Archive for the ‘Babylonian Captivity’ Tag

The Kingdom of God, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord and Master, who by thy Word hast called us to watch for thy return:

grant that when thou comest we may be found at work,  serving men in thy name.  Amen.

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

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Ezekiel 47:1-12

Revelation 7:9-17

Luke 16:1-9

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The vision of the future in Ezekiel 47 is one of those prophecies that remains unfulfilled.  It, seemingly set after the end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts Judea as blessed by God and the Temple as sitting atop the center of creation.

That is not our reality, though.  No, we live in a world in which many Christians suffer for their faith and some of them become martyrs.  No, we live in a world in the which the Parable of the Unjust Steward makes practical sense.  That parable, for all its interpretive ambiguities, does teach a clear lesson:  One who hears the gospel must act decisively–stake everything on the Kingdom of God, present partially, with more to come.  The fully realized Kingdom of God–as the Gospel of Matthew calls it–is the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jonathan Pennington asserts.

How we–individually and collectively–live is crucial.  Do we act decisively, staking everything on the Kingdom of God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Judgment and Mercy, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Halstead & Company, Beef & Pork Packers, Lard Refiners & Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01454

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

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 64:1-9

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 7:14-23

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The end of the Babylonian Exile, according to a portion of prophecy, was supposed to bring about paradise on Earth for returning exiles.  It did not.  Third Isaiah, after recounting some mighty acts of God in Isaiah 63, immediately asked where God was and why such mighty acts were absent.  The recorded divine response (in Isaiah 65) cataloged national sins and insisted that the divine promise remained.

God, ever an active agent, dispenses both judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment terrifies and divine mercy amazes.  The centrality of Christ, certainly a figure of mercy, also functions as a defining agent of the terms of judgment.  On one hand we have the atonement and unity in Christ.  On the other hand, however, we have those who refuse to participate in that unity, with all its moral requirements, both individual and collective.  As C. H. Dodd wrote, the Incarnation, good news, made more apparent what was already true, and those who rejected Christ were worse off for having done so.

The author of the Gospel of Mark (let us call him “Mark,” for the sake of convenience) included an aside to the reader or hearer of Chapter 7; he wrote that Jesus pronounced all foods clean.  The dating of the Markan Gospel (either shortly before or after 70 C.E., most likely) aside, that news flash about food laws did not reach many early Jewish Christians.  It also countermanded the condemnation of those who ate pork in Isaiah 64.  Moral impurity was an internal matter, Jesus said.

That principle applies both individually and collectively.  Human nature is what it is, for both good and ill.  That simple statement does not constitute an excuse for any bad behavior and improper inaction, of course.  Besides, grace is available to help us become better people, societies, families, et cetera.  We are imperfect, but we need not be shamelessly sinful and degraded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Divine Mystery and Justice   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and giver of the Holy Spirit.

Keep us, we pray thee, steadfast before the great mystery of thy being,

and in faith which acknowledges thee to be the one eternal God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 61:1-7

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 3:13-17

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In the spirit of Romans 11:33-36 I refrain from attempting to make logical sense of the Holy Trinity.  No, I am content to revel in the mystery of it.  Besides, even a cursory study of Trinity-related heresies, from Adoptionism to Arianism, reveals that they come from attempts to explain the Trinity.  The theology of the Trinity seems to have more to do with the objective nature of God anyway.

The better question is, how should we live sound Trinitarian theology?  A partial answer comes from Isaiah 61, channeled through Jesus, who quoted it at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19).  The Incarnation adds an element otherwise missing from Isaiah 61:1-9.  The passage, fulfilled in Jesus long ago, remains part of the collective calling of the people of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah 61, from the time of the return from the Babylonian Exile, continues to speak in contemporary times, and to have different shades of meaning than it did then.  God still loves and demands justice.

Attempting to understand the mystery of the Trinity may be easier than acting justly sometimes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DOUGLAS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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Restoration, Resurrection, and Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scanned from a Church Bulletin by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Day of Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who sent the promised fire of thy Spirit to make saints of ordinary men:

grant that we, waiting and together now, may be enflamed with such love for thee

that we may speak out boldly in thy name; through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Acts 10:34-48

John 20:19-23

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The three assigned readings focus on restoration and resurrection.  The vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 refers mt to the resurrection of the dead but to the resurrection of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of Jesus, the context of John 20 and a reference in Acts 10, is one of the items in the catalog of literal events, albeit on historians can neither prove nor disprove.  No, the resurrection of Jesus resides in the realm of that which one either accepts by faith or rejects by the absence of faith.

Notice, O reader, that God is the primary actor in the readings.  God restores Israel.  God resurrects Jesus.  God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, arrives.  God is even active in the Greek divine passive voice, as in John 20:22-23, or at least the first part of verse 23:

After saying this he breathed on them, and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins,

they are forgiven;

if you retain anyone’s sins,

they are retained.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“They,” in that passage, refers to sins.

