Archive for the ‘Zechariah Other’ Category

God With Us, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

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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Zechariah 2:10-13 (Protestant and Anglican)/Zechariah 2:14-17 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 122

1 John 5:1-11

John 1:19-28

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The readings from Zechariah and the Psalms overlap thematically.  First Zechariah (Chapters 1-8) is a section concerned with the rebuilding of of the Jewish community after the return from the Babylonian Exile.  The legitimization of the Second Temple is a major theme in support of that goal.  In the context of the establishment of an ideal Zion, we read that God will dwell in the midst of the people.

First Zechariah also overlaps with First John thematically.  Both agree that love of God entails keeping divine commandments.  One may think also of another verse:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In our scheduled portion of the Gospel of John, we read of St. John the Baptist pointing to Jesus, not himself.  This is a good reading to pair with the verses from Zechariah 2.  God has come to dwell among the people.

God still dwells among us.  The Holy Spirit is present, of course.  God also works through people.  The face of Jesus someone may see today may be your face, O reader.  Likewise, the face of Jesus I see today may be someone in public, as we go about our lives.  God dwells among us.  We will recognize that truth if we know where to look.

May the image of God in you, O reader, greet the image of God in those around you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN, DEACON AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/26/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Eschatological Ethics I: Living in Exile at Home   Leave a comment

Above:  The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, whose throne is set eternal in the heavens:

make ready for thy gracious rule the kingdoms of this world, and come with haste, and save us;

that violence and crying may be no more, and righteousness and peace may less thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Zechariah 10:6-12

Romans 13:8-10

Matthew 21:1-13

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Reading of our Lord and Savior’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Advent may seem odd to some, but not to many members of the Moravian Church.  That denomination has a tradition of using the same liturgy for Palm Sunday and the First Sunday of Advent.  The theme of the arrival of the Messiah unites the two occasions.

The theme of being in exile at home unites Zechariah 10:6-12 and Matthew 21:1-13.  In this matter I acknowledge the influence of N. T. Wright, author of Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) on my thinking.

Zechariah is a book in two separate sections:  First Zechariah (Chapters 1-8) and Second Zechariah (Chapters 9-14).  First Zechariah is historically related to and concurrent with Haggai (both chapters of it), and dates, in its current state, from no later than 515 B.C.E.  Second Zechariah, from the late Persian period, dates, in its current state, from the middle 400s B.C.E.

The Persian Empire of that period was hardly an onerous taskmaster of Jews living within its borders.  There were ups and downs, of course, but Persians were, overall, much better to live under than the Assyrians and the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  Nevertheless, in the context of the militarization of the western satrapies during the Greco-Persian wars and the slow economic recovery in the Jewish homeland, many Jews dwelling in their homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  Where was the promised Davidic monarch prophets had predicted?

And where was the promised Davidic monarch in the first century C.E., when the Roman Empire ruled the Jewish homeland and a Roman fortress was next door to the Second Temple?  Roman occupation must have felt like a sort of exile to many Jews living in their homeland.

And where was the promised Kingdom of God/Heaven in 85 C.E. and later, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire in 70 C.E.?  The Kingdom of God was simultaneously of the present and the future–a partially realized reign and realm of God on Earth, but the Kingdom of Heaven was the promised fully realized reign and realm of God on Earth.  (I refer you, O reader, to Jonathan Pennington‘s dismantling of the Dalman consensus, or the ubiquitous argument that, in the Gospel of Matthew, “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution.)

For that matter, where is the promised Kingdom of Heaven today?  We of 2018 live in exile while at home.  Only God can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.

We can, however, live ethically, both collectively and individually.  Love, after all, is the fulfillment of the Law.  May we, therefore, strive to live (both collectively and individually) according to the Golden Rule, and not make a mockery of that commandment by citing doctrine and dogma to excuse violations of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part X   1 comment

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MAC_0410_ 125

Above:  Icon of the Entombment of Christ

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:

Nahum 3:1-19 or Zechariah 12:1-13:1

Psalm 77:(1-2) 3-10 (11-20)

Matthew 27:57-66 or Mark 15:42-47 or Luke 23:50-56 or John 19:31-42

Philippians 3:1-4a; 4:10-23

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All of the options for the Gospel reading leave Jesus dead in a borrowed tomb.  This is the situation on the penultimate Sunday of Year D.  This makes liturgical sense, for the last Sunday of the church year is the Feast of Christ the King.

