Archive for the ‘1 Samuel II: 11-20’ Category

Empowered by God, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Samuel Anoints David

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and you are wont to give more than either we desire or deserve:

Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,

but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 140

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 20

2 Corinthians 3:4-11, 17-18

Luke 11:1-4, 9-13

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Last week’s reading from 1 Samuel (9:15-17; 10:1) tells of the prophet Samuel anointing Saul the first King of Israel.  This week, after the divine rejection of Saul, we have the same prophet anointing David.  Saul remains on the throne for some time, however.

With a divine mandate comes great responsibility.  Part of that responsibility is maintaining a proper relationship with God.  Such a relationship is necessarily evident in our dealings with other people, along with whom we rely entirely on God.  This element can be challenging, for we will not like everyone we encounter–nor should we.  By grace we can, however, recognize the image of God in them and therefore treat them accordingly.  We might even see untapped and surprising potential in many of them.  Shall we at least try?

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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Psalm 151   1 comment

Above:  David and Goliath, by Ilya Repin

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 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 226

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1 I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2 My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3 And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4 It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5 My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6 I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7 But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away

disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Psalm 151, allegedly by David, is the combination of two texts, which Geza Vermes labels Psalm 151A and Psalm 151B in The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Third Edition, 1987).  Psalm 151A (translated by Vermes), slightly longer than its counterpart in the final Greek text, follows:

1  I was smaller than my brothers,

and younger than the sons of my father.

He made me a shepherd of his flock,

and a ruler of over his kids.

2  My hands have made a pipe and my fingers a lyre.

I have rendered glory to the Lord;

I have said so in my soul.

3  The mountains do not testify to him,

and the hills do not tell (of him).

The trees praise my words and the flocks my deeds.

4  For who can tell and speak of,

and recount the works of the Lord?

God has seen all, he has heard all, and he listens to all.

5  He sent his prophet to anoint me,

Samuel to magnify me.

My brothers went out to meet him,

beautiful of figure, beautiful of appearance.

6  They were tall of stature with beautiful hair,

yet the Lord did not choose them.

7  He sent and took me from behind the flock,

and anointed me with holy oil

as a prince of his people,

and as a ruler among the sons of his Covenant.

Psalm 151B, according the Vermes translation from Cave 11 at Qumran, follows:

1Then I saw the Philistine taunting [from the enemy lines]….

Variations of Psalm 151 exist in Old Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic psalters.  One version of Psalm 151 continues:

And I slung three stones at him in the middle of his forehead,

and laid him low by the might of the Lord.

In Psalm 151, as we have it in composite form, we read of the anointing of David, of his arrival in the court of King Saul, and of the slaying of Goliath.  Psalm 151A draws from 1 Samuel 16 and Psalm 151B from 1 Samuel 17.  In 1 Samuel 16 and 17 an observant reader might notice that, although Saul knows David in the last half of chapter 16, the monarch is not familiar with him in chapter 17.  The Sources Hypothesis explains this discrepancy.

A Bible nerd or geek might also know of Elhanan, a warrior under King David.  2 Samuel 21:19 states that

Elhanan son of Jaareoregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To complicate matters, 1 Chronicles 20:5 informs us that

Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite; his spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One attempt to reconcile these discrepancies is arguing that David and Elhanan were the same person in 2 Samuel 21:19.  This ignores the fact they are indisputably separate in 1 Chronicles 20:5, the text of which is corrupt.  In that verse, miscopying the letters that spell Bethlehem gives rise to “Lahmi, the brother of.”  Scripture does contain conflicting accounts of many events.  Why should the slaying of Goliath be different?

Regardless of the truth of the identity of the slayer of Goliath and the reality of certain events in the life of David, one can draw spiritual lessons from those stories and from Psalm 151.  God chooses those He will; human standards to not apply.  Also, when God calls us, we might be among those most surprised by the vocation.  We need not worry, though; God qualifies the called.  Also, as a note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) offers,

Goliath stands for the sinful passions of arrogance and vainglory (see also Ps. 143 [144 in the Hebrew psalter]).  Thus, with the Lord’s help, we slay these giants with humility.

