Archive for the ‘Zechariah’ Category

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

Above:  The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zechariah 10:6-12

Romans 13:8-10

Matthew 21:1-13

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord, who commanded your apostles to go into all the world,

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

Let your name be great among the nations from the rising of the Sun

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Habakkuk 2:18-20; 3:2-4

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The assigned reading from 1 Peter is too brief.  One should, for full comprehension of 2:4-10, back up into chapter 1 and start reading.  We read that Gentile Christians are a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a temple all at once, via divine mercy.  With grace come obligations, of course.  We ought to put away

all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

–1 John 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Not putting them away is inconsistent with being a light to the nations.

1 John 2:3 affirms that God is good, in an echo of Psalm 34:8.  That segue brings me to Habakkuk.  Once again the assigned reading is unfortunately truncated.  The overall context of the Book of Habakkuk is the Babylonian Exile.  The text struggles with how to affirm the goodness of God in light of a violent and exploitative international order.  The author seems less certain than the man who wrote Psalm 52.  The central struggle of Habakkuk is timeless, for circumstances change and time passes, but certain populations experience oppression at any given moment.

I have no easy answer to this difficult question, nor do I aspire to have one.  God has some explaining to do, I conclude.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land was in full effect at the time of Christ.  A portion of the Jewish population sought a military savior who would expel the Romans.  Jesus disappointed them.  He did, however, astound St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All Jesus had to do was say he had seen the future Apostle under a fig tree.

This is an interesting section of John 1.  Every time I study 1:47-51 I consult resources as I search for more answers.  The Gospel of John is a subtle text, after all; it operates on two levels–the literal and the metaphorical–simultaneously.  St. Nathanael/Bartholomew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and follows him.  The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4 (one verse after nations end their warfare and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks) and in Zechariah 3:10 (one verse after God promises to remove the Israelites’ collective guilt in one day, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  The context of the confession of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew then, is apocalyptic; an ideal future in which God reigns fully on the Earth is the hope.  So as for Jesus seeing St. Nathanael/Bartholomew under a fig tree, that feat seems to have indicated to the future Apostle that possessed unique insights.

The apocalyptic nature of the vision of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew sitting under a fig tree is juicier material, though.  I also wonder how well the future Apostle understood the messiahship of Jesus at the time of his confession.  The answer is that he did so incompletely, I conclude.  I do not mean that as a criticism; I merely make a statement of what I perceive to have been reality.

The question of now to make sense of the divine goodness in the context of a violent and exploitative world order remains.  I offer a final thought regarding that:  Is not hope superior to hopelessness?  Deferred hope is still hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Spiritual Parasites on Power Trips   1 comment

Corn Parasites

Above:  Corn Parasites, 1942

Photographer = Jack Delano

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USW3-002652-D

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, through 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 27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 3:1-10

Psalm 17

2 Peter 2:4-21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings,

From the wicked who assault me,

from my enemies who surround me to take away my life.

–Psalm 17:8-9, Common Worship (2000)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The setting for the pericope from Zechariah was post-Exilic Judea.  Returned exiles lived within the Persian Empire, and the high priest occupied a position of political leadership.  In Zechariah 3 one Joshua went through a purification process in order to become the next high priest.  The Accuser (the Satan), working for God, participated in the process.  (The theology of Satan had yet to shift, thereby transforming him into an evil rogue.)  At the end of the pericope came a prophecy of a messianic age of peace.

That age has yet to arrive.  Jesus of Nazareth has come and gone in the flesh, and the promised messianic age of peace and justice has yet to arrive.  In the meantime advice from 2 Peter 2 proves helpful.  We who claim to follow God–in Christ, specifically–ought to avoid false teachers who embrace worldly corruption.

The historical context of 2 Peter 2 is the early phase of development of major Christian doctrines.  The author, writing as if he were St. Simon Peter in the late first century or early second century C.E., defended the orthodoxy of the teachings of the Apostles and their successors taught it.  Earliest Christianity was, like the Church of today, rife with factionalism.  Unlike today, however, the definition of the canon of scripture remained an unsettled issue, as did major questions of Christology.  The process of writing the texts of the New Testament might have still been in progress, in fact.  Furthermore, debates regarding Christology continued for centuries.  Councils of bishops met during the first five centuries of Christianity to address questions such as how many wills Jesus had.  Even some Christian theologians of the third century C.E., orthodox by the standards of their time, became ex post facto heretics posthumously in the fourth century, as the church refined its Trinitarian theology.

The real issue in 2 Peter 2, however, seems to have been the motives of the spiritual seducers–false prophets.  They accepted bribes from non-Christians to disrupt the young movement.  Many Christians proved to be vulnerable to their siren songs and committed apostasy, that is, falling away from God.  These apostates, pursuing the promise of freedom, found spiritual slavery instead.

These words of caution remain current, unfortunately.  They speak not of well-intentioned yet sincerely wrong people but of spiritual parasites on power trips.  This brings me to the topic of cults.  Many people use that word too loosely.  I use “cult” not in the academic, anthropological sense nor to describe a religious group whose teachings I consider merely false.  No, I use “cult” to mean a predatory religious group with false teachings.  The Church of Scientology is a cult by this definition.  The late Jim Jones led a cult.

Each of us has a God-shaped spiritual hole which only God can fill properly.  Many of us attempt to fill that hole with a variety of substitutes for God, but none of them can stand in for God.  Unfortunately, many of us fail to recognize this reality.

