Archive for the ‘Psalm 8’ Category

Psalm 26: Judgment and Vindication   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XX

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Psalm 26

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Psalm 26 bears striking similarities to Psalms 1 and 25.  The placement of this tex as Psalm 26 makes sense as a follow-up to Psalm 25.  However, Psalm 26 is a purely individual lament.

The psalmist is perplexed.  He had assumed, as Job’s alleged friends did, that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.  Yet the psalmist’s situation belies or seems to belie that theological position.  Whether he requests a divine judgment or divine vindication depends on the interpreter/translator.  Mitchell J. Dahood asserts that no vindication was necessary, for the psalmist, assured of his integrity, sought divine recognition of it.  Robert Alter follows Dahood’s position.  Yet TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures renders the germane verb as “vindicate,” as in, to grant the reward for righteousness.

Despite the Reformed insistence that human beings are damnable creatures by our corrupted nature, the Book of Psalms holds a higher opinion of people.  We are a little less than divine–or as a familiar translation of Psalm 8 says,

a little lower than the angels.

This position is consistent with the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  So, the Jewish and Roman Catholic assertions of human merit hold theological water.

We mere mortals still know far less than God does.  Our “received wisdom” and inherited theological orthodoxy do not always match our circumstances.  Will reality override a theory, or will we double-down in ideology?  That is a matter we have the power decide for ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST

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Psalms 9 and 10: The End of Oppression   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART IX

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Psalms 9 and 10

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Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one text.

Psalm 8 tells us that God created human beings “little lower than divine,” to use the translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures.  Yet, in the same translation, we read in 9:20-21:

Rise, O LORD!

Let not man have power;

let the nations be judged in Your presence.

Strike fear into them, O LORD;

let the nations know that they are only men.

That attitude differs mostly from “little lower than divine.”  So be it.  Why should all psalmists have agreed with each other?  Sometimes I disagree even with myself.

Psalms 9 and 10 are impatient.  They affirm the justice of God, such as we have encountered already in this series.  For example, the wicked fall into their own traps (9:16-17 and 10:10).  Yet we read passages such as 10:1, from Robert Alter’s translation:

Why do You stand far off, O LORD,

Turn away in times of distress?

The psalmist uses the metaphor of king, judge, and warrior for God.  The psalmist thinks that he must implore God to enforce divine justice.  That feeling is ubiquitous, for so are violence and exploitation.  Injustice covers the land and victimizes the vulnerable.  Why does God stand by and not act more often?

I offer no easy answers for that difficult question.  As I write this post, Russian forces are waging an unjust war in Ukraine.  Also, a portion of the United States body politic sides with Russia against Ukraine.  Dictators do have their fan clubs, after all.  We recall from a previous post that, in God’s order, right makes might, not the other way around.  Yet Putin and the Patriarch of Moscow are allies.

A comparison of translations of Psalm 10 reveals different tenses in verses 17-18.  For example, Robert Alter uses the present tense while TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures uses the future tense.  Does God listen to the poor, or will God listen to the poor?  Either way, the orphan and the wretched/downtrodden need a champion, so that nobody will oppress them any longer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRED D. GEALY, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY FOTHERGILL CHORLEY, ENGLISH NOVELIST, PLAYWRIGHT, AND LITERARY AND MUSIC CRITIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSENEE

THE FEAST OF RALPH WARDLAW, SCOTTISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 15, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 10, Psalm 8, Psalm 9

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Psalms 8, 19, and 104: God, Nature, and Human Beings   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART VIII

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Psalms 8, 19, and 104

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Psalms, 8, 19, and 104 share the theme of God in creation.  God, who provides for the creatures, has made human beings little lower than the elohim, literally.  And divine glory permeates the created order.  Human beings have received the responsibility of exercising stewardship of nature.

We have failed, obviously.  We have mistaken stewardship for ownership and the license for pollution and exploitation, usually in the name of short-term profits.

God delights in nature.  Psalm 104 speaks of

Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

We should also delight in nature.

The created order depends entirely on God.  Human beings, as part of the created order, depend entirely upon God.  Many of us labor under the delusion of rugged independence, though.  Biblically, this is the essence of wickedness.  When we imagine that we must and can rely on ourselves, the ends may seem to justify the means.

