Archive for the ‘Apostasy’ Tag

Two Killings   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod--James Tissot

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 118:26-29

Psalm 27

Matthew 23:37-39

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Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

–Psalm 27:7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 118 is a song of praise to God after a military victory.  Literary echoes of the text are apparent in the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Consider this verse, O reader:

Blessed be who enters in the name of Yahweh,

we bless you in the house of Yahweh.

–Psalm 118:26, The Anchor Bible:  Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), by Mitchell Dahood, S.J.

That allusion fits well, for, when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he did so not as a conquering hero but as one who had conquered and who was en route to the peace talks.  A victorious monarch rode a beast of burden to the negotiations for peace.  Jesus resembled a messianic figure who had won a battle.  He was not being subtle, nor should he have been.

The tone of the assigned reading from Matthew 23 fits the tone of the verse from Psalm 27 better, however.  Psalm 27 consists of two quite different poems with distinct tenors.  Part I is happy and confident, but Part II comes from a place of concern and a context of peril.  The latter distinction is consistent with Christ’s circumstances between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or seeker-sensitive Jesus.  That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed.  His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground.  He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt. 19:14; cf. Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16).  The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort.  He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach.  This Jesus’s hair is untamed.  His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle.  His face and neck are reddened by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused.  There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 39; cf. 23:16).  His message ends not with a head pat to a child and an aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).

When you finish reading Jesus’s tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath.  Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reassess wholesale their idea of Jesus.  At the very least, we can point to the text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.

–Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite:  The Origins of the Conflict (2014), page 5

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You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters!  Damn you!

–Matthew 23:29a, The Complete Gospels:  Annotated Scholars Version (1994)

Literary context matters.  Immediately prior to Matthew 23:37-39, the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, our Lord and Savior, having engaged in verbal confrontations with religious authorities, denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, power plays, impiety, violence, and inner impurity.  Immediately after Matthew 23:37-39 comes Matthew 24, in which Christ speaks apocalyptically, as in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  (The order of some of the material differs from one Synoptic Gospel to another, but these are obviously accounts of the same discourse.)  Jesus is about to suffer and die.

Matthew 23:34-39 echoes 2 Chronicles 24:17-25.  In 2 Chronicles 24 King Joash/Jehoash of Judah (reigned 837-800 B.C.E.), having fallen into apostasy and idolatry, orders the execution (by stoning) of one Zechariah, son of the late priest Jehoiada.  Zechariah’s offense was to confront the monarch regarding his apostasy and idolatry.  The priest’s dying wish is

May the LORD see and avenge!

–2 Chronicles 24:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theology of the narrative holds that God saw and avenged, given the subsequent killing of Joash/Jehoash by servants.

A contrast between that story and the crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear.  Never does Jesus say

May the LORD see and avenge!

or anything similar to it.  One cannot find Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for the crown and those who crucified him in Matthew or Mark, but one can locate it at Luke 23:34, which portrays him as a righteous sufferer, such as the author of Part II of Psalm 27.

The example of Jesus has always been difficult to emulate.  That example is, in fact, frequently counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Love your enemies?  Bless those who persecute you?  Take up your cross?  Really, yes.  It is possible via grace.  I know the difficulty of Christian discipleship.  It is a path I have chosen, from which I have strayed, and to which I have returned.  The goal is faithfulness, not perfection.  We are, after all, imperfect.  But we can do better, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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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

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 3:1-10

Psalm 17

2 Peter 2:4-21

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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)

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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

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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/

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Posted November 13, 2015 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 2, Psalm 17, Zechariah 3-7

Tagged with , , ,

Apostasy and Fidelity   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Thursday)

Isaiah 42:10-18 (Friday)

Psalm 80:1-7 (Both Days)

Hebrews 10:10-18 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The motif of divine judgment and mercy continues in the readings for these days.  Exile will come to pass.  According to the theology of the Old Testament, the main cause was disobedience to the Law of Moses.  After the exile, however, divine mercy will shower upon the Hebrews.  The new covenant will be one written on human hearts, not scrolls or stone tablets.

Divine forgiveness for human sins is a blessing and an expression of grace.  It also creates an obligation to respond favorably to God, out of awe and gratitude.  Such a favorable response will affect those around the one responding accordingly.  How can it not?  Consider, O reader, the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  That one has societal implications.

The Letter to the Hebrews warns against committing apostasy, or falling away from God.  That emphasis is evident in 10:32-39.  One cannot fall away from God unless one has followed God.  As I wrote in the previous post,

Salvation…is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.

Divine love for human beings is wonderful.  It does not, however, negate free will.  I recognize a role for predestination also, for I have come to accept the doctrine of Single Predestination, which is consistent with Lutheranism and Anglicanism, as well as moderate Calvinism.  For those not predestined to Heaven the witness of the Holy Spirit is available.  By free will (itself a gift of God) one can accept or reject that witness.  The correct choice is acceptance, but many opt to reject the offer.  Some of them had accepted it.