–Page 778

Aside:  I added the brackets and the contents thereof.

According to 1 Samuel 17, Goliath was an imposing figure.  He stood about nine feet tall.  His bronze breastplate weighed about 130 pounds.  The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s bar.  The iron head of that spear weighed about 15 pounds.  He was indeed intimidating.  Yet he had a weak spot and God was on the side of David and Elhanan, depending on the text one prefers.

Even the mightiest foes have weaknesses, this story reminds us.  And, if one trusts in God, one can exploit that fact, to the benefit of one’s group, the narrative teaches.  But who will allow God to work through us, or will we shrink back in fear?  Will we, by the help of God, slay proverbial giants or will they slay us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Loyalty and Self-Sacrifice   1 comment

Above:  David and Jonathan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 20:12-23, 35-42

Psalm 18:46-50

Acts 4:13-22

John 21:20-25

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The Living Bible (1971) renders 1 Samuel 20:30-31 as follows:

Saul boiled over with rage.  “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.  “Do you think I don’t know that you want that son of a nobody to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother?  As long as this fellow is alive, you’ll never be king.  Now go and get him so I can kill him!

Later printings of The Living Bible changed “You son of a bitch!’ to “You fool!”  The original rendering captured the flavor of the Hebrew text well, for King Saul was cursing.  In verse 30, in fact, he referred to genitals, although many English-language translations have not reflected that subtlety.

A more common translation is one such as in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!

Yet scholars agree that Jonathan, not his mother, was the object of the swearing, hence the Everett Fox version:

[You] son of a twisted rebellion!

The Early Prophets (2014), page 378

Via that “twisted rebellion” Jonathan stood by his friend (David) while ensuring that he (Jonathan), the heir apparent to the throne, would not become King of Israel.  Jonathan exemplified loyalty and self-sacrifice.

So did St. Simon Peter (eventually crucified upside-down) and St. John the Evangelist (who spent time in exile).  They performed great deeds, to the glory of God and the benefits of others, and found themselves in legal jeopardy.  But they persisted.

May we be loyal to God and willing to pay the price that might demand of us.  May we glorify God, regardless of circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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God Concepts and Violence   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)

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In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther I: Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

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The daily lectionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as found in their service book-hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), is the one attached to the Revised Common Lectionary.  For the Thursday before Proper 12 through the Wednesday after that Sunday in Year C the first readings come from the Book of Esther, starting with 2:19 and continuing through 8:17.

The Book of Esther exists in two versions–Hebrew and Greek.  The Hebrew version, which does not even mention God, probably dates to 400-300 B.C.E., at the end of the Persian Empire or the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.  The 107 additional verses in the version from the Septuagint bring the word “God” into the story and elaborate on certain details.  The Greek version of the Book of Esther is canonical in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

As I read the Book of Esther again I will consult Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles.  My plan is to read the Greek version fully in English-language translation.  The New American Bible labels the Greek additions conveniently as Chapters A-F, a system I will cite.

The Book of Esther is a satire, comedy, burlesque, and work of religious fiction.  Jewish exegetes have known this for a long time.  Some characters are buffoonish, our heroes (in the Hebrew version) are strangely less dimensional than other characters, and exaggeration abounds.  One should not, out of piety, become so serious as to misread a book of the Bible.  There are various contexts in which one should read scripture; genre is among them.  Furthermore, the internal chronology of the Book of Esther (in either version), like that of the Book of Daniel, makes no sense.

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In the Greek version the book begins with what The New American Bible calls Chapter A, containing 17 verses.  We meet Mordecai, a Jewish member of the court of King Ahasuerus (sarcastically “the great,” according to A:1) at Susa.  Ahasuerus is a fictitious monarch of the Persian Empire.  Sources I have consulted indicate elements from the actual Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 B.C.E.) and Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.).  Mordecai has a dream in which, on a gloomy day amid “tumult, thunder, and earthquake,” two dragons prepare to go to war.  The just live in fear of what might happen to them.  They cry out to God, a mighty river arises, sunlight breaks through, and the lowly rise up and devour the boastful.  Mordecai awakens and attempts throughout the day to comprehend the dream and what God intends to do.