Elohim is an interesting word.  It can mean “God” or “gods.”  Elohim is plural.  Yet, in Hebrew, it usually functions as singular.  Elohim is a linguistic fossil of Hebrew polytheism.  And, in Psalm 8, many translators render elohim as “the angels.”  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures translates elohim as “divine” in Psalm 8.  Mitchell J. Dahood’s translation is literal; people are

a little lower than the gods.

When we recall Genesis 1, we may remember that people bear the image of God.  Tselem is literally “idol,” not “image.”  In other words, we meet God in human beings.  We may also remember that God had pronounced human beings “very good” and other creations “good.”  So, we are little less than divine.

The myth of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) condemns the collective arrogance that results from forgetting our place–higher than other animals and lower that God.  We may vainly imagine ourselves to be all that and a bag of potato chips.  Yet God, poetically, still has to come down and squint to see the projects of which we are so proud.  Hubris goes before the fall.  And, historically, the myth is a way of dividing the Mesopotamian empires that had menaced Israel and Judah.

When we accept that we all stand together before God, we can better treasure nature and each other.  May we do so.  May we transform our planet and our societies for the better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRED D. GEALY, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY FOTHERGILL CHORLEY, ENGLISH NOVELIST, PLAYWRIGHT, AND LITERARY AND MUSIC CRITIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSENEE

THE FEAST OF RALPH WARDLAW, SCOTTISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Suffering, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For Palm Sunday, Year 2

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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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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross,

that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;

mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 157

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Jeremiah 18:1-14

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

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Great power accompanies great privilege.  Psalm 8 includes a staggering idea–that

human beings share in God’s creative power and care of creation.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible–Study Edition (2019), 941

When we add Jeremiah 18:1-14 to the mix, we add another element:  We belong to God, not ourselves.  We–individually and collectively, ought to allow God to shape us.  That is one of our responsibilities.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  Also, repentance can stave off judgment, sometimes, at least.  Furthermore, punishment can be discipline, as a parent disciplines a child.  And one, such as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, may understand suffering as a form of discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-11 borrows from Proverbs 3:11-12 to address the suffering of the audience familiar with persecution.  Keep the faith, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches.  The text even uses the language of “sons” from Proverbs 3:11-12.  The germane Greek word in Hebrews translates literally as “sons,” not “children.”  This is consistent with the Pauline theology of sonship of God, although St. Paul the Apostle neither dictated nor wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.  The reference to “sons” is crucial and specific to the culture.  It is a reference to heirs, for sons inherited; daughters did not.  Specifically, legitimate sons inherited.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966) gets to the point in 12:8:

If you were not getting this training, as all of you are, then you would not be sons but bastards.

Suffering as spiritual training may be a difficult idea to accept.  Nevertheless, if one professes to be a Christian, one claims to follow Jesus, who suffered greatly, especially during Holy Week.  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016), who suffered unjustly at the hands of the United States federal government for practicing his Christian faith observed, those who follow Jesus must 

look good on wood.

So, we have two sides of our calling from God in Christ:

  1. To share in divine creative power and care of creation, and
  2. To look good on wood.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) wrote that when Jesus calls a man to follow him, Christ bids that man to come and die.  A servant is not greater than the master.

Welcome to Holy Week.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

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Pointing Toward Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 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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Stir up, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy power, and come,

with great might to succor us, that by the help of thy grace

whatsoever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished,

through thy mercy and satisfaction;

who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

ever, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 111

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-12

Luke 1:59-80

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Before I get to my main point, two assigned passages call out for elucidation.

  1. The literal translation of the line from Psalm 8 is, “a little lower than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  The “gods,” or elohim, in Hebrew, are members of YHWH’s heavenly court.
  2. Isaiah 9:2-7 speaks of the ideal Davidic king.  Perhaps the original monarch was Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.).  The description fits Jesus better.

The juxtaposition of Luke 1:59-80 and Hebrews 12:1-12 may seem odd at first.  Upon reflection, however, its purpose becomes clear and plain.  This juxtaposition functions as a reminder of the purpose behind the Incarnation:  the Atonement, via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  One may recall that Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into the Christmas Oratorio.  We are correct to rejoice during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, but one must not stop there.  No, we need to follow Jesus to Calvary then to an empty tomb, too.