The other readings assigned for Proper 28 provide the promise of better things to come.  Psalm 77 speaks of the mighty acts of God in the context of a dire situation.  The apocalyptic Zechariah 12:1-13:1 promises the victory of God.  Nahum 3:1-19 deals with the overthrow of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, marked by violence and hubris.  Finally, the triumph of Jesus in his resurrection is evident in the readings from the Pauline epistles.

One should trust in God, who is powerful, trustworthy, and compassionate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/devotion-for-proper-28-year-d/

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Good and Bad Shepherds, Part I   1 comment

Jehoiakim

Above:   Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 11:1-17 (Friday)

Jeremiah 22:18-30 (Saturday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Friday)

Luke 18:15-17 (Saturday)

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God is our refuge and our strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Second Zechariah is an allegory of a selfish and foolish shepherd who, instead of protecting the sheep of his flock, sells them to their slaughterer for the sum of thirty shekels of silver.  The identification of the shepherd (code for political leader) is open-ended, and the price for which he sells the sheep of his flock to their doom is the same amount Judas Iscariot went on to receive for betraying Jesus in Matthew 26:14-16.  One might surmise correctly that many members of Matthew’s audience, being Jews familiar with their scriptural heritage, would have recognized the echo of Zechariah 11.

Perhaps Second Zechariah was thinking of monarchs such as Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:13-19, 2 Kings 23:36-24:7, and 2 Chronicles 36:5-8, and of his son, Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (reigned 597 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:20-30, 2 Kings 24:8-17, and 2 Chronicles 36:9-10.  Jehoiachin was the penultimate King of Judah, and, by the time of his deposition by a foreign potentate, the realm Kingdom of Judah was obviously independent in name only.

Of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, Jeremiah 22 says in part:

Woe to him who builds his house on wrong,

his terraces on injustice;

Who works his neighbor without pay,

and gives him no wages.

Who says, “I will build myself a spacious house,

with airy rooms,”

Who cuts out windows for it,

panels it with cedar,

and paints it with vermillion.

–Verses 13-14, The New American Bible (1991)

Such shepherds abound, unfortunately.  I refer not to those who strive to do the right thing for their populations yet fail to accomplish their goals, but to those to operate not out of any sense of seeking the common good but out of greed, self-aggrandisement, and indifference toward justice, especially that of the economic variety.

Among the most familiar images of Jesus in the Gospels is that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21), who not only watches his flock attentively but lays down his life for it.  The Good Shepherd is the polar opposite of the shepherd in Zechariah 11.  The Good Shepherd is Jesus in 1 Peter 1 and the figure who points to powerless children as spiritual models in Luke 18.  The Good Shepherd is one consistent with the description of God in Psalm 46.

To be a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd is wonderful indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/devotions-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-29-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Faithfulness and Faithlessness, Part II   1 comment

Destroy This Mad Brute

Above:  A U.S. Anti-German Propaganda Poster from World War I

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness, Part II

NOVEMBER 18, 2015

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 12:1-13:1

Psalm 13

Mark 13:9-23

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How long, O LORD?

Will you forget me forever?

how long will you hide your face from me?

How long shall I have perplexity of mind,

and grief in my heart, day after day?

how long shall my enemy triumph over me?

Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God;

give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”

and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

But I trust in your mercy;

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

I will sing to you, O LORD,

for you have dealt with me richly;

I will praise the name of the Lord Most High.

