Archive for the ‘Amy-Jill Levine’ Tag

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 9:23-24

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 20:1-16

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The issue is not, “who is my neighbor?” but “can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?”

–Amy-Jill Levine in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011), 123

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Jesus’ interlocutor, the Jewish lawyer, holds a restrictive definition of “neighbor”:  his question, “Who is my neighbor” presupposes that some people are not neighbors.

–Michael Fagenblat, “The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics,” 542, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011)

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…the lawyer…attempted to save face by asking a further question, “Just a minute.  Exactly who is my neighbor?”…He was really asking, “How far does my responsibility go here?  What, in fact, constitutes neighborliness, and who qualifies to receive the love called for in the Law?”  He might have been asking, “What is the least I am required to do to get by?”…Jesus, however, turned in the other direction altogether and said, “You’re to think of yourself as a neighbor.”  The question isn’t, “Is such and such a person worthy of my love?” but rather, “Am I willing to take what I have, what I know, and what I can do and place all this at the disposal of another person’s needs or growth?”

–John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells:  The Parables (New York:  McCracken Press, 1993), 101-102, 105

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  God expects much of us and enables us to fulfill those expectations.  We usually experience God as the Holy Spirit, probably.  That, at least, is the theologically approved term, according to Christian orthodoxy.  I, without straying into heresy, note that the Greek word we translate as “person,” as in “First Person of the Trinity,” “Second Person of the Trinity,” and “Third Person of the Trinity,” means “masks.”

Our one acceptable glory is in God, who is generous, according to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  The workers must work, of course, but all receive a daily wage, even if they work a partial work day.  The Kingdom of Heaven, we read, is like that employment situation in the vineyard.  Contrary to the ubiquitous Dalman consensus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a reverential circumlocution, as Jonathan Pennington writes.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is the fully realized reign/realm of God on the Earth.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is apocalyptic.

God’s ways are not ours, overall.  They overlap occasionally, by accident, perhaps.  Extravagant divine extravagance, as in the parables, certainly contradicts the corresponding way of the world.  One function of the rhetoric of the Kingdom of Heaven is to point out the ways in which human patterns are deficient.

Go is generous, with standards for beneficiaries of grace to adopt.  We often prefer cheap grace, so we can blithely follow familiar patterns of thinking and behaving, without nagging moral qualms.  We are also frequently stingy certainly compared to God.  Often we are like the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10); we ask,

Who is my neighbor?

We really mean,

Who is not my neighbor?

Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors.  We do not like that answer.  Our ways are deficient.

They can be less so in this life, by grace, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Vindication, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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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 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-6-ackerman/

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And the Sea Was No More   1 comment

bambergapocalypsefolio055rnew_jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

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 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:5-22 (33rd Day)

Genesis 7:1-24 (34th Day)

Genesis 8:13-19 (35th Day)

Psalm 66:8-20 (All Days)

Acts 27:1-12 (33rd Day)

Acts 27:13-38 (34th Day)

John 14:27-29 (35th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-friday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

Genesis 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/devotion-for-the-sixth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Genesis 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/devotion-for-monday-after-the-first-sunday-in-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-wednesday-year-1/

Acts 27:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-31-august-1-and-august-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-august-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/devotion-for-august-4-5-and-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 14:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-first-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/devotion-for-june-12-and-13-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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You let enemies ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water;

but you brought us into a place of refreshment.

–Psalm 66:12, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

–Revelation 21:1, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Water can be scary, for it has the potential to destroy much property and end lives.  In much of the Bible water signifies chaos.  The first creation myth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a), actually not as old as the one which follows it, depicts a watery chaos as the foundation of an ordered, flat earth with a dome over it.  The lections from Genesis 6-8, being the union of of various texts (as evident in late Chapter 6 and early Chapter 7 with regard to the number of animals to take aboard the Ark), is a composite myth in which water is a force of divine destruction and recreation.  And the water is something to fear in Acts 27.  It is no accident that, in Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem has no sea; the city is free of chaos.

Professor Amy-Jill Levine, in her Teaching Company course, The Old Testament (2001), says that she does not like Noah.  He, in the story, could have tried to save lives if he had argued with God, as Abraham did, she says.  Maybe she has a valid point.  It is certainly one nobody broached in my juvenile or adult Sunday School classes, for my first encounter with the idea came via DVD recently.  Yet the story which the Biblical editor wanted us to hear was one of God’s covenant with Noah.