We read foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus in the lesson from Luke 1.  Do we not know the fat that befell St. John the Baptist?

What then will this child become?

–Luke 1:66b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

A question for each of us is,

What then will I become?

May all of us become agents of God whenever and wherever we are.  We cannot, temporally, be forerunners of Jesus.  We can, however, point to him, as St. John the Baptist did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AENGUS THE CULDEE, HERMIT AND MONK; AND SAINT MAELRUAN, ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EULOGIUS OF SPAIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOLEDO, CORDOBA; AND SAINT LEOCRITA; ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 859

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS WAYLAND, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAL PRENNUSHI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1948

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A Glorious Mystery, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

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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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

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Trinity Sunday is the only feast on the calendar of Western Christianity solely about a doctrine.  Other feasts have events, as in the life of Jesus, attached to them.

The three persons (“masks,” literally, in Nicene terminology) of the Trinity are present in the assigned readings for this feast.

  1. Proverbs 8 offers Sophia, the divine wisdom personified as a woman.  Sophia influenced the Logos, identified as Jesus in John 1.  Portions of the text also sound as if they could refer to the Holy Spirit.  And does the Holy Spirit proceed from just the Father or from both the Father and the Son?  Trying to reason through the theology of the Holy Spirit makes my head hurt, figuratively, so I rarely delve too deeply into it.
  2. YHWH is God in Psalm 8.  God is unitary in Jewish theology.  We humans are, according to the text, literally, “a little less than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  “The gods” are members of the court of YHWH.  The Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim.
  3. Romans 5:105 mentions that the Holy Spirit does not act independently, and that it glorifies Christ.

By the way, “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of God” is feminine in Hebrew and Arabic yet neuter in Greek.  The Holy Spirit is technically an “it,” not a “he,” in the New Testament.

My advice regarding the Trinity is to frolic in its glorious mystery, not to try to understand it.  One cannot understand the Trinity.  Attempts to do so have frequently yielded or reinforced heresies.  I try not to commit any of these.

How can God simultaneously be on the Earth, getting baptized, in Heaven, and descending from Heaven?  That is a mystery.  We can accept the findings of early Ecumenical Councils Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, et cetera) while bowing in humility before God, who loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-c-humes/

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Little Less Than Divine   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

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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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is the creation of Bishop Stephen of Liege (in office 903-920).  The feast, universal in Roman Catholicism since 1334 by the order of Pope John XXII, is, according to the eminent Lutheran liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher, author of the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), not so much about a doctrine but

the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

–page 301

Famously the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and no single verse or passage gives us that doctrine.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the result of much debate, some fistfights, ecumenical councils, Roman imperial politics, and the pondering of various passages of scripture.  The conclusion of 2 Corinthians and Matthew are two of those passages.  Perhaps the best summary of that process in the fourth chapter in Karen Armstrong‘s A History of God (1994).

I, being aware that a set of heresies has its origin in pious attempts to explain the Trinity, refrain from engaging in any of those heresies or creating a new one.  No, I stand in awe of the mystery of God and affirm that the Trinity is as close to an explanation as we humans will have.  We cannot understand the Trinity, and God, I assume, is more than that.

The great myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, itself a modified version of the Enuma Elish, affirms, among other key theological concepts, (1) the goodness of creation and (2) the image of God in human beings.  We are not an afterthought.  No, we are the pinnacle of the created order.  These themes carry over into Psalm 8.  The standard English-language translation of one verse (which one it is depends on the versification in the translation one reads) is that God has created us slightly lower than the angels.  That is a mistranslation.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane passage as

little less than divine.

The Anchor Bible (1965) translation by Mitchell J. Dahood reads

a little less than the gods.

The Hebrew word is Elohim, originally a reference to the council of gods, and therefore a remnant of a time before Jews were monotheists.  An alternative translation is English is

a little lower than God,

which is better than

a little lower than the angels.

Studies of religious history should teach one that Elohim eventually became a synonym for YHWH.

“Little less than divine” seems like an optimistic evaluation of human nature when I consider the past and the present, especially when I think about environmental destruction and human behavior.  But what if Pfatteicher is correct?  What if the work of salvation is complete?  What if the image of God is a great portion of our nature than the actions of many of us might indicate?