–Psalm 13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The text of Mark 13:9-13 describes current events in much of the world.  Fortunately, that statement does not apply to my nation-state, the United States of America, where we have religious toleration.  That is an alien concept in much of the world, however.  In any case, the end of the pericope provides a segue to the other reading.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

–Mark 13:23b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Zechariah 12:1-13:1 is a prediction of the end times.  Tiny Judah will by the power and grace of God, find not only restoration but victory over its enemies, who will suffer.  The new, restored society will mourn over

those who are slain, wailing over them as a favorite son and showing bitter grief as over a first-born.

–Verse 10b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Proposals regarding the identity of “those who are slain” are numerous.  The slain might have come from the Gentile nations, all but annihilated in verse 9.  Mourning for one’s defeated foes seems like a well-developed spiritual virtue, does it not?  The Hebrew text is ambiguous regarding the identity of the mourned slain, so another option might be correct.  For example, maybe the lamented slain are messengers of God whom authorities persecuted and populations disregarded.  That interpretation meshes well with the reading from Mark 13.  Mourning the sins of one’s society is one step toward the goal of addressing societal ills and avoiding similar errors in the present day and the future, after all.

The vagueness of the reference to the mourned slain invites readers to interact with and ponder that text.  Perhaps more than one interpretation is correct.  One unambiguous aspect, however, is grief following the act of violence.  Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  Those who commit violence are therefore victims of it.  Violence is necessary sometimes, unfortunately.  It can, however, be far less commonplace than it is.  Societies will be much better off when they grieve, not celebrate, violence (even necessary violence), and use it only as the last resort.  The same rule applies to individuals and communities.

One way governments persuade their citizens to fight wars is to dehumanize the enemies.  For example, Germans became “Huns” during World War I and Japanese became “Japs” during World War II.  Wartime propaganda in the United States depicted Germans as barely human and sometimes as beasts in 1917 and 1918.  During World War II American propaganda depicted Japanese in racially denigrating imagery and invited patriotic citizens to “slap a Jap.”  Likewise, Japanese propaganda denigrated Westerners in racial terms also.  Yet everybody involved was quite human, and the populations were not their governments.  As I write this sentence in 2015, Germany and Japan have long been allies of the United States.  We humans have no difficulty accepting the fact that our friends and allies are human, do we?

Sometimes it is proper that one side win a war and another lose it, for the sake of the world.  However, along the path to victory may we refrain from dehumanizing our fellow human beings on the other side, for God loves them also and they bear the image of God.  And, as we deal with agents of God, may we refrain from harming them, for

  1. we ought to heed them, and
  2. the use of violence for the purpose of defending one’s sense of righteousness belies the assertion of the possession of that virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Fear Versus Loving Our Neighbors   1 comment

Zechariah

Above:  The Prophet Zechariah, from the Sistine Chapel

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:

Zechariah 6:9-15 (Monday)

Zechariah 8:18-23 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 10:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Monday)

1 John 2:18-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 18:6-9 (Wednesday)

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Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

–Psalm 5:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The pericopes for these three days indicate perilous uncertain circumstances.  Either the Persian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, or the Roman Empire is in charge.  The most optimistic hopes for the time after the Babylonian Exile have not come to fruition.  Nevertheless, calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God resound.

The historical record indicates that the Kingdom of God has yet to arrive in its fullness, and that Jesus did not return in the first century C.E.  Yet calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God remain valid, necessary, and proper.  Dashed expectations of the creation of paradise on Earth should lead one to question certain human predictions, not the fidelity of God to divine promises.  God and religion are different from each other, so disappointment with the latter ought not to lead to disillusionment with and/or rejection of the former.

As for human fidelity to God, the hyperbolic language of Matthew 18:6-9 agrees with the social ethics of Zechariah 8:18-23.  Just as Matthew 18:6-9 is not an order to maim and mutilate oneself, Zechariah’s message to have no fear (8:15) and to treat each other properly is timeless.

Have no fear!  These are the things you are to do:  Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate–declares the LORD….you must love honesty and integrity.

–Zechariah 8:15b-17, 19b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Often we human beings abuse, oppress, and/or exploit some among us out of fear.  Perhaps we fear that there will be too little of some commodity to provide for all sufficiently, so some of us protect the interests of “me and mine” at the expense of others.  Or maybe we fear for our safety and that of those dear to us, so we deprive strangers of security or approve of policies to do so.  Perhaps we merely fail to understand the “others,” so we fear those we do not comprehend.  Fear requires little effort to transform into hatred, and hatred expresses itself actively and passively.

