Archive for the ‘Psalm 53’ Category

Guide to the “Reading the Book of Psalms” Series   Leave a comment

I covered 150 psalms in 82 posts.

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Posted February 25, 2023 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 1, Psalm 10, Psalm 100, Psalm 101, Psalm 102, Psalm 103, Psalm 104, Psalm 105, Psalm 106, Psalm 107, Psalm 108, Psalm 109, Psalm 11, Psalm 110, Psalm 111, Psalm 112, Psalm 113, Psalm 114, Psalm 115, Psalm 116, Psalm 117, Psalm 118, Psalm 119, Psalm 12, Psalm 120, Psalm 121, Psalm 122, Psalm 123, Psalm 124, Psalm 125, Psalm 126, Psalm 127, Psalm 128, Psalm 129, Psalm 13, Psalm 130, Psalm 131, Psalm 132, Psalm 133, Psalm 134, Psalm 135, Psalm 136, Psalm 137, Psalm 138, Psalm 139, Psalm 14, Psalm 140, Psalm 141, Psalm 142, Psalm 143, Psalm 144, Psalm 145, Psalm 146, Psalm 147, Psalm 148, Psalm 149, Psalm 15, Psalm 150, Psalm 16, Psalm 17, Psalm 18, Psalm 19, Psalm 2, Psalm 20, Psalm 21, Psalm 22, Psalm 23, Psalm 24, Psalm 25, Psalm 26, Psalm 27, Psalm 28, Psalm 29, Psalm 3, Psalm 30, Psalm 31, Psalm 32, Psalm 33, Psalm 34, Psalm 35, Psalm 36, Psalm 37, Psalm 38, Psalm 39, Psalm 4, Psalm 40, Psalm 41, Psalm 42, Psalm 43, Psalm 44, Psalm 45, Psalm 46, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalm 49, Psalm 5, Psalm 50, Psalm 51, Psalm 52, Psalm 53, Psalm 54, Psalm 55, Psalm 56, Psalm 57, Psalm 58, Psalm 59, Psalm 6, Psalm 60, Psalm 61, Psalm 62, Psalm 63, Psalm 64, Psalm 65, Psalm 66, Psalm 67, Psalm 68, Psalm 69, Psalm 7, Psalm 70, Psalm 71, Psalm 72, Psalm 73, Psalm 74, Psalm 75, Psalm 76, Psalm 77, Psalm 78, Psalm 79, Psalm 8, Psalm 80, Psalm 81, Psalm 82, Psalm 83, Psalm 84, Psalm 85, Psalm 86, Psalm 87, Psalm 88, Psalm 89, Psalm 9, Psalm 90, Psalm 91, Psalm 92, Psalm 93, Psalm 94, Psalm 95, Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, Psalm 99

Psalms 27 and 36: The New Eden and the Land of the Living   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XXI

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Psalms 27 and 36

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Psalms 27 and 36 share some themes.  Many psalms share themes, of course.  Yet writing this series of blog posts properly does require breaking off portions that are not too big.

Psalm 27 is purely individual.  The pious psalmist, beset by foes, trusts God.  He expects that God will preserve his life.  The psalmist anticipates remaining

in the land of the living

–not dying and going to Sheol.  In the last verse, the psalm changes voice; the singular first person–I, me, and my–addresses the reader.

Hope for the LORD!

Let your heart be firm and bold,

and hope for the LORD.

–Robert Alter

For the sake of thoroughness, I mention a dissenting interpretation of “the land of the living.”  Mitchell J. Dahood’s translation has

the land of life eternal

instead.  Hayyim denotes eternal life in Daniel 12:2. Dahood follows that usage and draws it back into the Late Bronze Age.  I find this argument unconvincing.

As we turn to Psalm 36, we read that crime, perversity, or transgression (depending on the translation) speaks within the heart of a wicked person.  This is the kind of human being who plans iniquity and lacks regard for God.  This person, like the “benighted man” of Psalms 14 and 53, fears no divine consequences of actions.

In contrast, we read, God is kind and just.  God grants the needs of beasts and human beings alike.  God is the fountain of life and the source of light.  The imagery is Edenic.  The wicked cannot reside in such a setting, so they cannot oppress the righteous in the new Eden.