In Christ we can have liberation to become the people we ought to be.  In Christ we can achieve our spiritual potential–for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May we, by grace, let the image of God run loose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Interim Times   1 comment

Above:  New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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Koheleth advises us to eat, drink, and find happiness in work, for doing all of the above is a divine gift.  And what is that work?  Regardless of the particulars of vocations and avocations, that work, when it is what it should be, entails meeting the needs of people, to whom God has granted inherent dignity.  The divine commandment of hospitality, as in Matthew 25:31-46, is part of Judeo-Christian ethics.  Only God can save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

The end of Revelation (no “s” at the end of that word, despite Biblically illiterate additions of that letter) describes the aftermath of God’s creative destruction.  By this point in the Apocalypse of John God has destroyed the old, corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order built on ego, might, and artificial scarcity.  Then John sees a new heaven and a new earth.  Then the Kingdom of Heaven described in the Gospel of Matthew becomes reality.

That event remains in the future tense.  Until then we have work to do, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.  May we go about it faithfully and find happiness in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time,

and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love.

Grant that in the new year we may know your presence,

see your love at work,

and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever

–the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 63

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalm 8

Revelation 21:1-6a

Matthew 25:31-46

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-new-years-day-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Faithful Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding:

Pour into our hearts such love toward you, that we, loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Exodus 20:1-20

Psalm 8

Acts 16:1-10

Luke 19:1-10

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Zacchaeus was a tax chief.  He collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire.  Zacchaeus also became wealthy by collecting more than his Roman superiors required.  That was how the tax farming system worked; one had to steal in order to earn one’s livelihood.  Jesus restored Zacchaeus to community.  The tax collector’s repentance was evident in the fact that he held himself to the most stringent standards of restitution.  According to Leviticus 6:5, the rate of restitution applicable to Zacchaeus was 120%.  He volunteered to pay 400% instead.

The life of community, defined by following God, is the theme that unites the readings for this week.  Within a relatively homogenous group this can prove difficult.  That is more so when one adds the element of a heterogeneous population.  Just as one should avoid creating a theocracy, one should also grasp that people depend upon, are responsible to, and are responsible for each other.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward proper living in community.

Another characteristic of faithful community is that it encompasses more people over time.  Sometimes God surprises us by expanding it in an unexpected direction, as in Acts 16:10.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Christ, Ascended   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended

far above the heavens, that he might fill all things:

Mercifully give us faith to perceive that according to his promise

he abides with his Church on earth, even to the ends of the world;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 122

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Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 8 (Ascension Day)

Psalm 29 (Ascension Sunday)

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:6-11) is one of those events I file under “You Had to Be There.”  I read the account (not assigned for these occasions, oddly enough) of it as prose poetry.  I do not assume, after all, that Heaven (as God’s abode) is on the other side of the sky and that the cosmos has three tiers, the middle level of which is the Earth.  What I do take literally is that Jesus was physically present at the beginning of the day and gone by the end of that day.  I also notice that the importance of the departure of Jesus for the Apostles was that they had they had to assume their responsibility, with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

The assigned readings, taken together, emphasize the sovereignty of God.  The lesson from Daniel 7 is part of a longer passage.  In a dream are four mighty beasts, representing, in order, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the empire of Alexander the Great.  From the latter arise ten horns, representing Seleucid successors of Alexander.  One of these horns is the arrogant and violent Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  “One like a Son of Man,” a heavenly being often identified in Jewish tradition as Michael the Archangel, crushes Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

We know from the passage of time that events did not unfold that way; history did not culminate in the Hasmonean period.  We can, however, affirm the sovereignty of God, a theme prevalent in Psalms 8 and 29 also.  The sovereignty of God is also evident in the resurrection of Jesus.

Various Christian traditions emphasize different aspects of the life of Christ.  Anglicanism, with its incarnational theology, is the church of Christmas.  Roman Catholicism, with its ubiquitous crucifixes, fixates on Good Friday.  The Jesus of Eastern Orthodoxy is the ascended and glorified Jesus in Heaven, as their iconography indicates.  Each emphasis has its virtues, but the ascended and glorified Christ is the version of Jesus to ponder on the Feast of the Ascension.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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