Suppose, O reader, that I have sinned against you, another person, and God.  Suppose, furthermore, that I have realized my sin, confessed it to both people and to God, and asked for forgiveness from everyone involved.  Suppose that one person and God have forgiven me, but that the other person has refused to do so.

Who retains the sin?  The person who refuses forgiveness does.

It is to him [Jesus] that all the prophets testify, declaring that everyone who trusts in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

–Acts 10:43, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Forgiveness can be a difficult spiritual practice, but it is an essential one.  It is crucial to restoration and resurrection of individuals, families, communities, and societies.  Forgiveness facilitates reconciliation.  Forgiveness enables on to lay grudges aside and to progress spiritually as one should.  Forgiveness is part of the mission of the church.

Decades ago, in the United States, a man burgled a church and stole audio equipment.  The police arrested him and the District Attorney prosecuted.  At the trial the pastor of the church testified on the thief’s behalf and asked for leniency.  The court rendered its verdict. The thief, a changed man, joined that church.

Extending forgiveness is crucial if the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as far and wide as possible, to facilitate faithful responses to the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Extending forgiveness is also a matter of faithful response.  Certainly we, who acknowledge that we receive forgiveness daily, have an obligation to forgive.  Grace is free yet not cheap, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:   Triumphal Entry

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everliving God, who gave thy Son to be a leader and servant of men:

grant that as he entered Jerusalem to suffer and die for us,

we may enter his world, follow his example, and, by his power,

live in obedience to thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Isaiah 59:14-21

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Mark 11:1-11

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In Christian tradition there are two ways of handling the Sunday prior to Easter.  One is to make it, for lack of a better term, the Reader’s Digest condensed book version of Holy Week through Good Friday.  In this practice the Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion.  The old Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970 follows the other option–Palm Sunday.

The imagery of God, victorious and just, in Isaiah 59, is powerful.  The passage, set amid disappointment after exiles have returned to their ancestral homeland and not found the promised paradise, follows condemnation of faithlessness and injustice earlier in the chapter.  To quote a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014),

God brings justice, which is good news for the faithful and dreadful news for everyone else.

–884

Jews living in their Roman-occupied homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  This must have been especially true at Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, and the commemoration of their independence.  Jesus looked like the victorious messianic monarch of Zechariah 9:9-17 to many people as he entered Jerusalem as part of a counter-parade–not the Roman military parade into the city.

He was not that kind of king, though, as he said.

God brings justice for the faithful.  Sometimes this entails extravagant mercy, even for the purpose of repentance  At the same time this constitutes catastrophe for others.  Why God throws the book, so to speak, at some enemies and converts others may prove to be confusing.  Yet divine judgment is superior to human judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 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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Sharing With Others   Leave a comment

Above:   The Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

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For Sharing Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Years 1 and 2), according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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As you have given yourself to us, O God, help us to give ourselves to one another in perfect charity.

Thank you for men and women who work for the welfare of others.

Fill them with energetic love to show friendship and compassion with no strings attached,

so that men may be believe you care; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 194

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Isaiah 52:7-10

1 Corinthians 16:1-9

John 6:1-15

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“Sharing Sunday” has had different meanings, according to chronology and geography.  In the United States of America, since 1950, it has been the occasion in various denominations for taking an offering for global relief efforts.  The counterpart in The United Methodist Church since 2017 has been UMCOR Sunday.  (“UMCOR” is the abbreviation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.)  The Fourth Sunday in Lent, set aside as One Great Hour of Sharing in 1950, has remained that occasion for the following:

  1. the American Baptist Churches USA,
  2. the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  3. the Church of the Brethren,
  4. the United Church of Christ,
  5. the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
  6. the Cumberland Presbyterian Church,
  7. the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and
  8. Church World Service.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada observes Presbyterian Sharing Sunday each September.  Presbyterians Sharing is a denominational fund to support domestic and international ministries.

Regardless of when a denomination or congregation gathers funds for relief and related ministries, the assigned readings are appropriate for the occasion:

The setting for Isaiah 52:7-12 is the impending end of the Babylonian Exile.  Those about to depart for a ruined homeland in which they had never lived needed all the help they could get.

St. Paul the Apostle was collecting funds for the church in Jerusalem.  This offering was a gesture of goodwill from mostly Gentile churches in Jerusalem, per Galatians 2:1-10.

One of the enduring lessons of Jesus feeding multitudes (as in the 5000 plus, reported in all four canonical Gospels) has been that no gift is too small in God’s hands.

Many people think that they have nothing–at least of consequence–to offer.  Yet all that we have comes from God.  Nothing that comes from God is inconsequential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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This is post #1950 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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