May we who follow Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, persist in spiritual freedom.  And may those trapped in spiritual slavery find their freedom in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted November 13, 2015 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 2, Psalm 17, Zechariah

Tagged with , , ,

Light in the Darkness, Part III   2 comments

Candle Flame

Above:  Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 1:1-6 (Thursday)

Zechariah 2:6-13 (Friday)

Psalm 145:8-14 (Both Days)

Romans 7:1-6 (Thursday)

Romans 7:7-20 (Friday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

–Psalm 145:10-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The readings from First Zechariah encourage societal repentance.  The remnant of the Hebrews consisted of descendants of members of a society which had rebelled against God–to the extent of engaging in ritual child sacrifice–and paid terribly for its actions.  The repentance to which God called the Hebrews was not for their sake alone.  No, they were to become a light to the nations; that was their calling.

Each of us, likewise, has a vocation to function as an instrument of God in the midst of those around us at any given moment.  This point brings me to Romans 7.  The law, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us, provides labels for and convicts us of our sins.  We ought to do better, but we cannot succeed on our own power.  As the best part of the chapter, which our lections omit, tells us:

I discover this principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self, I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law that my mind that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

And, since society is just people, this principle applies on the societal level also.  As A Brief Statement of Belief (1962) of the former Presbyterian Church in the United States (1861-1983), the old “Southern Presbyterian Church,” summarizes total depravity so well, with a Neo-Orthodox twist:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

The Confession of Faith of The Presbyterian Church in the United States (Richmond, VA:  Board of Christian Education, 1973), page 332

That quote summarizes many social problems past and present well, does it not?

As for me, I read St. Paul’s words about not doing what he wants to do and doing what he does not want to do and identify with them.  I have, for example, known that God has called me to forgive certain people.  I have wanted to obey that command, but I have been unable to do so on my own power.  I have, in fact, been of two minds on the subject.  But at least I have wanted to obey God; that has been a fine start.  And God has empowered me to do the rest.  So thanks to God, I have found the freedom of forgiveness, which only one who has struggled to forgive can know.

Our duty is to respond favorably to God, who will empower us to do the rest.  Our free will, by which we can say “yes” to God is itself evidence of grace, so we live in the midst of divine graciousness.  May we therefore say with the author of Psalm 145:

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

–Verse 8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Then may we endeavor to act graciously, compassionately, and kindly, becoming be grace beacons of the light of God, seeking to change unjust social and political structures (in which many of us are unwittingly complicit) and inspiring others to do the same.  Hebrew prophets would certainly approve.

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 MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from This Post:

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Of Walls, God, and Men   1 comment

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Israel-Palestinian_Wall_Ich_Bin_Eine_Berliner.jpg)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 2:1-3:10/2:5-3:10

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Romans 15:1-13

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Zechariah 2-3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-1/

Romans 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jerusalem shall be peopled as a city without walls….

–Zechariah 2:8b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

TECHNICAL NOTE:

Zechariah 2:1 in Protesteant Bibles equals Zechariah 2:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A city’s walls were supposed to defend it.  Thus a Jerusalem without walls would seem to be defenseless.  Yet, in Zechariah, God will defend the city.  Walls, as defensive technology, have proven lacking throughout history.  Invaders breached the Great Wall of China.  Constantinople fell in 1453 despite its walls.  The walls of Jericho could not survive an earthquake.  So I am with Zechariah; God is preferable to any wall.

Walls also provide convenient boundaries.  The city is on one side of the wall.  East Berlin was over here and West Berlin was over there, from the East German perspective.  Over here, from the Israeli angle, is the Jewish side of the West Bank; the Palestinian side is over there.  The other is over there, away from here–with a wall to separate them.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

–Robert Frost, Mending Wall

Paul encouraged his readers at Rome to

Accept one another for the sake of God’s glory, as Christ accepted you.

–Romans 15:7, The New Jerusalem Bible

Walls work against that purpose.  God is preferable to any wall.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/devotion-for-january-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Scrupulousness   1 comment

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals, by Henry Davenport Northrop

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 1:1-21/1:1-2:4

Psalm 86 (Morning)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening)

Romans 14:1-23

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Romans 14:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/proper-19-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-thursday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do not wreck God’s work for the sake of food.

–Romans 14:20a, The New Jerusalem Bible

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

TECHNICAL NOTE:

Zechariah 1:-21 in Protestant Bibles equals Zechariah 1:1-2:4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Was it lawful to eat meat once offered to imaginary deities or to consume food impure by the standards of the Law of Moses?  Paul understood the answer to that question to be yes, although he chose to abstain from certain culinary options for the sake of others.  It was difficult to find meat not sacrificed to idols, so one might have become a vegetarian to avoid even the appearance of something considered improper.  On the other hand, since those gods did not exist, why let good food go to waste?

Scrupulousness is good, but it can go too far.  A lack of scrupulousness, in Zechariah, had prompted God’s anger.  Yet there would be mercy for the punished Hebrews.  Once again judgment and mercy came in proximity to each other.  Paul’s personal deprivation aside, I feel no need to deny myself proper pleasures which others might interpret wrongly.  The truth is that anything I do might offend someone of a certain rigidity of attitudes.  I refuse to permit such rigidity dictate my lifestyle choices.  Yet neither will I confront them about their choices.  Their business is theirs, as mine is my own.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/devotion-for-january-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted October 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 19, Psalm 6, Psalm 86, Romans 14, Zechariah, Zechariah 2

Tagged with ,