We do not live in the new Eden, though.  We reside in the land of the living, but many wicked people do, too.  So, until we arrive in the new Eden, may God deliver the oppressed from oppressors.  And may they repent of their iniquity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST

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Posted December 27, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Daniel 12, Psalm 14, Psalm 27, Psalm 36, Psalm 53

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Psalms 14 and 53: Practical Atheism   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XIII

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Psalms 14 and 53

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Psalms 14 and 53 are nearly identical, hence their pairing in this blog post.  The record of interpretation provides a list of proposed geographical and temporal origins of Psalms 14 and 53.  According to the most likely hypothesis, Psalm 14 comes from the southern Kingdom of Judah and Psalm 53 comes from the northern Kingdom of Israel.  The textual evidence of YHWH in Psalm 14 and Elohim in Psalm 53 supports this theory.

Sometimes a literal translation does not convey the meaning of the words in a different context.  A meaning clear to a Jew millennia ago in the Near East may not be obvious to a Gentile Christian in North America in late 2022.

The scoundrel has said in his heart,

“There is no God.”

–Psalm 14:1a and Psalm 53:2, from Robert Alter’s translation

The point Alter makes in a note is a matter that TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999) makes partially clear in translation:

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

I will take each line in order.

The standard English translation describes this person as a fool.  Alter’s “scoundrel” is a better rendering, based on the following verses.  Yet I prefer “benighted man.”  As a note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014) tells me, “benighted” carries moral overtones, as in the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13:13) by her half-brother, Amnon.  “Scoundrel” seems like a tame understatement.

The fool/scoundrel/benighted man is a practical atheist, not a dogmatic one.  Psalms 14 and 53 come from a time and a place in which dogmatic atheism was rare yet practical atheism was commonplace.  For evidence, consult the Hebrew prophetic denunciations of the poor and other vulnerable people, O reader.  Such malefactors still exist.  The attitude that leads to senseless violence and exploitation is timeless, sadly.  Such malefactors do not fear retribution.

Psalms 14 and 53 are about people who think of God as an apathetic and absent landlord.  Thus, we can read Mitchell J. Dahood’s translation of Psalm 53, in which the fool thinks in his heart that

God is not present.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures gets more to the point; this malefactor imagines vainly that

God does not care.

A note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition gets to the point:

The claim of this benighted individual would invalidate two of the basic assumptions of Psalms:  the ability of God to hear prayers, and the ability of God to hear prayers, and the ability of God to punish the human wrongs that various psalmists lament.

–1281

And, as Alter tells us in one of his notes, the scoundrel lacks a conscience and acts with impunity.

As the entirety of the Jewish Bible and the various Christian canons of scripture attest, God cares deeply and is present.  God can also hear prayers and punish human wrongs.

Nobody can flee from the reality of God.  Hence it is foolish to attempt to do so.  Such an attempt must necessarily end in moral corruption; for it is the fruit of disobedience which results in the inability to do that which is good.  Where there is no sense of duty to God, there man goes astray and experiences already by that very fact that the hand of God the Judge is upon him, and he cannot escape.

–Artur Weiser, The Psalms:  A Commentary (1962), 165

My cultural context is one of the rise of fashionable agnosticism and atheism, accompanied by the decline in religious observance.  Meanwhile, bigotry, fascism, and Christian nationalism are openly part of vocal segments of the church.  The rise of agnosticism and atheism are partially backlashes against the latter point.

An Episcopal priest I know has a positive method of responding to people who tell him that they do not believe in God.  Father Dann asks them to describe the God in whom they do not believe.  He always hears a version of God in which he does not believe either.

I do not pretend to have formulated the definitive concept of God.  My faith is complicated, for I am complicated.  I cannot fathom having a simple faith, for I am who I am.  Anyhow, I affirm with the authors of Psalms 14 and 53 that God is present, that God cares, that God hears prayers, and that God can punish human wrongs.  And I have a conscience.  I pray that God may direct and, as necessary, reshape that conscience, for I have moral blind spots.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXI

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1 Kings 17:1-24

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And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

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A Covenant People, Part III   3 comments

Above:  John the Baptist in the Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Father of all truth and grace, who has called us out of darkness

into marvelous light by the glorious gospel of Thy Son;

grant unto us power, we beseech Thee, to walk worthy of this vocation,

with all lowliness and meekness, endeavoring to keep

the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;

that we may have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 127

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Isaiah 61:1-6

Psalm 27

Romans 12:10-21

Luke 3:1-22

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Never pay back evil for evil.

