Archive for the ‘Beatitudes and Woes’ Tag

Oracles of Divine Punishment, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART III

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Micah 2:1-13

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The more I read commentaries, the more I realize how frequently wordplay occurs in the Hebrew Bible.  Puns to not translate from Language A into Language B, of course.  Given my fondness for puns, these details appeal to me.  Consider Micah 2:1-3, O reader.  Powerful and corrupt people design or work (depending on translation) evil/evil deeds/evil and wicked deeds (depending on translation).  God plans misfortune/evil/disaster (depending on translation) in retribution.

The human evil in 2:1-3 consisted of flagrant violations of the Law of Moses.  These wealthy, powerful, and corrupt evildoers were coveting and seizing the fields and homes of peasants.  These greedy, already-wealthy people enriched themselves further at the expense of the less fortunate.  These terrible human beings, who had sinned against God and those they had defrauded, had judged and condemned themselves.  The Assyrians were about to swallow the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  Those greedy, corrupt, and powerful defrauders would lose everything then.  This text, applied to a later period and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, condemned greedy, powerful, and corrupt defrauders in the south.  They would lose everything when the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire took over.

These situations remind me of the Beatitudes and Woes (Luke 6:20-26) from the Sermon on the Plain.  This is the passage in which Jesus says that the poor–not the poor in spirit–the poor will receive the Kingdom of God.  The translation of Luke 6:24 in The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) fits in with standard English-language versions of this verse.

But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

The Greek text can also mean:

But woe to you who are rich,

for you are receiving your consolation.

The wealthy, corrupt, and powerful defrauders of Micah 2 (regardless of timeframe)–before the Fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.E. or after 722 B.C.E. and before the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.–received their consolations.  Then the Assyrians or the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians took that consolation from them.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  In the case of Micah 2:1-11, divine mercy on the oppressed constituted judgment on the oppressors, who did not want to hear the words of divine judgment.

Micah 2:12-13 refers to the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Were these two verses original to Micah?  They may have come from a subsequent period.  Evidence of editors’ handiwork exists in the final version of the Book of Micah.  The main idea, whenever someone wrote 2:12-13, holds:  divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Micah 2:13 is ambiguous about the identity of the king.  Is he human, certainly of the House of David?  Or is God the king?  Exegetes disagree.  Study Bibles I consulted did not indicate a consensus position.

Micah 2 is unambiguous on another point, however:  God will not tolerate injustice.  The Book of Micah highlights economic injustice.  I live in a society in which the chasm separating the rich from the poor has been growing wider for decades.  In this context, I read Micah 2 and tremble.  Divine punishment assumes many forms, all of them unpleasant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CRISTOBAL MAGOLLANES JARA AND AGUSTIN CALOCA CORTÉS, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SAINTS AND MARTYRS, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1951

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The Communion of Saints, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Communion of Saints

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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Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

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O blest Communion!  Fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle; they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

Hallelujah!

–William Walsham How (1823-1897), 1854

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A saint, in terms of the New Testament, is a Christian.  The concept of Biblical sainthood is that being holy, as YHWH is holy (Leviticus 19:2).  Saints (in Daniel 7:18) will receive the Kingdom of God (yes, in the apocalyptic sense of the kingdom).

The backdrop of three of the four readings (except 149) is apocalypse, or rather, the expectation of the apocalypse–the Day of the Lord (in Hebrew Biblical terms) and the eventual (yet delayed) return of Christ in the New Testament lessons.  One function of apocalyptic language is to contrast the world order with God’s order, the Kingdom of God.  Luke 6:20-31 hits us over the head with this contrast.

  1. The poor are blessed and will inherit the Kingdom of God.  The rich, in contrast, are receiving their consolation.  (I belong to monthly book group focused on the historical Jesus and the early church.  According to what I have read, the correct translation is that the rich are receiving their consolation, not that they have received it.)
  2. The hungry are blessed and will be full.  Those who are full will be hungry.
  3. Those who weep are blessed and will laugh.  Those who laugh will mourn and weep.
  4. Those who endure hatred and exclusion on account of the Son of Man (a call back to Daniel) are blessed and should rejoice.  Those who enjoy respect share accolades with false prophets.
  5. The Bible never says to hate enemies, despite the impressions one may get from certain angry texts, especially in the Book of Psalms.  Nevertheless, love of enemies is a difficult commandment.  It is possible only via grace.
  6. The Golden Rule is a timeless principle present in most of the world’s religions.  Working around the Golden Rule is as ubiquitous as the commandment, unfortunately.

Christian saints are those who, trusting in Christ crucified, resurrected, and sovereign, follow him.  They bear the seal of the Holy Spirit and fight spiritual battles daily.  And when Christian saints rest from their labors, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gathers them up.

Think about saints you have known, O reader.  They probably infuriated you at times.  They were human and imperfect, after all.  (So are you, of course.)  They struggled with forces and problems you may not have been able to grasp.  And they struggled faithfully.  These saints did the best they could with what they had, as best they knew to do.  And they brought joy to your life and helped you spiritually.  You probably miss them.  I miss mine, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/devotion-for-all-saints-day-year-c-humes/

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Seeing Others as God Sees Them   1 comment

Above:  The Anointing of David

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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1 Samuel 16:1-13 or Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Psalm 108:1-6, 13

Romans 10:5-15

Luke 14:1-14

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Seeing other people as God sees them can be challenging.  First, we must see past our blindness, erroneous attitudes we have learned and affirmed.  We like our categories, do we not?  Second, we are not God.  We know much less than God does.  How can we look upon the heart of someone we do not know?  We cannot know the hearts of many other people.

We can and must reserve judgments not rooted in sufficient evidence.  We can do this by grace.  We can properly arrive at some conclusions.  Some people, for example, are stone-cold serial killers.  Extreme examples are easy and safe ones.  Most of life occupies the vast grayness and ambiguity that defies black-and-white simplicity.

Some of the advice in today’s readings may seem odd, counter-intuitive, or wrong.  Why should exiles not resist their captors?  If one is going to be in exile for a long time, one should hope to prosper, actually, according to Jeremiah.  When we turn to the Gospel of Luke, we enter the territory of reversal of fortune.  The first will be last and the last will be first in Luke.  That Gospel also says that blessed are the poor and woe to the rich.  In that line of thought we read a commandment to be kind to those who cannot repay one.  Do not seek to exalt oneself, we read.  When one is kind, one should be genuinely kind.  Jeremiah and Luke offer advice and commandments that contradict conventional wisdom.

Related to that seeming folly is the theme of of not judging prematurely.  The wealthy and prominent are not necessarily better than the poor and the the marginalized.  Social status and character are separate matters.  I guarantee that each person is facing struggles of which others may not know.  Each of us may know well someone who is frequently a cause of stress and frustration.  That person may be doing the best he or she can, given circumstances.  Seeing others as God sees them is a spiritual feat possible only by grace.

Perfection (as we usually understand that word) is an impossible moral and spiritual standard.  We can, however, improve morally and spiritually, by grace.  We can be more patient with and forgiving of each other, by grace.  We can reserve judgments properly and more often, by grace.  May we do so, by grace.  Perfection, in the Biblical sense, is being suited for one’s purpose.  We can also do that only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELARD OF CORBIE, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN IN JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

THE FEAST OF RUTH BYLLESBY, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBISTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940; AND SAINT WLADYSLAW GORAL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1945

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/devotion-for-proper-22-year-c-humes/

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