The responsibility to make the correct choice remains constant.  The necessity of choosing to persist in the faith is a constant once one has embraced wondrous grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Faithfulness and Faithlessness, Part I   1 comment

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Above:  Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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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:

Daniel 8:1-14 (Monday)

Daniel 8:15-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 13 (Both Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Monday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Tuesday)

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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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Hebrews 10:26-39 cautions against committing apostasy, that is, falling away from God.  The consequences will be dire, the pericope tells us.

Daniel 8, dating from the second century B.C.E., contains references to the Hasmonean rebellion in Judea and to the evil Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  Antiochus IV took the name “Epiphanes,” meaning “God manifest.”  The author of 1 Maccabees referred to him as “a sinful root” (1:10).  The author of 2 Maccabees wrote of Antiochus IV’s indolence and arrogance in Chapter 9 and called him “the ungodly man” (9:9) and “the murderer and blasphemer” (9:28).  The monarch had, after all, desecrated the Temple at Jerusalem and presided over a bloody persecution of Jews.  Certainly many faithful Jews prayed the text of Psalm 13, wondering how long the persecution would continue while anticipating its end.  Antiochus IV died amid disappointment over military defeat (1 Maccabees 6:1-13 and 2 Maccabees 9:1-29).  The author of 2 Maccabees, unlike the writer of 1 Maccabees, mentioned details about how physically repulsive the king had become at the end (2 Maccabees 9:9-12).

By his cunning, he will use deceit successfully.  He will make great pans, will destroy many, taking them unawares, and will rise up against the chief of chiefs, but will be broken, not by [human] hands.

–Daniel 8:25, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The “chief of chiefs” was God, and, according to 2 Maccabees 9, God struck down Antiochus IV.  The monarch, who never fell away from God because he never followed God, faced dire circumstances.

I acknowledge the existence of judgment and mercy in God while admitting ignorance of the location of the boundary separating them.  That is a matter too great for me, so I file it under the heading “divine mystery.”  Hebrews 10:31 tells us that

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet, if we endure faithfully, as many Jews did during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews encouraged Jewish Christians to do, God will remain faithful to us.  Many Christians have endured violent persecutions and political imprisonments with that hope keeping them spiritually alive.  Many still do.  Many Christians have become martyrs, never letting go of that hope.  Today tyrants and their servants continue to make martyrs out of faithful people.  May we, who are fortunate not to have to endure such suffering for the sake of righteousness, not lose faith either.

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-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #1350 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Apostasy and Idolatry   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:14-22 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 2:23-37 (Friday)

Jeremiah 6:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:7-15 (All Days)

Colossians 2:16-23 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (Friday)

John 7:40-52 (Saturday)

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading for these three days overlap nicely, focusing on the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  To commit apostasy is to fall away from grace.  (Thus grace is not irresistible.  Strict Calvinism is therefore mistaken about that fifth of the TULIP formula.  I am also dubious of the Perseverance of the Saints, which relates to Irresistible Grace.)  An idol is anything which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol might be a false deity, an activity, or even a sacred text.  Function in one’s life determines that thing’s status relative to idolatry.  Among the most popular idols is the Bible, which is supposed to function instead as an icon–through which people see God.  But, if one treats it as an idol, that is what it is for that person.

The lessons from Jeremiah condemn idolatry which has led to national apostasy, evident in ill-advised alliances with foreign, predatory empires.

What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the LORD your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the LORD GOD of hosts.

–Jeremiah 2:18-19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

From the gloom of Jeremiah 2 and 6 we turn to the Pauline tradition, which emphasizes Christ crucified and resurrected.  St. Paul the Apostle rejects, among other things, Gnostic asceticism, a form of Jewish ritualism, and the practice of worshiping angels as methods as obtaining the spiritual upper hand.  Christ is sufficient, the ever-Jewish Paul tells us through the ages.

I understand the Apostle’s objection to Gnosticism, with its reliance on secret knowledge and belief that matter is evil.  If salvation comes from having secret knowledge, as Gnostics insisted, the death and resurrection of Jesus were pointless.  In fact, in Gnostic thought, he did not die because he was not even corporeal, for, in Gnosticism, he could not have had a body, a body being material and therefore evil.  Thus Gnosticism was not Christian.  The exclusion of Gnostic texts from the Bible was not, as some “documentaries” on the History Channel claim, a conspiracy of Church leaders to suppress truth and crush dissent.  No, it was a proper course of action.

