Archive for the ‘Psalm 19’ Category

Two Scrolls   1 comment

Ezekiel

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing.

Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that,

made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace,

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

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 2:8-3:11

Psalm 148

Revelation 10:1-11

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Psalm 148, with its theme of the praise of God, seems initially to contradict the tone of the other two readings.  Each of those lessons speaks of a scroll of judgment, or, as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders part of Ezekiel 2:10,

lamentations, dirges, and woes.

God commissions Ezekiel to speak hard truths.  The prophet accepts his commission, but not without some bitterness.  The narrator in Revelation 10 describes an encounter with an angel and accepts his commission to

utter prophecies over many nations, races, languages, and kings.

–Verse 11b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In each case the metaphorical consumption of the scroll occurs, with the narrator describing the judgments of God as tasting as sweet as honey.  One might think more readily of Psalm 19:9b, which reads:

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet the framers of the daily lectionary attached to the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays and major holy days saw fit to give us Psalm 148 instead.  In a way this brings me back to Psalm 19–verse 19a, to be precise:

The fear of the LORD is clean and rejoices the heart.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

“Fear of God” is a misleading translation, for “fear” should be “awe.”  Our narrators stand in awe of God, so even bitter words of judgment taste sweet, so to speak.  Each narrator has a role to play, and he accepts it.  Thus he can praise God even while performing a bitter task.

As for me, I have learned via living that I have had ample cause for gratitude beyond words to God during extremely difficult circumstances.  I have felt closest to God during trying times, not comfortable ones.  Perhaps Ezekiel had a similar (in some ways) experience of God; the book bearing his name has given me that impression.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Economics, Politics, and the Demands of Piety   1 comment

Icon of Nehemiah

Above:  Icon of Nehemiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 5:1-13

Psalm 19

Luke 2:39-52

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The law of the LORD inspires reverence and is pure;

it stands firm, for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true;

they form a good code of justice.

–Psalm 19:10, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The economic crisis in Judea was one which entailed some Jews exploiting other Jews–poor returnees, to be precise–in violation of Exodus 22:24-26.  Seizing property put us collateral for a loan to a poor person violated the letter of the Law of Moses and contradicted the underlying ethos of mutuality.  Both civic and religious leaders were guilty, but at least Nehemiah used his gubernatorial power to correct the injustice.  He possessed much wisdom and righteousness.

Jesus, a figure far greater than Nehemiah, also possessed much wisdom and righteousness–more than Nehemiah.  Our Lord and Savior–a sage yet more than just that–taught in a particular geographical and historical context, one in which the realities of the Roman occupation frustrated the already-harsh realities of peasants’ lives.  Much of Christian tradition has ignored or minimized the economic-political background of Christ’s sayings, unfortunately.  Perhaps doing otherwise would have led to unpleasant and inconvenient political situations for ecclesiastical organizations and leaders loyal to governments and potentates, or at least dependent upon them.  More figures such as Nehemiah among civic leaders as well as among ecclesiastical shepherds would have helped many people.  The same thought applies well to current times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Mutuality, Society, and the Body of Christ   1 comment

Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls--Gustave Dore

Above:  Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 2:1-10

Psalm 19

Romans 12:1-8

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No one can see his own mistakes,

acquit me of my hidden faults.

Hold me back, too, from sins I know about,

do not let them gain mastery over me.

Then shall I keep my integrity

and be innocent of any great sin.

–Psalm 19:13-14, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Underpinning much of the Bible is an ethos of mutuality and of recognition of complete human dependence on God.  We are responsible to each other and for each other.  We are supposed to support each other in vocations from God, not seek to advance on the proverbial ladder by kicking other people off that ladder.  And we ought to act based on the knowledge that everything we have comes from God.  There is no such being as a self-made person.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 12, likened Christian community to the body of Christ.  He meant what he wrote plainly–that Christians are members of each other and that all spiritual gifts are necessary.  Nobody in the body of Christ is insignificant and no gift is too small.

God has equipped all people for a productive role or roles in society.  One vital function of each person is to help others to fulfill their vocation or vocations as the opportunities to do so present themselves.  Whenever I read about a person who has accomplished much, I notice that others helped him or her along the way to one accomplishment or another.  Such helpers tend not to receive the credit they should, but they are always essential.

Nehemiah, who left a position in the Persian royal court, was able, with the help of King Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.) and many others, most of whose names have not come down to us, to help rebuild Jerusalem.  The efforts of those whose labors supported Nehemiah’s project were no less important than Nehemiah’s zeal.  The visionary and his helpers were essential, for one without the other would have accomplished nothing.

