Archive for the ‘Babylonian Exile’ Tag

Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

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

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

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

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

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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

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A Light to the Nations VI   Leave a comment

Above:  Pottery Oil Lamp

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12216

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

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Lord, you see that all hearts are empty unless you fill them,

and that all desires are balked unless they crave for you.

Give us light and grace to seek and find you, that you may be ours forever.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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Isaiah 49:8-13

Psalm 10

Ephesians 2:11-18

Matthew 5:14-20

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These readings mesh especially well.  They also return to the familiar theme of being a light to the nations.

Psalm 10 asks why God stands at a distance while, as the New American Bible states the matter,

Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor;

they trap them by their cunning schemes.

–Verse 2

This is a timeless question.  Today, as in Psalm 10, the wicked crouch and lurk (figuratively, of course), with the purpose of ambushing and trapping the poor.  The reference to that pose is a literary allusion to Genesis 4:7, in which sin crouches and lurks at the door.  The author of Psalm 10 concludes on a note of confidence in God, but one might wonder how sincerely.  One could just as well speak the last several verses sarcastically; that would fit well with the rest of the psalm.

Isaiah 49:8-13, set in the context of the return from the Babylonian Exile, seems to answer the author of Psalm 10.  Gentile monarchs and nobles will revere God, who has taken back His afflicted ones in love.  God will act and keep faith, or hesed, with the afflicted.  God will be the light that attracts Gentiles to Himself.  Therefore, as in Ephesians 2, in Christ artificial barriers, such as those that separate Jews from Gentiles, cease to exist.  As we know from scriptures I have covered in previous posts in this series, Jews and faithful Gentiles are the Chosen People together.

That is so, but this reality does not change the fact that many people who consider themselves faithful prefer to preserve categories that Jesus erases.  My best guess is that these individuals labor under the incorrect impression of what divinely approved categories are and what merely human categories are.  Each of us who call ourselves faithful are guilty of this offense to some degree.

As Matthew 5:14-20 reminds us, we are the light of the world.  Yet many of us hide or misdirect our light.  We have an obligation to shed the light on God, for the sake of divine glory.  We ought to be the polar opposite of the oppressors in Psalm 10.  They boast in their greed and deny that, if God exists, He does not care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53 about that point.)  They seem to be amoral.  They shine their light on themselves, to their glory, such as it is.

God does care–quite deeply, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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A Light to the Nations V   Leave a comment

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Albrecht Durer

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-40191

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

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We ask, Lord, that you mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you,

and that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do,

and may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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Isaiah 60:1-3, 6b

Psalm 24

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Isaiah 60 and Psalm 24 state that God is the King, a ruler superior to human rulers who shed the blood of the innocent, commit injustice shamelessly, and do not care about integrity.  God is not fully the King of the Earth yet, we read, but that will change.  God is certainly superior to the unstable and evil Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire and a man fearful of a young boy.

Interestingly, Father Raymond E. Brown, author of The Birth of the Messiah (1977 and 1993) and An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), both magisterial works of Biblical scholarship, was dubious of the story in Matthew 2 (considering the account in Luke 2, despite its factual errors, more plausible) yet affirmed the Virgin Birth.  For a long time many scholars–even conservative ones–have struggled to reconcile the very different stories in Matthew 2 and Luke 2.  Nevertheless, would not visiting Magi have been more likely than a virginal conception and subsequent birth?

Regardless of the objective reality regarding that matter, the kingship of God remains.  Most of God’s subjects are Gentiles, whom He does not exclude from the potential for salvation.  This is an old theme in the Bible, given the faithful Gentiles who appear in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.  The narrative makes room for the civilly disobedient midwives Shiphrah and Puah (probably ethnically Egyptian) in Exodus 1, for Rahab the prostitute of Jericho and her family in Joshua 2 and 6, and Ruth in Ruth 1-4, for example.  The four chapters of Jonah, a work of fiction and a Jewish protest against post-Babylonian Exilic exclusionary attitudes among Jews, remain relevant in many settings.  We read of some Gentile Godfearers in John 12:20-36.  Faithful Gentiles, we read in epistles of St. Paul the Apostle as well as those texts others wrote in his name, join the Jews in the ranks of the Chosen People.  Are not the Chosen People–Jews and Gentiles–supposed to be a light to the nations, that is, Gentiles?

The message of God is for all people.  Not all will accept it, however; that is their decision.  The offer is on the table one way or another, however.  It is a generous offer and a gift.  The grace is free yet not cheap, for it makes demands of all its recipients.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Good News   Leave a comment

Above:  Nunc Dimittis

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Father, you have declared your love to humankind by the birth of the holy child at Bethlehem.

Help us to welcome him with gladness and to make room for him in our common days,

so that we may live at peace with one another and in good will with all your family;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 76

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Zechariah 2:10-13

Psalm 34

Hebrews 1:1-12

Luke 2:21-32

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Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.

Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;

you love righteousness and hate wickedness.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The author of Psalm 34 praised God for deliverance from trouble.

O taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who take refuge in him.

–Psalm 34:8, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Exiles whom God commanded to flee from the place of their captivity (in Zechariah 2) must have felt grateful.  Certainly the captors did not feel blessed, however.  Those who lived by the sword died the same way.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews quoted Psalm 45:6-7 in 1:8-9.  He did so in reference to Jesus, a deliverer of a variety different from Cyrus II, King of the Persians and the Medes.  Jesus was greater than Cyrus.  However, Jesus (the historical figure, not the eternal Second Person of the Trinity; Christology is complicated) had a humble origin as a baby.  He did not outwardly seem great to uninformed people at first.  Simeon of Jerusalem was among the informed; he recognized the Messiah immediately.

