking from them wrongly or denying them what they should have–is immoral.  Yet many people already wealthy pile up more riches by taking from those who have less or by denying others that which they ought to have–sufficient means–by right.  Yes, I am writing about greed, a predatory force.

The essence of compassion is to dethrone oneself from the center of one’s life or never to place oneself there.  Selfishness (of which greed is a symptom) can result from a variety of issues, including two related to the ego.  One is pride–hubris, to be precise.  Taking pride in one’s work is positive, for it contributes to better work.  Yet hubris goes before the fall.  This is a phenomenon of the ego run amok.  I have known this temptation and yielded to it in the realm of intellectual arrogance.  The causes were understandable, given the circumstances, but that fact did not–and still does not–constitute an excuse or justification.  I continue to struggle with intellectual arrogance at times, but at least I know about the problem and recognize it as such.  I am imperfect, but I have made progress, by grace.   At the opposite end of the spectrum is the inferiority complex.  People with this problem who do not deal with it constructively lead self-centered lives dedicated to making themselves feel better about themselves.  (I have one person, who will remain unnamed in this post, in mind.)  In cases of both extremes the offenders injure themselves and others, for what one person does affects others.  That is the way of the universe.

To have a balanced ego is the better course.  And following the advice of St. Paul the Apostle to boast only of the Lord is a spiritually healthy path to take in life.  The desire to do these things is a good start, one possible only by grace.  This desire might constitute our proverbial few loaves of bread and fishes, and therefore seem woefully inadequate for the task.  It is inadequate for the task, of course, but God can multiply it.  This is not about what we do.  No, it is about what God does.  Our task is to cooperate with God–to be the faithful ministers of grace God calls us to be.  May we, by grace, serve effectively, thereby glorifying God and helping others–building them up as God leads us to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF WALTER CRONKITE, JOURNALIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-16-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part I: Those Whom God Has Qualified Then Called   1 comment

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Above:  The Prophet Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, by Michelango Buonarroti

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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:

Jeremiah 1:1-19

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 21:23-46

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 1:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/proper-16-year-c/

Matthew 21:

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

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/proper-21-year-a/

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

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So I will always sing praise to your name,

and day by day fulfill my vows.

–Psalm 61:8, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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So will I always sing praise to your name:

while I daily perform my vows.

–Psalm 61:8, New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Then Jesus said, “Truly I tell you:  tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For when John came to show you the right way to live, you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and prostitutes did; and even when you had seen that, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, The Revised English Bible

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Prostitutes were prostitutes.  Tax collectors were people who stole from their fellow countrymen to fund the occupying Roman Empire.  Both were among the “notorious sinners,” many of whom became dining companions of Jesus.  Before that many of them had headed advice from St. John the Baptist.

In contrast, many professional religious people, being invested in the corrupt Temple system, rejected both Jesus and St. John the Baptist.  That system depended on offerings, which were especially onerous burdens imposed on peasants already struggling under Roman taxation.  Jesus, of course, confronted that corrupt Temple system, which constituted part of collaboration with the imperium.

So, in the tradition of the last being first and the first being last, repentant prostitutes and tax collectors preceded many respectable religious professionals in the Kingdom of God.  That statement must have rung harshly in the ears of the respectable religious professionals who heard it.

But, as God told the young Prophet Jeremiah, God does not call the qualified.  No, God qualifies the called.  And, even when one’s mission is to preach the truth to those who will refuse to heed sage words, but will instead plot violence against the one who utters them, God will protect that prophet if his name is Jeremiah.  St. John the Baptist died.  So did Jesus.  The latter arose after a few days, of course.

So, O reader, which spot do you occupy?  Are you a prophet or a repentant prostitute or tax collector, at least metaphorically?  Or are you more like one of the vilified chief priests and Temple elders?  And what is God calling you to become next?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-november-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VII: Loyalty and Discipleship   1 comment

christ-pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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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:

Deuteronomy 5:1-21

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 8:18-34

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

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I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the gods will I sing praise to you.

I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

for you have glorified your name and your word above all things.

In the day I called to you, you answered me;

you put new strength in my soul.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart:

before the gods I will sing your praises.

I will bow down toward your holy temple,

and give thanks because of your love and faithfulness:

for you have exalted your name and your word above all things.