Some fear is healthy.  I fear touching a hot oven, for example.  Fear of consequences of actions has prevented me from committing many sins when moral courage has failed.  I affirm well-placed fear which leads to good decision-making while rejecting fear which leads to actions harmful to innocent parties.

May love of our neighbors guide our decisions and actions relative to others.  May we act for their benefit, not their detriment, for that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May the joys of others cause us to rejoice and the sorrows of others prompt us to mourn.  May we remember that, in God’s economy, there is no scarcity, artificial or otherwise.  The mercantilist assumption that wealth is a zero-sum game does not apply to blessings, which God bestows generously.  May we–especially we who claim to follow God, or at least to attempt to do so–never assume that blessings are part of a zero-sum game.  May we therefore be generous of spirit when dealing with our fellow human beings.

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-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-21-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Hope, Joy, and Gloom   1 comment

Last Judgment (Russian)

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Righteous God, our merciful master,

you own the earth and all its people,

and you give us all that we have.

Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom,

and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 1:7-17 (Monday)

Zechariah 2:1-5; 5:1-4 (Tuesday)

Job 16:1-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 9:1-14 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:45-51 (Wednesday)

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Sing praises to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

–Psalm 9:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Thus we have a segue to the hopeful message of Zechariah 1 and 2.  The rest of the material is mostly dark and joyless, however.  Especially memorable is the fate of the servant who was not ready when his master returned unexpectedly in Matthew 24:51 (The Revised English Bible, 1989):

[The master] will cut him in pieces and assign him a place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

My concept of God is one which encompasses judgment and mercy, with the two falling simultaneously sometimes; judgment for one person can constitute mercy for another.  Nevertheless, the recent fixation on judgment in the lectionary has proven tiresome.  I want more of the joy the Lutheran collect mentions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Significance and Insignificance   1 comment

snapshot_20140603

Above:  One of My Favorite Books

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 4:1-7

Psalm 145:8-14

Luke 10:21-24

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The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the wise, and reveal them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.”

–Luke 10:21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Those Hebrews who returned to their ancestral homeland to rebuild their society, Jerusalem, and the Temple during the Persian period had to contend with major obstacles.  These included people who plotted, lied, and otherwise obstructed plans.  And Persian kings and/or certain underlings were not always sympathetic to the Hebrews.  Within this context First Zechariah received a message from God for Zerubbabel, the governor of Davidic descent:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Often that divine spirit falls not upon the prominent and the powerful, but upon the marginalized and other powerless people.  This segue brings me to our Lord and Savior’s prayer in Luke 10:21.  What are we to make of it?

Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the greatest and most influential theologians of the twentieth century, reflected on that prayer in the intellectual autobiography he wrote for the Library of Living Theology volume about his thought (New York:  Macmillan Company, 1961).  He wrote of two dying elderly women who were parishioners at the Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan, which he served fresh out of seminary.  (“Evangelical” here was in the German sense of word, that is Protestant, in this case, a Lutheran-Reformed hybrid.)  The first lady was filled with anxiety and resentment, not serenity, during the illness which took her life.  This woman, Niebuhr wrote,

was too preoccupied with self.

–page 6

The second woman had experienced much difficulty during her life.  She had functioned as both breadwinner and homemaker for her two daughters because her husband, prone to insanity, could not provide for the family.  At the end of the lady’s life, when she was dying of cancer, she was serene and filled with gratitude to God for mercies and her daughters, however.  This contrast, Niebuhr wrote, taught him the meaning of Christ’s prayer.

The major difference between the two women seems to have been the way each approached death and dying.  In that context Niebuhr wrote that

the ultimate problem of human existence is the peril of sin and death in the way that these two perils are so curiously compounded; for we fall into sin by trying to evade or to conquer death  or our own insignificance, of which death is the ultimate symbol.  The Christian faith holds out the hope that our fragmentary lives will be completed in a total and larger plan than any which we control or comprehend, and that a part of the completion is forgiveness of sins, that is the forgiveness of the evils into which we fall by our frantic efforts to complete our own lives or to endow them with significance.

