Archive for the ‘Babylonian Captivity’ Tag

Faithful Attitudes   Leave a comment

Above: The Uninvited Wedding Guest, by Vincent Malo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-19

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 22:1-14

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The destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. seems to have influenced the telling of the parable in Matthew 22:1-14.  The  allegory, told from the perspective of marginalized Jewish Christians, is plain:  The judgment of God will fall not only on those who reject Jesus, but on elements of the Christian movement, too.

Before I proceed to other texts, I note that we Gentiles need to be careful not to commit anti-Semitism, whether consciously or otherwise.  The language of invective is always dangerous.  It makes sense, in historical context, circa 85 C.E., within the Jewish faith–the context for the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  One can understand this example of invective in context without giving into it.  Besides, as we read in Ephesians, such divisions are supposed to end in Christ, crucified and resurrected.

So why do we insist on rebuilding those walls of division?

The unifying theme is the balance of judgment and mercy in God.  If one is an honest monotheist, one must affirm that God both afflicts and restores, and judges and forgives.  This theme is most prominent in Lamentations 3, in the voice of a man, the personification of exiles during the Babylonian Exile.  How can one affirm both that God has led people into exile and that those exiles should trust in God, whose mercies are not exhausted?

If you, O reader, expect a pat and easy answer from me, I disappoint you.  If, however, you expect an honest answer in which I admit to struggling with the question I have asked, I do not disappoint you.  Easy answers are for easy questions, and pat answers are probably never appropriate.  The life of faith is not about false certainty.  Much of the life of faith consists of admitting to doubts and to ignorance, and of following and trusting in God.

I distrust any theological system or approach that claims to have more correct answers than it does and that discourages honest questions.  Faith is not about having few or no questions and doubts; it is about struggling with them and working through them with God.

Lord, I don’t understand x, y, and z.  Perhaps I never will.  If so, so be it.  I still seek to follow you.

That is a faithful attitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES AND ENLIGHTENER OF NORTH AMERICA

THE FEAST OF CORDELIA COX, U.S. LUTHERAN SOCIAL WORKER, EDUCATOR, AND RESETTLER OF REFUGEES

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WRIGHT BUCKHAM, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA ALVAREZ MENDOZA, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

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Another Exodus   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Jesus

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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Isaiah 43:1-7

Psalm 29

Ephesians 3:14-21

Luke 3:1-23

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The imagery in Luke 3:4-6 is that of an exodus–the exodus from the Babylonian Exile, to be precise.  Thus the Gospel reading fits neatly with the lesson from Isaiah 43, about that exodus.  How are we supposed to interpret the life and ministry of Jesus as an exodus?

The love of God, who is faithful and trustworthy, encompasses both judgment and mercy, which are inseparable from each other.  Mercy for one entails judgment for another much of the time.  Alternatively, the threat of judgment leads to repentance and mercy.  Often we judge ourselves more harshly that God does; we need to extend mercy to ourselves and each other more readily and frequently.  The fullness of the love of God in Christ empowers us to do so.  That love leads us on an exodus from the exiles into which we have relegated ourselves and condemned others.  The love of God in Christ delivers us from ourselves and each other, granting us victory and blessing us with shalom.

May we embrace this divine love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-humes/

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Sons of God   3 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 63:7-17

Psalm 2

Galatians 4:1-7

John 1:1-18

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God is faithful, we read.  Even when reality falls short of expectations, as when Hebrew exiles moved to their ruined, ancestral homeland, God is faithful.  When divine ire flares up and consumes imprudent rulers and assemblies, God is faithful.  When the darkness of the world proves incapable of overpowering the light of God, which the darkness cannot understand anyway, God is faithful.

The reading from Galatians 4 requires a spotlight, hence the focus of this post.

Pauline literature, whether of St. Paul the Apostle or merely in his name, uses two words many modern English translations render as “children.”  One word is literally “children” or “offspring,” with no gender specified.  The other word is literally “sons.”  Translating the Greek correctly and interpreting the texts in the context of the time and place is crucial to understand the texts accurately.

I am a good, self-respecting liberal.  As such, I accept much inclusive language.  As a pedant, I reject “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” as singular pronouns, for I respect the distinction between the singular and the plural too much to do otherwise.  Besides, one can use those words as plural pronouns–the only correct way to use them.  I also prefer precision in language, so I like to know when “men” refers to males and when it is gender-non-specific, replaced easily with words such as “people,” “mortals,” and “humankind.”

In St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, sons inherited; daughters did not.  St. Paul, using big letters (6:11), wrote that through Jesus, the Son of God, we can became sons of God, that is heirs–not servants, but heirs.  The apostle wrote of God’s inclusive love and grace that reaches out for everybody, although not all people will join the household and claim the inheritance.  St. Paul wrote that divine love and grace wiped out and cut across human societal categories, including gender, ethnicity, and slavery (3:26-38).

If the Pauline language of sons of God in Galatians offends our twenty-first-century sensibilities, we need to read deeply, not superficially, and to understand what he meant.  Then we need to thank God for extravagant love and grace that, via one method or another (Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit) creates opportunities we can never make for ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Eschatological Ethics VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Visitation

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given to us, thy servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity;

we beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who livest and reignest, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 182

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Isaiah 35

Psalm 98

Romans 1:16-25

Luke 1:39-56

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Apocalyptic writing serves at least two legitimate purposes.  One is to keep hope alive, to remind people to remain faithful until the full-realized Kingdom of God becomes reality and justice is ubiquitous.  Another purpose is to point out the extent to which human governments, institutions, and societies fall short of the divine standard of justice.  They fall short of that standard because people do.