On the day I called, you answered me:

and put new strength within me.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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You shall not have other gods before my face.

–Deuteronomy 5:7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah)

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Scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures argue whether Deuteronomy 5:7 and its counterpart, Exodus 20:3, are monotheistic statements.  Does the command mean to worship only YHWH yet to acknowledge the existence of other deities?  Or does it mean that one should worship only YHWH because there is only YHWH?  In other words, is it monotheistic (as Richard Elliott Friedman insists) or monolatric (as The Jewish Study Bible and The New Interpreter’s Study Bible argue).  The Bible is an anthology of texts from various periods and perspectives, so if it did indicated monolatry (my historical position) could it not mean monotheism now?  The widespread practice of monotheism did come relatively late (about 25,000 years ago) to the Hebrew people.  The theology existed long before that, of course, but the widespread practice, as the texts of the Hebrew Bible attest, came fairly late.

Psalm 138 seems to be the work of an Israelite (perhaps King David) present where people worship heathen deities.  He affirms his loyalty to YHWH.

Jesus, in Matthew 8:18-34, performs mighty acts and demands total loyalty.  He did have a house at Capernaum, but frequently lacked a place to lay his head; he did travel often.

There is only one deity, the one I know as God, YHWH, Adonai, etc.  Human theology on that topic has changed yet the reality has remained constant.  And Christian discipleship is following Jesus, not just affirming his ethics.  The demand from YHWH in Deuteronomy 5 and from Jesus in Matthew 8 is the same:  follow me.  That is a call to do something active.  May we obey it.  And, if we have begun to do so, may we remain on that spiritual path.

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/devotion-for-october-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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2 Kings and Ephesians, Part III: Building Each Other Up   1 comment

female-sign

Above:  Female Sign

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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:

2 Kings 4:8-22, 32-37 (September 6)

2 Kings 4:38-5:8 (September 7)

Psalm 85 (Morning–September 6)

Psalm 61 (Morning–September 7)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–September 6)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–September 7)

Ephesians 5:15-33 (September 6)

Ephesians 6:1-24 (September 7)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Kings 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/proper-12-year-b/

Ephesians 5-6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-2/

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Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, Revised English Bible

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That is the verse upon which Ephesians 5:22-6:9 hangs.  To read any portion thereof outside of the context of 5:21 is to distort the meaning of any of those verses.  A common Christian expectation at the time was that Jesus might return next week or next month or next year, so a revolution in social structure or economic realities was not on the table; preparing for the Second Coming took precedence.  Since Jesus has not returned by January 4, 2013, when I type these words, I propose that those are matters worthy of moral and theological consideration.  To do so is to honor the Golden Rule.

I have kept the Ephesians readings together.  In so doing, however, I have divided the story of Naaman.  So be it; I will deal with that story in the next post in this series.  But I have been able to pair advice from Ephesians with miracle stories involving Elisha.  Many of those tales echo Elijah miracle stories, by the way.

I did notice a common thread involving women.  The Shunammite woman needed her son for her financial security in her patriarchal society.  But the text from Ephesians advises the mutual submission of wives and husbands to each other and both of them to Christ.  Wives and husbands have sacred obligations to each other; they belong to each other.  This is a beautiful teaching, even if patriarchy does stain it.

The Letter to the Ephesians, as scholars have noted, displays great unity.  The end follows nicely from what precedes it:  Act for the common good; build each other up.  That was what Elijah did for the Shunammite woman.  That is what we are called to do for each other today, where we are.  The only situational aspect of this ethic is what the details will be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I, KING OF SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-6-and-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III: Power and the Abuses Thereof   1 comment

palestinian-barrier1

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Israel-Palestinian_Wall_Ich_Bin_Eine_Berliner.jpg)

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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:

1 Samuel 25:1-22 (August 9)

1 Samuel 25:33-44 (August 10)

Psalm 85 (Morning–August 9)

Psalm 61 (Morning–August 10)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–August 9)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–August 10)

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 (August 9)

1 Corinthians 4:1-21 (August 10)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Corinthians 3-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/proper-2-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/labor-day-u-s-a/

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/proper-3-year-a/

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

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1 Samuel 25 consists of one story, one which context brings alive.  Saul was killing people who helped David.  The monarch missed some of them, but anyone who aided David risked his or her life.  The kingdom was in a state of civil war.  And Nabal, a rich, churlish, boorish, and disreputable fool, was, according to social conventions, supposed to extend hospitality to David and his men.  Yet, under the threat from Saul, this was a great risk.  And Nabal was a lout anyway.  So he acted like the lout he was.  Abigail, his wife, prevented violence.  And Nabal suffered a stroke and died.  Then Abigail married David, who already had another wife, Ahinoam.