Now, Lord, you are releasing your servant in peace,

according to your promise.

For I have seen with my own eyes

the deliverance you have made ready in full view of all nations:

a light that will bring revelation to the Gentiles

and glory to your people Israel.

–Luke 2:29-32, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The reading, however, should extend through verse 35, at least.  By continuing to read we find the predictions of the rejection of Jesus and the piercing of Mary’s heart.

Often good news comes mixed with bad news–sometimes for the same people.  Does this reality shake our confidence that God is good?

As for revelation to the Gentiles, we will pick up that thread in the next post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Varieties of Exile   Leave a comment

Above:  Road to Natural Bridge in Death Valley National Park, California, 2012

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-23917

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Bestow your light on us, O Lord, that, being rid of the darkness of our hearts,

we may attain to the true light;  through Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Isaiah 62:10-12

Psalm 32

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Luke 3:2b-6

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Isaiah 40:3-5 (quoted in Luke 2:4b-6) and Isaiah 6:10-12 share the thread of return from exile.  In order to grasp Isaiah 62:10-12 one should back up to the beginning of the chapter.  The Babylonian Exile is over yet the reality of Jerusalem after liberation by the Persian Empire does not live up to expectations.  God will indeed restore the fortunes of Jerusalem, we read; more exiles, accompanied by the Presence of God, will return to their ancestral homeland via a highway in the desert.  This is the same highway in Isaiah 40:3-5.

The Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, occurred mostly because of persistent societal sinfulness, such as that manifested in idolatry and institutionalized social injustice.  Divine judgment was simply the consequence of human actions.  Then forgiveness followed, hence the reading of Psalm 32 in the context of Isaiah 62:10-12.  Mercy followed judgment.

Quoting Isaiah 40:3-5 in Luke 3 was thematically appropriate, for life in Roman-occupied Judea constituted exile of a sort.  Expectations of deliverance from the occupiers was commonplace yet not universal among Jews in the homeland.  Jesus, of course, was not the conquering hero; he was no Judas Maccabeus.  No, Jesus was a savior of a different sort.  The high expectations left over from Isaiah 62 remained unfulfilled.

There is, of course, the major of the continuing passage of time.  The fact that these hopes remain unfulfilled does not mean that they will remain so indefinitely.  God’s schedule is not ours.  God, who is the ultimate judge, is faithful and full of surprises.  May the incongruity between our expectations and divine tactics and schedules not stand in the way of serving God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Psalm 147-150   1 comment

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POST LX OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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Psalms 146-150 constitute the doxology of the Book of Psalms.  Each of these five psalms begins and ends with the same word:

Hallelujah,

literally,

Praise God.

Psalm 147 comes from after the Babylonian Exile.  The text praises God, upon whom the faithful depend entirely.  God is the One who rebuilds Jerusalem, gathers in exiles, and heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds.  God, we read, values those who acknowledge their dependence on Him and stand in awe of Him; the strength of horses and swiftness of men do not impress Him.  One might quote Psalm 146:3-4:

Put not your trust in the great,

in mortal man who cannot save.

His breath departs;

he returns to the dust;

on that day his plans come to nothing.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theme of the created order praising the Creator explains the beautiful poetry of Psalm 148.  Angels, inanimate objects, beasts, and human beings praise God.

People continue to praise God in Psalms 149 and 150.  There is no person who should not praise God, we read.  All people should extol God, we read.  I am certain that the shackled kings and the nobles bound in iron chains under a divine decree of doom (149:8-9) are not praising God, however.  These are people who should have confessed their sins and repented.  We human beings do reap what we sow.  However, when one reaps negatively, the rest of us need not goat.  No, we should grieve.

One can never thank God for every blessing of which one is aware by name because the blessings are so numerous.  Many of them are so commonplace that they become mundane, so we simply do not pay attention to a host of them.  We miss them when they are absent, however.  For example, I enjoy dependable electrical service.  I do not think about that very much until a limb falls across a power line during a storm, thereby causing the temporary loss of electrical service.  Also, I drive a reliable automobile.  I do not thank God for this fact as often as I should.

One can never thank God for every blessing of which one is aware by name, but one can thank God for blessings throughout each day.  One can also take some time each day to name a few blessings.  The count adds up to great number quickly.  The goal of these spiritual exercises is to nurture a mindset of gratitude to God, on whom all of us depend completely.

Hallelujah!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Psalms 136-138   1 comment

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POST LVI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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In full Jewish style, Psalm 136 praises God for what He does and has done; God is like what He does and has done, Hebrew theology tells us.

His steadfast love is eternal,

we keep reading in refrain in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  The Hebrew word translated as “steadfast love” is hesed; it also translates into English as kindness, mercy, and grace.  This hesed is everlasting.  The God of Psalm 136 is the same figure the author of Psalm 138 praises with all our heart, also while citing everlasting hesed.

The author of Psalm 137 does not seem to have God’s hesed on his mind.  The text is the lament of exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Not surprisingly, the psalmist is resentful–so much that he fantasizes about dashing Chaldean babies against rocks.

Though I walk among enemies,

You preserve me in the face of my foes;

You extend Your hand;

with Your right hand You deliver me.

The LORD will settle accounts for me.

O LORD, Your steadfast love is eternal;

do not forsake the work of Your hands.

–Psalm 138:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Psalm 138, even with its morally disturbing desire for divine retribution, does express confidence in God.  That confidence is absent from Psalm 137, although a vendetta is present.

The combination of the pious and the morally disturbing in Psalms 136-138, taken together, is human and honest.  Such honesty before God can be spiritually beneficial, if one is open to transformation by God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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