In the spirit of mutuality we ought to help each other spiritually.  Each of us has blind spots in spiritual matters, but others can tell us what occupies them.  We also need encouragement to continue to do the right things the right ways.  Positive reinforcement is also crucial to maintaining good practices.  A third category of mutual spiritual help is providing feedback in the middle ground between “keep doing that” and “stop doing the other thing.”  Sometimes we are moving in the right direction yet require advice in how to pursue that path more effectively.  Often we have difficulty recognizing our deficiencies in that category also.

A true friend is one who says and does that which one needs, not necessarily what one wants.  A “yes man” is not a true friend.  Within the bounds of social and ecclesiastical friendship we ought to be true friends to each other.  How many of us will fulfill that vocation?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/devotion-for-friday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Our Mission from God   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 61:1-7

Psalm 19

Romans 7:1-6

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The law of the LORD is perfect; it restores vitality,

the commandments of the LORD are reliable;

they provide wisdom for those who need it.

–Psalm 19:8, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true.  Yet what are we readers supposed to do with Romans 7:1-6?

I found the Commentary on Romans (Swedish, 1944; English, 1949) by Swedish Lutheran Bishop Anders Nygren helpful in considering that question.  Nygren’s Commentary has proven to be influential and durable, for other published exegetes have quoted and/or referred to it.  So why not cut out the middle man and go directly to Nygren?

Nygren argued that, according to St. Paul the Apostle, the Law (Torah) never dies.  It has not expired or run its course, and Christ has neither superceded, negated, nor repealed it:

The law does not die.  There is only one way to liberation.  Only in the fact that the Christian has died with Christ is he really and truly set free beyond the realm of the law.  Paul’s emphasis lies on this genuine liberation.

–Page 272

On page 268 Nygren presents in two columns the parallels between Romans 6 and 7:1-6.  In Chapter 6 Christians die to sin so that they might walk in newness of life, in freedom from sin.  When we turn to Chapter 7, we read of dying to the law for the purpose of serving in the new life of the Spirit, in freedom from the law.

This liberation has come through the death of Christ, and through the fact that by baptism we have become sharers in His death.

–Page 269

As a note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) stated well,

The point Paul desires to make is that death ends obligations; the law has lost its claim over Christians, who have transferred their allegiance to Christ.

–Page 2019

The theme of liberation via God to live righteously in the joy of God applies also to Isaiah 61:1-7.  The speaker in that text is most likely the author of the last few chapters of the Book of Isaiah.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) identify him as Deutero-Isaiah.  I think that Trito-Isaiah is the accurate label, but that is a minor issue.  The prophet speaks of his mandate from God

To bind up the wounded of heart,

To proclaim release to the captives,

Liberation to the imprisoned;

To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor

And a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn….

–Isaiah 61:1b-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The historical context of this pericope is the return of the Hebrew exiles to their ancestral homeland.  Decades of captivity had understandably caused much despondency and prompted much derision, hence the necessity of the prophet’s mission.

In a broader sense, is not the prophet’s mission that of all who have known the love of God?  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap; it requires a positive, faithful response.  The wounded of heart and those who mourn are always around us.  Captives and prisoners (both literal and metaphorical) are numerous also.  The mission of Trito-Isaiah is mine as well as yours, O reader.  Jesus claimed it as part of his mission in Luke 4:16-19.  If he claimed it for himself, should not we who follow him?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI:  PROPER FOR THE GOODNESS OF CREATION

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, PIONEER OF THE DEACONESS MOVEMENT IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Glorifying God, Not Self   1 comment

Herod Agrippa I

Above:  Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Generous God, your Son gave his life

that we might come to peace with you.

Give us a share of your Spirit,

and in all we do empower us to bear the name of

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 1:1-18 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 27:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 19:7-14 (Both Days)

Acts 12:20-25 (Friday)

Matthew 5:13-20 (Saturday)

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The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep me from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

–Psalm 19:7-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Herod Agrippa I (lived 10 B.C.E.-44 C.E.; reigned 37-44 C.E.) was a grandson of the notorious Herod the Great (reigned 37-4 B.C.E.) and a friend of the more notorious Caligula (reigned 37-41 C.E.).  Herod Agrippa I, a king because the Roman Empire declared him so, persecuted nascent Christianity and dissatisfied his Roman masters by allying himself with Near Eastern rulers.  He sought to glorify himself, not God, and succeeded in that goal.  Then he died suddenly.  Agrippa’s Roman masters did not mourn his passing.

The Deuteronomist placed pious words into the mouth of Moses.  The contents of those words–reminders of divine faithfulness and of human responsibility to respond favorably–remain germane.  That ethic, present in Psalm 19, contains a sense of the mystery of God, a mystery we mere mortals will never solve.  President Abraham Lincoln (never baptized, by the way) grasped that mystery well, as evident in his quoting of Psalm 19 (“the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether”) in his Second Inaugural Address (1865), near the end of the Civil War.