David, of course, had married Michal before any of the events, but Saul, in violation of law, had given his daughter to another man.  Michal, The Jewish Study Bible notes tell me, was the only woman the Hebrew Bible describes as loving a man, in this case, David.

The social status of women is of the essence here.  They were chattel, to be given to men.  Yet Abigail’s shrewdness prevents bloodshed.  She might be chattel, but she is a crucial actor in the story.  And Michal’s mistreatment at the hands of powerful men continues, as it will persist.

Power is necessary in certain concentrations, for, without it, chaos results.  But power can also exist in excessive concentrations; that results in tyranny.  The proper exercise of power lifts up the weak, the marginalized, and those labeled chattel; it does not exploit them.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4 that he, working for God, had suffered and was suffering.  Powerful people who abused their authority caused that suffering.  And other people consented to it.

May all of us who claim to be on God’s side aid others to the best of our ability and support those who suffer from abuses of power.  May we side with the victims, not those who victimize them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/devotion-for-august-9-and-10-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Judges and Galatians, Part II: Obligations   1 comment

paul-writing-his-epistles

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

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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:

Judges 13:1-25

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Galatians 2:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-19/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

Galatians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/proper-6-year-c/

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The call of God on one’s life imposes some obligations and lifts others.  This theme plays out in Judges 13, the account which culminates in the birth of the judge Samson, designated to end the Philistine oppression of the Israelites.  He was supposed to obey rules governing hair and wine.  Yet the lifting of the obligation of male circumcision is a prominent part of Galatians 2.  The mandate to care for the poor remains, however.  Our justification is in Christ, Paul wrote, so “saving justice” does not come from the Law of Moses.  This principle did not apply to Samson for reasons of chronology.

We are not our own; no, we belong to God. Sometimes God’s call on our lives requires us to abandon certain traditions, such as the prohibition against table fellow ship with Gentiles in Galatians 2.  Yet, when one reads the other account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, one finds some old rules which continue to apply:

…to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages.

–Acts 15:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

But circumcision ceases to be obligatory.

As I have written already, male circumcision is a traditional part of Jewish identity.  Recent (as of 2012) international disputes regarding the practice reinforce this point.  But an outward sign which few people will see is not more important than public acts of compassion, such as caring effectively for the poor in the name of God.  A hokey song whose music and shallow, repetitive words I despise does at least convey a simple truth nevertheless:

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Proverbs and John, Part V: Loving One Another While God Watches Us   1 comment

gender-equality-sign

Above:  Gender Equality Sign

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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:

Proverbs 14:1-27 (June 14)

Proverbs 15:1-29 (June 15)

Psalm 85 (Morning–June 14)

Psalm 61 (Morning–June 15)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–June 14)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–June 15)

John 15:1-11 (June 14)

John 15:12-27 (June 15)

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Some Related Posts:

John 15:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-third-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-b/

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We read the following caution in Proverbs 15:3 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,

Observing the bad and the good.

And, in John 15, we read of great love–the kind which motivates one to die for his friends.  Jesus, who had that love, knew the hatred of people whom he had not wronged.  The mandate of the Apostles

to love one another

–John 15:17b, The New Jerusalem Bible

applies to we Christians today.  We will not always get along; personalities will prove mutually incompatible.  Cultural, educational, and intellectual chasms will exist.  And major disagreements will arise.  Yet we can avoid hating one another or consigning the other to Hell rhetorically.

I, as one considered a heretic so often that I have adopted the label as an affirmative one, am used to the

You will go to Hell

sentence and attitude.  I have chosen not to engage those who scorned me thus in further conversation beyond friendly “Hi” and “Bye” dialogue; what else was there to say?  I sought to explore questions, but the other wanted to spout blind dogma as if on automatic pilot.