Advent is not so much a time of preparation for the twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5) as it is a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.  Do we believe that the full-realized Kingdom of God will become manifest on Earth?  And do we imagine that it will in no way displace some aspects of society from which we benefit?  Divine justice is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for those who oppress them and who consent to the oppression.  The return of Jewish exiles, foretold in Isaiah 35, followed the reckoning of their Chaldean overlords.  One may also think of Revelation 18, in which, following the fall of Babylon (read:  Rome), those who benefited from violence and exploitation mourn.

God is faithful and just.  If we are, too, we stand with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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The Law of Love   2 comments

Above:  Flowers, after E. T. Fisher, Circa 1884

Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-12135

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For the First Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness,

and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life,

in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;

that in the last day, when he shall come again in his

glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 105

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Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 50:1-15

Romans 13:8-14

Luke 1:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  They exist in balance in the assigned readings.  Mercy on exiles is the promise in Isaiah 40.  That mercy balances judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, though.  Judgment and mercy also exist in balance in Psalm 50, in its entirely.  The Incarnation, one must realize, was an occasion of both judgment and mercy; rejecting grace leaves one worse off than one was previously.  As for Romans 13:8-14, actions have consequences.  We judge ourselves, do we not?  Or we help our cases.

He who loves his neighbour has met every requirement of the law….Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:8b, 10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

How often have you or I, O reader, treated someone badly or condoned treating someone badly and felt righteous?  Have we not acted contrary to Romans 13:8-10?  Have we not, perhaps, used the letter of the law while violating the letter of the law?  I refer not to “tough love,” academic rigor, et cetera.  No, I refer to callousness.  I refer to that which is inexcusable, certainly in the context of Judeo-Christian ethics.

Yes, some real-life circumstances present moral quandaries.  Whatever decision one makes, at least one innocent person will suffer, perhaps even die.  We live in an imperfect world.  Yet we can, by grace, do the best we can do.  May that suffice.

On other occasions, however, the decisions are easy.  Sometimes loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is clear-cut and places us in no peril.  Thank God for such circumstances!

Yet, sometimes when the moral choice is unambiguous, loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself places one in physical or legal jeopardy.  This reality pushes back against blind obedience to human authorities sometimes.  In these cases, the higher law (that of God) is the law to follow.  And divine judgment falls on those who perpetuate injustice, as it should.

This Advent and the rest of the year, may we conduct our lives in ways that honor Christ, present in those near, far away, and in places in-between.  May we fulfill the law of God, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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Suffering, Part IV: Redemptive Suffering   1 comment

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who prayed for thy disciples that they might be one even as thou art one with the Father:

draw us to thyself that, in common love and obedience to thee,

we may be united to one another in the fellowship of the one Spirit,

that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

or

Eternal God, who hast called us to be members of one body:

bind us to those who in all times and places have called upon thy name,

that, with one mind and heart, we may display the unity of thy church

and bring glory to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Isaiah 53:1-11

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

Mark 14:17-25

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This is a devotion for World Communion Sunday, hence the Eucharistic language in Mark and 1 Corinthians, texts that speak for themselves.  I, as an Episcopalian, do not think much about World Communion Sunday, for the Holy Eucharist is our default service.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines the Holy Eucharist as

the central act of Christian worship.

Why should there be just one Sunday on which as many churches as possible celebrate Communion?

I choose to focus on Isaiah 53:1-11.  The identity of the suffering servant is a topic of long-standing disagreement that reaches back into antiquity, before the birth of Christ.  My question at the moment is, who was the suffering servant at the time of the Babylonian Exile and Second Isaiah?  The most likely answer is the nation of Israel, a seemingly insignificant people who played a prominent role in divine plans and whose suffering was redemptive and salvific for Gentiles.  According to this interpretation, resurrection is a metaphor for national renewal after the exile.  Besides, a well-informed student of the development of Jewish theology knows that the resurrection of the dead was not yet part of Jewish theology.

In many ways, Jesus is a better fit for the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 because collective sin brought on the Babylonian Exile.  Nevertheless, I remind you, O reader, pious Jews studying this passage in the 500s B.C.E. were not talking about Jesus, for obvious, temporal reasons, five centuries prior to the Incarnation.

I do not know how to process the thought that the suffering of Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Exile was redemptive for Gentiles.  I suppose that one could argue that suffering brought them back to faith, thereby transforming them into a light to the nations.  One could make that case, one which the author of the Book of Jonah probably would have favored.  But what about the inward-looking, post-Exilic reaction that led to shunning Gentiles?

Anyway, suffering can lead to positive results for others, regardless of the cause of the suffering.  If one grows spiritually, that growth will influence other people, who will influence other people, et cetera.  Suffering is bad and unpleasant, but grace can bring about a high yield of benefit from it.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Resurrection of the Dead, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Resurrection of the Dead

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Help us, O Lord, to hold fast to the faith delivered to the apostles;

remove from our minds all unfounded and senseless belief,

and inspire us with such thoughts as are true, wise, and well-pleasing to thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Daniel 12:1-4

Romans 8:22-39

Matthew 22:23-33

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Ezekiel 37, from last week’s post, is about the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile, not the resurrection of the dead.  Daniel 12, dating to the second century B.C.E., reflects the subsequent theological development of Judaism and does teach the resurrection of the dead.  The other assigned readings for this week are also about the resurrection of the dead.

Sadducees also rejected that doctrine.  As a children’s song explains, that’s why

they were sad, you see.

The ludicrous question about levirate marriage and the resurrection was, therefore, an insincere question and a trap.  Jesus evaded that trap.

The resurrection of the dead satisfies an understandable psychological need.  We recognize rampant injustice in this life, so we need reassurance that justice will define the next life.  We need to hear and read that judgment and mercy, in balance, will be present.

I do not know the resurrection of the dead as a fact, but I accept it on faith.  This doctrine helps me to accept that God is just when the past and current events indicate rampant injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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