–pages 6 and 7

Then Niebuhr wrote that

we in the churches ought to admit more humbly than is our wont that there is a mystery of grace which no one can fathom.

–page 7

That mystery was available to our Lord and Savior’s Apostles and other disciples, whom N. T. Wright described as

the diverse and motley group

Luke for Everyone (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 125

with whom he had chosen to associate.

May we recognize that our significance resides in God alone and that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Then may we, by grace, act on that reality and succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Discomfort with Scripture   1 comment

Above:  Crete (July 22, 2011)

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Library, NASA

(http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=51726)

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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:

Zechariah 12:1-13:9

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Titus 1:1-2:6

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A Related Post:

Titus 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-2/

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Sometimes I read texts and find inspiration.  Then there are Zechariah 12:1-13:9 and Titus 1:1-2:6.  One of the benefits of a lectionary is that it leads one who follows it to read uncomfortable passages.  One, in reading the Bible, ought not to focus only on one’s favorite passages and those with which one agrees.

The imagery in Zechariah is stark and the polemics in Titus are jarring.  If I were (A) a female, (B) a man from Crete, or (C) a woman from Crete, I would really take offense.  and Zechariah II’s imagery of divine wrath upon the enemies of Judah turning Jerusalem into

…a bowl of reeling…

do not comfort me.  I read that God will cause the people of Judah to feel compassion for the afflicted Gentiles, but the Gentiles are still slain.

For all my discomfort, I refuse to seek convenient ways to explain away passages.  Inadequate rationalizations will not suffice.  No, I own my discomfort, for I seek to be honest–and to take my discomfort to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-february-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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False Prophets, Alleged and Actual   1 comment

Above:  John Calvin

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003663995/)

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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:

Zechariah 10:1-11:3 (January 31)

Zechariah 11:4-17 (February 1)

Psalm 116 (Morning–January 31)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 1)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–January 31)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 1)

2 Timothy 3:1-17 (January 31)

2 Timothy 4:1-18 (February 1)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Timothy 3-4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-2/

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The readings for January 31 and February 1 make more sense together then spread across two days.  That is my conclusion, at least.

“False prophets” is the unifying theme.  In Zechariah the speak lies, console with illusions, and lead members of the flock astray.  Thus God, angered, vows to punish these bad shepherds and provide proper leadership for the human flock.  To continue the theme, we read that, in the Last Days,

There will be some difficult times.  People will be self-centred and avaricious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and intractable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages, and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, prefering their own pleasure to God.  They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.

–2 Timothy 3:1b-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible

(Human nature has at least been constant.  The past, present, and future seem identical in this regard.)  Anyhow, we read in 2 Timothy to follow the truth, accept sound teaching, and be on guard against harmful people.

We–beginning with the author of this post–must always be careful not to confuse disagreement with one (in my case, myself) as proof positive that the other person is a bad shepherd, a false prophet, a harmful individual.  Maybe the other person is all those things, but perhaps he or she just has some different opinions.  I am convinced, for example, that early Church leaders were correct to insist that Gnosticism constituted false doctrine.  The main problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the Incarnation, without which there is no Christianity.  That one was easy.  Law and theology are easy at the extremes.  But what about opinions regarding certain points of Calvinism, for example?  Christians of good will can–and do–disagree strongly.  And all follow Jesus.

Speaking of Calvinism, one aspect of it offers a nice and good way out of many disputes.  John Calvin spoke and wrote of a category called “Matters Indifferent.”  Anything in that category is optional.  The Incarnation is vital, but whether one observes Christmas is a Matter Indifferent, for example.  So, with Calvin’s category in mind and a well-honed sense of theological humility before us, may we avoid idolizing our own opinions.  We might change them one day, after all.  And we are imperfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-31-and-february-1-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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