We read in A:1 that Mordecai is not only of the tribe of Benjamin but a descendant of Kish.  This makes him a relative of King Saul (whose father was Kish), who conquered Agag the Amalekite in 1 Samuel 15:1-9.  Haman, Mordecai’s foe, is an Agagite.

Mordecai overhears two eunuchs plot to assassinate Ahasuerus.  The loyal courtier alerts the monarch directly.  Ahasuerus orders the arrest, interrogation, and execution of the eunuchs.  Mordecai receives a reward for his fidelity, but Haman, who had conspired with the eunuchs, begins to plot to harm him.

Chapter 1 depicts Ahasuerus as less than great.  The text states that the king ruled over 127 provinces, or satrapies, but historical records indicate the existence of between 20 and 32 satrapies during the duration of the Persian Empire.  Ahasuerus is wealthy, living in luxury.  He is also mostly powerless, for people manipulate him easily.  The king is also too fond of alcohol in excess.  Ahasuerus orders Queen Vashti to degrade herself  by displaying her beauty to his courtiers .  She refuses the command, thereby disgracing the drunken Ahasuerus.  Thus an imperial incident occurs.  Can the monarch restore his honor?  Vashti loses her position and possibly her life, for he proceeds to choose a new queen from his harem.  Among the virgins in the harem is one Esther, cousin and foster daughter of Mordecai.  This is a secret relationship, however.  He coaches her in how to become the next queen.  She succeeds Vashti.

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What are we supposed to take away from this material and apply to life?  God works behind the scenes in the Book of Esther.  God even works through drunk and easily manipulated monarchs.  Vehicles of grace come in many shapes and sizes; many of them will surprise us.  Many of them do not even know that they are vehicles of grace, but that does not prevent God from working through them, does it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/prologue-to-posts-scheduled-around-proper-12-year-c-revised-common-lectionary/

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Friendship   1 comment

St. Barnabas

Above:  St. Barnabas

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:

1 Samuel 20:1-23, 35-42 (Monday)

2 Samuel 1:4-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 133 (Both Days)

Acts 11:19-26 (Monday)

Acts 11:27-30 (Tuesday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing,

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Friendship is a form of such unity.

Jonathan remained David’s friend, even to the detriment of his (Jonathan’s) relationship with his father, King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 20:30 the monarch cursed out his son, although few versions in English have rendered the verse accordingly.  Saul’s reminder that Jonathan was also endangering his own potential kingship were rational yet ultimately unnecessary, for father and son died at about the same time.

St. Barnabas was a major ally of St. Paul the Apostle.  He assisted the former Saul of Tarsus, violent foe of nascent Christianity, who had become a convert to the faith recently.  St. Barnabas escorted St. Paul to meet with the understandably frightened remaining Apostles (Acts 9:26-28).  St. Barnabas, working among the Christians of Antioch, left to retrieve St. Paul from Tarsus and took him to Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).  Sts. Barnabas and Paul carried alms to Jerusalem (11:27-30).  The two men traveled together on evangelistic journeys (Acts 13:2).  St. Barnabas addressed the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:12), and he and St. Paul delivered the decree thereof to churches (Acts 15:22-31).  The two men parted company because they disagreed strongly over taking John Mark (St. Mark the Evangelist) with them, so Sts. Barnabas and Mark traveled together afterward (Acts 15:36-39).  Although St. Paul respected St. Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:6 and Galatians 2:1, 9), he criticized his former traveling companion for, like St. Simon Peter, refusing table fellowship with Gentiles (Galatians 2:13).  Nevertheless, St. Barnabas had helped to make the former Saul of Tarsus the figure who became St. Paul the Apostle, vouching for him at a crucial juncture.  What if St. Barnabas had been wrong about St. Paul?  He took that risk.

Friends are people who stand by us at the most difficult times.  Such people are natural agents of divine grace.  May each of us have such friends and be such a friend to others, for the glory of God and for the common good.

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-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Unexpected Agents of Grace   1 comment

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body of 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 150, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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