As for rituals (especially Jewish ones), I approach the text from Colossians differently than do the authors of some of the commentaries I consulted.  A high proportion of these writers were Presbyterians with little use for ritual.  Their paragraphs screamed between the lines “This is why I am not a Papist!”  I, as an Episcopalian, know the value of ritual and of approaching it properly.  It should be an icon, not an idol, although it functions as the latter for many people.  But so does the Bible, and I do not heap scorn on that sacred anthology either.

Apostasy, a theme from the Jeremiah readings, recurs in John 7.  Temple officials accuse some Temple policemen of it for refusing to arrest Jesus, who had impressed them.  These officials also accuse Nicodemus of the same offense.  I realize that much of the Gospel of John reflects late first-century C.E. Jewish Christian invective, for Jewish Christians had found themselves marginalized within Judaism.  Nevertheless, the stories in John 7:40-52 have the ring of truth, for fearful people in positions of power have attempted to retain it in many places and at numerous times.

Idols come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and ages.  As I have written in this post, function in one’s life determines status relative to idolatry in that life.  Among the more common idols is attachment to the status quo ante, especially if one benefits from it.  Thus we become upset when God does something we do not expect.  This might threaten just our sense of order (hardly a minor issue), but also our identity (also a major consideration) and socio-economic-political or socio-economic standing (of which we tend to be quite protective).  But when was religion supposed to function as a defense against God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-22-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part II: Idolatry = Spiritual Adultery   1 comment

mhs_sad_ostateczny_xvii_w_lipie_p

Above:  The Last Judgment Icon

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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:

Jeremiah 3:6-4:2

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Matthew 22:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-2/

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

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Turn back, O Rebel Israel–declares the LORD.  I will not look on you in anger, for I am compassionate–declares the LORD.  I do not bear a grudge for all time.  Only recognize your sin; for you have transgressed against the LORD your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every leafy tree, and you have not heeded Me–declares the LORD.

Turn back, rebellious children–declares the LORD.  Since I have espoused you, I will take you, one from a town and two from a clan, and bring you to Zion.  And I will give you shepherds after My own heart; who will pasture you with knowledge and skill.

–Jeremiah 3:12b-15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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He will not always accuse us,

neither will he keep his anger for ever.

–Psalm 103:9, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Jeremiah, speaking for God, likened idolatry to adultery (3:8).  Yet there was always hope for redemption via human repentance and divine mercy.

Collective unrighteousness constitutes a major theme in both main readings for today.  In Matthew 22:1-22 it applies chiefly to those disloyal people who rejected the wedding invitation after they had accepted it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

–Luke 9:62, The New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition

The first round of servants consisted of the Hebrew Prophets, the second of proto-Christians (and later Christian missionaries) in the highly allegorical parable.  The banquet is the Last Judgment, where all must be clothed with righteousness–or else.  Here individual righteousness applies to the story, which, without accident, follows the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

It is vital to place the teaching in Matthew 22:1-14 in narrative context.  Jesus was in Jerusalem during his final Passover week, what we Christians call Holy Week.  The stakes were high and the gauntlet thrown down.  Jesus was confronting a corrupt political-religious system headquartered at the Temple.  He was doing this during the days leading up the annual celebration of divine deliverance from slavery in Egypt –a celebration held in occupied Jerusalem, where a Roman fortress overlooked the Temple.

Thus the question of a particular tax–a poll tax, to be precise–one which existed only to remind the subjugated peoples of Roman rule (as if they needed a reminder), arose.  According to law, the Roman Empire was the legal and legitimate government, so paying the poll tax was permitted.  But God still demanded and deserved complete loyalty.  Anything else constituted idolatry–spiritual adultery–something which our Lord’s accusers had committed and were committing.

C. H. Dodd, in The Founder of Christianity (1970), wrote of Realized Eschatology.  The Kingdom of God, he insisted, has always been among us, for God

is king always and everywhere,

thus the Kingdom simply is; it does not arrive.  Yet, Dodd wrote,

There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment in history is reflected in the gospels.  The presence of God with men, a truth for all times and places, became an effective truth.  It became such (we must conclude) because of the impact that Jesus made; because in his words and actions it was presented with exceptional clarity and operative with exceptional power.

–All quotes and paraphrases from page 57 of the first Macmillan paperback edition, 1970

Our Lord’s challengers in Matthew 22:1-22 practiced a form of piety which depended on a relatively high amount of wealth, thereby excluding most people.  Our Savior’s accusers in Matthew 22:1-22 collaborated with an oppressive occupying force which made it difficult–sometimes impossible–to obey Torah.  Our Lord and Savior’s accusers were self-identified defenders of Torah.  How ironic!  How hypocritical!  How idolatrous!