Glorifying God–part of the responsibility to respond favorably to God–entails being salt and light in the world.  Laying one’s ego aside and seeking to direct proper attention to God can prove to be difficult for many people, but it is part of what obedience to God requires.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A.  In those settings I learned many invaluable lessons.  Two of them were:

  1. Be wary of people with inadequate egos, and
  2. Be wary of people with raging egos.

Both types seek to use positions of power and/or authority in church to their advantage and get pastors moved needlessly.  Those with raging egos seek to glorify themselves as a matter of course, and those with weak egos seek to feel better about themselves.

However, a person with a healthy ego can seek to glorify God more comfortably psychologically than one with an unbalanced sense of self-worth.  One’s self-worth comes from bearing the image of God, so one’s sense of self-worth should derive from the same reality.  When that statement summarizes one’s spiritual reality one is on the right path, the road of glorifying God via one’s life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living One’s Vocation from God   1 comment

Sanhedrin

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Generous God, your Son gave his life

that we might come to peace with you.

Give us a share of your Spirit,

and in all we do empower us to bear the name of

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 18:13-27

Psalm 19:7-14

Acts 4:13-31

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The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep me from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

–Psalm 19:7-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The demands those true and righteous judgments make upon one are possible to fulfill via grace.  Sometimes those demands lead to confrontations with authorities, as in the pericope from Acts 4, but grace is available to help one deal with that contingency.

I have heard a certain quotation from the Bible repeated and misinterpreted often.  God will not demand more of you than you can handle, people have said.  The often unspoken assumption is that “you” is singular.  However, “you” is actually plural, as Moses learned.  Among the presumptuous sins (as in Psalm 19) is the presumption that one can handle more than one can actually handle.  Knowing one’s limitations and acting according to work the most one can do for the benefit of the community and the glory of God is the best way to fulfill that vocation from God.

Whether we live in times and circumstances of ease or difficulty, may we lead faithful lives which, by grace, effect positive change for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  May we love our neighbors as we love ourselves as effectively as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-21-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Daniel and Revelation, Part I: Identifying With Oppressors   1 comment

04865v

Above:  Cardinal Gibbons on Accepting Membership in the National Child Labor Committee, Circa 1913

Photographed by Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940)

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/search/?q=child+labor&in=original_format%3Astill+image)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-nclc-04865

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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:

Daniel 2:1-23 (November 21)

Daniel 2:24-49 (November 22)

Psalm 143 (Morning–November 21)

Psalm 86 (Morning–November 22)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–November 21)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–November 22)

Revelation 18:1-24 (November 21)

Revelation 19:1-21 (November 22)

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Some Related Posts:

Daniel 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

Revelation 18:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

Revelation 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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Daniel prophesied the fall of the Chaldean Empire of King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) II (reigned 625-605 BCE), the rise and fall of successive empires, and the founding of God’s rule on earth.  The founding of God’s rule on earth is one of the topics of Revelation 18 and 19.  I find the more interesting topic of those chapters to be the different responses to the fall of “Babylon” (the Roman Empire).  The righteous exult, as they should.  But those who had made common cause with the corruption, injustice, and violence of the late empire lament its passing.

Richard Bauckham, in The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011), provides excellent analysis:

Rome is a harlot because of her associations with the peoples of her empire for her own economic benefit.  The Pax Romana is really a system of economic exploitation of the empire.  For the favours of Rome–the security and prosperity of the Pax Romana–her lovers pay a high price.  Her subjects give far more to her than she gives to them.

–pages 90-91

The riches came from the exploitation of people (page 91) and the condemnation applies to successive states throughout history (page 93).  Furthermore, there is a hermeneutical trap:

Any reader who finds himself…viewing the prospect of the fall of Rome with dismay should therefore discover with a shock where he stands, and the peril in which he stands.

–page 99

Bauckham concludes with the following:

…there is much to suggest that modern Western society, in its worship of the idol of its ever-increasing material prosperity, is trafficking in human lives.  Chief among its mourners may be the multinational companies, the advertising industry, and the arms trade.  But one should also be aware of the hermeneutical trap John laid for us all.

–page 102

The towel draped across my shower curtain rod says:

MADE IN BANGLADESH.

How old was the person who made my towel?  (Child labor is rampant in Bangladesh.)  How long was his or her work day?  What standard of living does he or she enjoy?  I suspect that the answers would disturb my conscience.  I know that there must have been reasons (not all of them innocent) that the towel cost so little to purchase.  I am, simply by belonging to my First World society, complicit in the exploitation of Third World people.  Every time I shop for a towel, a clock radio, or a pair of tennis shoes, for example, I risk deepening my complicity.

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

–Psalm 86:3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-november-21-and-22-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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