My default setting is to regard my fellow human beings–regardless of how annoying I find some of them–as fellow bearers of the Image of God.  And my fellow and sister Christians–including those with whom I have little in common theologically–are my coreligionists.  I accept with great ease many who differ from me.  Others I tolerate, but that is more than some of them do in regard to me.  I wish that friendlier theological cohabitation could occur more often that it does, for all of us know very little of God, whose mysteriousness exists beyond the bounds of human comprehension thereof.  But I try–usually successfully–to eschew hostility in my own mind.

And I try to live and think according to the standard of equality before God.  I take great offense at ecclesiastical acceptance of the tendency to block off women and homosexuals as groups, membership in which makes them second-class members to whom ordination is off-limits.  I was born both male and heterosexual; these were not my choices, not that I argue with them.  Many of the people with whom I worship were born female and/or homosexual; those were not their choices either.  All of us stand equal before God.  Any ecclesiastical body which baptizes females yet refuses to ordain because they are women commits hypocrisy, as does one which baptizes homosexuals yet refuses to ordain them because of that identity.  Such hypocrisy ought to cease.  This is a civil rights issue, a matter of loving one another.  And God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/devotion-for-june-14-and-15-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Judgment, Mercy, and Deliverance   1 comment

the-missal-john-william-waterhouse

Above:  The Missal, by John William Waterhouse

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85

or 

Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138

then 

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Luke 11:1-13

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 12, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/proper-12-year-a/

Proper 12, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/proper-12-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Genesis 18:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-monday-year-1/

Colossians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/week-of-proper-22-thursday-year-1/

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For though the LORD is high,

he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.

–Psalm 138:6-7, New Revised Standard Version

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Except when it does not.

Focusing mainly on examples from this Sunday’s readings, I write about the following.

  1. In Genesis 18 Abram talked God down to a minimum number of righteous inhabitants of Sodom to stave off divine destruction of that city.  Yet, a few chapters later, the patriarch did not argue for the life of his own son.  He argued for the lives of strangers but not that of his own son.  Sodom, of course, faced destruction; there were too few righteous people in a city with many equal-opportunity rapists.  And God did spare Isaac in Genesis 22.
  2. What did Hosea’s children do to deserve such names?  Jezreel means “God sows.”  Lo-ruhamah translates as “Not pitied.”  And Lo-ammi means “Not my people.”  Their names were, of course, symbolic of divine rejection of a people who had turned their backs on God.  Destruction of the unfaithful and the wicked is a biblical theme.  But I wonder what psychological harm the children of Hosea and Gomer suffered.
  3. There are, of course, numerous instances of martyrdoms and genocides from ancient times to current events.  Many of those who perished were righteous.  Often they died because of their fidelity to God.  And what about Jesus, sinless yet crucified?
  4. The Book of Job refutes (correctly) the simplistic formula whereby suffering results from one’s own sin and God spares all the righteous from harm.  The example of Jesus confirms this.

Speaking of Jesus, we read in Colossians that he overrides our assumptions regarding a number of issues.  Some of them do not apply one with a Western scientific worldview in the twenty-first century.  I do not, for example, share the Hellenistic assumption (referenced in Colossians) that elemental spirits govern the world.  No, I am a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  But other worldviews persist and I carry my own assumptions in my head.  Christ, we read in Colossians, overrides much–from schools of philosophy to erroneous cosmology.  It is Christ who, as we read in Luke 11, spoke of prayer and God’s attentiveness.

There is also judgment, of course.  That abounds in both Testaments.  So one ought not to focus so much on mercy and judgment as to minimize or ignore its opposite.  Besides, mercy for one party does mean judgment for another much of the time.  So, if one perceives that God has not delivered one, one might be in the wrong camp.  Or one might be impatient.  Or one might have a legitimate complaint against God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/proper-12-year-c/

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This is post #700 of this weblog.–KRT

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

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

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebber

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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

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

Psalm 96 (Morning–48th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–49th Day of Easter)

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

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

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

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

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 20-21:

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

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

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

Luke 20-21:

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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Adapted from this post:

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

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