Condemning the long-dead bad guys is easy.  But who are their counterparts today?  I propose that those who minimize or merely reduce the proper level of love in Christianity are among their ranks.  If we are to love one another as bearers of the Image of God—people in whom we are to see Christ and people to whom we are to extend the love of Christ–which prejudices do we (individually and collectively) need to abandon or never acquire?  Those who affirm such prejudices in the name of God are among the ranks of contemporary counterparts of those whom our Lord and Savior confronted in Matthew 22:1-22.  But the possibility of repentance remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEDIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/devotion-for-november-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VIII: False Notions of Holiness   1 comment

rode_1

Above:  Jesus Healing a Paralytic, by Bernhard Rode

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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:

Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Matthew 9:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

Matthew 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

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Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9 is a generally positive lection with a dark cloud hanging over it.  We readers know (or at least we should know) that the good intentions will not last long and that the consequences will be dire and predictable.

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s critics thought that they were on the side of righteousness and that Jesus was not.  Perhaps they thought of the consequences of collective apostasy and in the Hebrew Bible.  Maybe they feared that Jesus was leading people astray.  They were wrong, of course, for they represented a corrupt religious system.  And Jesus, with his authority, challenged theirs.  He also challenged basic assumptions regarding fasting, table fellowship, ritual purity, and the cause of the paralyzed man’s suffering.  He redefined holiness to be more inclusive than exclusive, drawing people into the big tent rather than consigning large populations to the category of the hopelessly lost.

It is easy and frequently tempting to define one’s self as belonging to an elite club of holy people.  To do so is certainly ego-reinforcing. Yet it is a trap for one’s self and a careless disregard for others who bear the image of God.

So I challenge you, O reader, to ask yourself some questions.  Who are the people you blame unjustly for their problems?  Who are the people you exclude unjustly?  Who are the people from whom you keep a distance so that they will not “contaminate” you by their presence?  I ask myself the same questions about how I think of and act toward others.  Yes, we will not get along with all people; that is a morally neutral fact of life.  And we will have little in common with many individuals.  But we must not assume that anyone is hopelessly lost to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part II: Judgment, Mercy, and Apostasy   1 comment

crucifix-with-votive-candles

Above:  A Crucifix with Votive Candles

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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:

Exodus 9:1-28

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Hebrews 2:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Hebrews 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-monday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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Before I arrive at my main point I choose to indulge myself in raising two points.

ALPHA

All the livestock of the Egyptians died in Exodus 9:6.  That is what the text says.  Where, then, did the Egyptians get the livestock mentioned in 9:19?  My inquiring mind wants to know.  The source of both verses is presumably the Elohist (E), so I cannot explain away this detail by pointing to the editing together of different documents.  And I assume that the Hebrews kept all their livestock, of which we will read later in the Book of Exodus.

I did find one attempt to explain this detail.  The NIV Study Bible (1985), page 98, offers this weak explanation:

That is, all that were left out in the fields.  Protected livestock remained alive (see vv. 19-21).

But that is not what 9:6 says.  It does not say that all the unprotected livestock died.  No, even in the New International Version, it reads:

All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but one one animal belonging to the Israelites died.

The sooner we abandon misconceptions of Scriptural infallibility and inerrancy, the better off we will be.  We ought not to transform texts into allegedly error-free idols.  No, an error crept in somewhere during the transmission of the saga of the plagues.  That is the simplest explanation.

BETA

Hebrews 2:15 is one source for the Conquest Satan theory of the Atonement.  One finds three understandings of the Atonement in the writings of the first five centuries’ worth of the Church Fathers.  The other two are Penal Substitution and the Incarnation itself.

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Now for my main programming….

Exodus 9:20-21, for the first time in that book, makes a distinction between those Egyptians who obeyed God’s instructions and those who did not.  Those who did as Moses said reaped the benefits.  And, in Hebrews 2:1-4, we read a stark warning not to neglect salvation

so that we do not drift away.

–2:1b, The New Jerusalem Bible

Yes, I affirm Single Predestination and its partner, free will, and therefore recognize the possibility of committing apostasy.  I do not advocate apostasy, however.  Free will plays a vital role in gaining and retaining salvation for many people.

The original audience for the Letter to the Hebrews risked suffering for the Gospel.  So here in Chapter 2 we find yet another passage which contradicts the idea that suffering necessarily equals punishment for sin.  In fact, the text tells us, Christ’s suffering “perfected” him, that is, completed the divine plan of salvation.  So Christ, who has suffered, can identify with and help suffering Christians.

This is excellent news.  It should encourage us in our struggles.  But if we drift away, there remains the possibility of returning.  I do not presume to know the extent of divine mercy.  It is vast, however.  But there is also judgment.  All of these matters are for God, not me, to decide and decree.  If we are prodigal sons or daughters, may we return to home and stay there.  And, if we are elder brothers or sisters, may we not resent divine mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-fifth-day-of-lent-monday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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