–Romans 12:17a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The reading from Romans 12 offers some challenging instructions:

  1. Bless, not curse, one’s persecutors (v. 14).
  2. Refrain from repaying evil with evil (v. 17).
  3. Leave vengeance to God (v. 19).
  4. Conquer evil with goodness.  Do not let evil conquer one (vs. 20-21).

Justice is one matter and revenge is another, St. Paul the Apostle understood.  He did not counsel people to live as doormats.  In the context of faith community–a minority population, actually–St. Paul encouraged his audience to take care of each other as they consciously depended entirely on God.  He urged them to be morally superior to their enemies.

The road to evil begins with the delusion that one can and must do x because God either does not exist or care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53, as well as what I have written about them.)  This delusion opens the portal to an approach to life according to which the ends justify the means.

When we, individually and collectively, trust in God, we are free to be better people than those who seek to destroy us unjustly.  We are free to be our best selves and communities.  We are free to take care of each other, individually and collectively.  We are free to refrain from exploiting and making excuses for exploitation.  We are free to gaze upon the loveliness of YHWH and to awake each dawn in the temple of YHWH.  We are free to be a covenant people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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God, the Only Proper Center   1 comment

Above:  Jezebel and Ahab, by Frederic Leighton

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 33:12-23 or 1 Kings 21:1-24

Psalm 61:1-5, 8

Hebrews 4:14-5:5, 7-9

Mark 9:14-29

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According to Psalms 14 and 53, the fool/benighted man, an amoral person, thinks incorrectly that God either does not care (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) or is absent (Mitchell J. Dahood, 1968).  The erroneous assumption of the fool/benighted man is that God either does not want to answer prayers or cannot do so.  Therefore, from that perspective, one must and can rely on one’s own powers and devices.  This is the root of evil.

God does care.  God is present.  God does answer prayers.  Sometimes the answer is “no,” which we may not like.  God loves us, but is not our vending machine.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote,

We pray that we may believe and believe that we may pray.

We can simultaneously have faith and doubts.  I know this spiritual state.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  We can have enough faith to pray yet not enough to assume that God will answer as we desire.  To anyone who knows this spiritual state, I say,

Welcome to the human race.  You stand in the company of the communion of saints.

When we cannot pray, or be mindful of God, yet want to do so, we are not bereft.  That desire is a solid beginning, a foundation on which God can build.

We err when we place ourselves–individually and/or collectively–in the center of theology and spirituality.  God is the only proper center.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-b-humes/

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Divine Extravagance   2 comments

Above:  Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 16:2-15 or 2 Samuel 23:1-7

Psalm 53

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Mark 6:30-44

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Some say they have nothing or too little to give.  Perhaps one cannot spare money, but one has something to give, thanks to the generosity of God.  With God extravagance is the rule.  Compared to God’s resources, of course, ours are meager.  They are still important, though.

I dislike the category “supernatural.”  The prefix “super” means “more than,”  To call something supernatural is, therefore, to claim it is more than natural.  But what if everything in the created order is natural?  Some of them simply exceed our knowledge and understanding. Quail and manna are easily identifiable as natural; they are birds and crystalized insect excrement, respectively.  The feeding of the Five Thousand+, found in four versions, one in each of the canonical Gospels, seems to be supernatural.  According to my hypothesis, however, it is also natural.

The immoral, benighted fool of Psalms 14 and 53, the benighted fool of Psalms 14 and 53 thinks that God either does not care (in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) or is not present (Father Mitchell J. Dahood, 1968).  Yet God is present and does care.  God cares, for example, that people are hungry.  God cares enough to multiply our puny gifts, regardless of the forms in which we offer them, and to leave leftovers.

That sounds like grace to me.  Such divine extravagance demands human gratitude, evident in faithfulness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/23/devotion-for-proper-14-year-b-humes/

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God Cares, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Salonica, Greece, 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-66142

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FOR THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O Lord, you have promised that whatsoever we do to

the least of your brethren you will receive as done to you:

Give us grace to be ever willing and ready, as you enable us,

to minister to the necessities of our fellow human beings;

in your name we pray.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Isaiah 40:1-5

Psalm 53

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 11-12; 2:1-2, 13-15

Luke 17:20-25

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The standard English-language translations of Psalms 14 and 53 (nearly identical poems) do not do justice to the texts.  For example, the fools are actually wicked people.  Also, the wicked do not deny the existence of God.  No, they claim that God does not care.  That attitude explains why they feel free to continue in their wickedness.