That theme of covenant fits well with the calm and confidence of St. Paul the Apostle en route to Rome.  He had a legal case arising from preaching (Acts 21:27 forward).  The Apostle had exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal directly to the Emperor (Acts 25:11).  Yet Herod Agrippa II (reigned 50-100), a client ruler of the Roman Empire, had stated that the Apostle could have gone free if he had not appealed to the Emperor (Acts 26:32), who, unfortunately, was Nero.  Anyhow, Paul’s calm and confidence during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea, with the danger on board the ship, came from a positive spiritual place.

That peace is the kind which Jesus bequeaths to us and which the world cannot give.  That peace is the sort which enables one to remain properly–seemingly foolishly, to some–confident during daunting times.  That peace carries one through the chaotic waters and the spiritual wilderness until one arrives at the New Jerusalem.  That peace is available via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/devotion-for-the-thirty-third-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Corporeal and the Spiritual   2 comments

Jesus Bookmark

Above:  A Jesus Bookmark

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 2:8-15 (5th Day)

Song of Songs 5:9-6:3 (6th Day)

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (7th Day)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

Colossians 4:2-5 (5th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (6th Day)

John 20:11-20 (7th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Song of Songs:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-21/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/proper-17-year-b-3/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-18-19-and-20-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-21-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Colossians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/devotion-for-september-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Corinthians 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

John 20:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/third-day-of-easter-tuesday-in-easter-week/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-23-24-and-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall not rest in hope.

–Psalm 16:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Song of Songs, I heard growing up, is about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Balderdash!  There is also a Jewish allegorical interpretation which claims that the book is about the relationship between God and Israel.  I do not accept that either.  No, the Song of Songs is exactly what it appears to be–a series of poetic texts about a love affair between a man and a woman who may or may not be married to each other but who are in danger because of their love.

Hence the Song of Songs is about human erotic relationships.  And it belongs in the Canon of Jewish and Christian Scripture.  As J. Coert Rylaardsdam writes in Volume 10 (1964) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary:

Its [the Song of Songs’] respect for life is expressed in the savoring of it; and it is this that makes it a very important commentary on the meaning of the confession that God is the Creator of all things.  The presence of the Song in Scripture is a most forceful reminder that to confess God as Creator of all things visible and invisible is to deny that anything is “common” (see Acts 10:9-16) or, to use the cliché of today, “secular.”  This book teaches that all life is holy, not because we, as Christians, make it so, but because it is made and used by the living God.

–page 140

If that analysis seems odd to one, that fact indicates a different worldview than the Song’s authors had.  As Rylaardsdam writes on page 138:

The people who wrote the Bible had no equivalent of our notion of the “secular”; they did not separate the natural from the sacred as we often do, for they took very seriously the confession of God as Creator of all.

As Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says in her 2001 Teaching Company Course, The Old Testament, much of what was normative in biblical times has ceased to be so.  That is certainly true for those of us in the global West, shaped by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  Modernity differs greatly from antiquity, in ways both good and bad.

Much of the Christian tradition–including the legacy of St. Paul the Apostle, a great evangelist who suffered much, to the point of martyrdom–contains discomfort with the corporeal.  Human bodies can be messy and otherwise unpleasant, to be sure, but their potential for temptation has attracted much attention.  Much of Christian tradition has obsessed about the latter fact excessively, even encouraging a universal, false dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit–a dichotomy absent from the Song of Songs.

That frequent and erroneous distrust of the flesh has influenced the Christology of many people negatively, leading them to commit heresy.  To say that Jesus was fully human and fully divine is easy.  To deal with the “fully divine” aspect of that formulation can prove relatively uncontroversial.  Yet to unpack the “fully human” aspect holds the potential–often realized–to upset people.  In the early 1990s, for example, my father said in a sermon in southern Georgia, U.S.A., that Jesus had a sense of humor.  One lady, a longtime member of the congregation, took offense, claiming that he had insulted her Jesus.

Yet the Incarnation is about both the corporeal and the spiritual.  And the resurrected Jesus was no phantom, for he had a physical form.  The Incarnation means several things simultaneously.  Among them is an affirmation of the goodness of creation, including human physicality.  If that physicality makes us uncomfortable–if we perceive it as antithetical to spiritual well-being–we have a spiritual problem, one of erroneous categories and at least on false dichotomy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sixth-and-seventh-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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