That God cares is a point the readings affirm.  God cares enough to have ended the Babylonian Exile.  God cares enough to have brought about the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, who identified with us and our suffering.

God cares about us deeply.  We can never reciprocate fully, but God does not expect us to do the impossible, fortunately.  We can, however, respond faithfully to God.  On concrete measure of this caring is the manner in which we treat our fellow human beings.  Each of us falls short by that standard, but we can improve, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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God Cares, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruth Swearing Her Allegiance to Naomi, by Jan Victors

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants;

and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

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Ruth 1:1, 4-9, 16-19a

Psalm 14

Acts 28:16-20, 23-34, 30-31

Luke 15:1-10

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Most English-language translations of Psalm 14, nearly identical to Psalm 53, do not do the text justice, especially in the first verse.  The “fools” are actually wicked, for example.  Furthermore, the saying that “there is no God” is not a statement of modern-style atheism.  No, it means that God does not care and is absent from the world in any meaningful way.  That misperception leads the wicked deeper into their perfidy.

God is present in the world in meaningful ways.  God also cares–deeply.  We read this in Luke 15:1-10, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  We read this also in the entire Book of Ruth.  We read of God’s concern repeatedly in the writings of St. Paul the Apostle, who ended his days in Rome.  And, if we affirm that God cares, we acknowledge that we should do the same.  If we recognize the presence of God in meaningful ways in the world, and if we are spiritually honest, we must then admit that we have an obligation to be present in the world in meaningful ways also.

These are great challenges.  They might even prove to be more than inconvenient to us.  Nevertheless, grace–the only way we can rise to this challenge–is available, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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A Light to the Nations VI   Leave a comment

Above:  Pottery Oil Lamp

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12216

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord, you see that all hearts are empty unless you fill them,

and that all desires are balked unless they crave for you.

Give us light and grace to seek and find you, that you may be ours forever.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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Isaiah 49:8-13

Psalm 10

Ephesians 2:11-18

Matthew 5:14-20

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These readings mesh especially well.  They also return to the familiar theme of being a light to the nations.

Psalm 10 asks why God stands at a distance while, as the New American Bible states the matter,

Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor;

they trap them by their cunning schemes.

–Verse 2

This is a timeless question.  Today, as in Psalm 10, the wicked crouch and lurk (figuratively, of course), with the purpose of ambushing and trapping the poor.  The reference to that pose is a literary allusion to Genesis 4:7, in which sin crouches and lurks at the door.  The author of Psalm 10 concludes on a note of confidence in God, but one might wonder how sincerely.  One could just as well speak the last several verses sarcastically; that would fit well with the rest of the psalm.

Isaiah 49:8-13, set in the context of the return from the Babylonian Exile, seems to answer the author of Psalm 10.  Gentile monarchs and nobles will revere God, who has taken back His afflicted ones in love.  God will act and keep faith, or hesed, with the afflicted.  God will be the light that attracts Gentiles to Himself.  Therefore, as in Ephesians 2, in Christ artificial barriers, such as those that separate Jews from Gentiles, cease to exist.  As we know from scriptures I have covered in previous posts in this series, Jews and faithful Gentiles are the Chosen People together.

That is so, but this reality does not change the fact that many people who consider themselves faithful prefer to preserve categories that Jesus erases.  My best guess is that these individuals labor under the incorrect impression of what divinely approved categories are and what merely human categories are.  Each of us who call ourselves faithful are guilty of this offense to some degree.

As Matthew 5:14-20 reminds us, we are the light of the world.  Yet many of us hide or misdirect our light.  We have an obligation to shed the light on God, for the sake of divine glory.  We ought to be the polar opposite of the oppressors in Psalm 10.  They boast in their greed and deny that, if God exists, He does not care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53 about that point.)  They seem to be amoral.  They shine their light on themselves, to their glory, such as it is.

God does care–quite deeply, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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