Archive for the ‘Cyrus II’ Tag

Execution and Character Assassination   1 comment

Above:  Daniel in the Lions’ Den

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:4-24

Psalm 19

2 Timothy 2:16-26

Mark 14:12-25

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I wrote in the previous post in this lectionary series, Darius the Mede, supposed predecessor of Cyrus II after the Persian conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, was ahistorical and contradictory of other Biblical accounts.  Attempts to explain “Darius the Mede” away by claiming that “king” is a translation error have not convinced me, for the text of Daniel 6 states plainly that he was a predecessor of Cyrus II.  (The word translated “king” can also refer to another high-ranking government official; that is an accurate statement.  However, read Chapter 6 from beginning to end and place the end and the beginning of that chapter in context of each other.)  The author of Daniel 6 wrote theology, not history.

I stand with the facts.  While doing so, I ponder the theology of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, relate the story to other readings, and create a devotional post that covers the four assigned lessons.

I do not wish to attempt to reduce the causes of the crucifixion of Jesus to just one, for I know better than that.  When I read Mark 14:12-25 beside Daniel 6, however, I detect a common thread–the jealousy of people of lesser character.  Psalm 19 extols the Law of God.  A servant of God seeks to be as blameless as possible.  That is consistent with the advice in 2 Timothy 2:16-26.

Both Daniel and Jesus became threats, because of who they were and how good they were, to people of lesser character.  In the fictional account of Daniel and the lions’ den, Daniel emerged unscathed.  Jesus of Nazareth died terribly, however.  Then he rose again a few days later, of course.

We mere mortals are imperfect; we all have proverbial skeletons in the closet.  The best of us is not proud of certain deeds he or she has committed, as well as certain sins of omission.  Perhaps we will not be at risk of murder or another form of killing, but character assassination can be a great peril.  This is especially true in the digital age; nothing really goes away on the Internet, and social media is frequently a cesspool.

When we recognize someone who is morally superior to us, we need to confess our sins and seek to become better people, not seek to destroy that person.  We have the Golden Rule to obey, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Humility Before God, Part V   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Good News   Leave a comment

Above:  Nunc Dimittis

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zechariah 2:10-13

Psalm 34

Hebrews 1:1-12

Luke 2:21-32

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God’s Surprising Possibilities   1 comment

Cyrus II of Persia

Above:  King Cyrus II of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 44:21-28

Psalm 95:1-71

Matthew 12:46-50

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

–Psalm 95:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sometimes the instruments of God in our lives include people whom we would not have expected.  That fact says much about the limitations of our expectations, does it not?  Two examples come from the pericopes for today:

  1. King Cyrus II of Persia, a Zoroastrian and a Gentile, ended the Babylonian Exile of the Hebrews; and
  2. Jesus said that one’s biological family is not necessarily one’s spiritual family.

I have learned of the limited scope of my expectations, for I have fallen in love with a woman who does not fit most of the categories I had in mind when I was unattached and pondering a possible mate.  My beloved is right for me, I am glad to say.  Vehicles of grace come from unexpected directions sometimes.  May we be glad when we arrive and remain open to God’s surprising possibilities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-29-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine Sovereignty   1 comment

Daniel's Answer to the King

Above:  Daniel’s Answer to the King, by Briton Riviere

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:1-28

Psalm 98

Matthew 17:22-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In 539 B.C.E. King Cyrus II (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet the author of Daniel 6 wrote of one “Darius the Mede,” whom he listed as a king who reigned between the fall of Babylon and the time of Cyrus II.  As I wrote in the previous post, the chronology of the Book of Daniel makes no sense.  Evangelical-oriented resources in my Biblical studies library struggle to explain this historical discrepancy.  One even suggests that “Darius the Mede” might have been the regnal name of Cyrus II in the former Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, but Daniel 6 lists “Darius the Mede” and Cyrus II as separate people.  Yet I, unlike the author of those works, do not labor under the false notion of Biblical inerrancy or infallibility.  So “Darius the Mede,” most likely (at least partially) a backward projection of Darius I (reigned 522-486 B.C.E.), a successor of Cyrus II, never existed as the Book of Daniel presents him.  The application of Ockham’s Razor to this issue leads one to avoid needless intellectual gymnastics based on a false assumption.

Here is a summary of the story:  Daniel, who had worked for the Chaldeans, went to work for the Persians, the text tells us.  (He must have been really old!)  Daniel was loyal, but court intrigue led to a charge of treason, hence the lion’s den.  Our hero survived unscathed (as had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Chapter 3), of course.  And, as in Chapter 3, the monarch changed his mind and recognized the power of Yahweh.

The main point of this story, I suppose, is to trust God, who is sovereign over nations, kingdoms, empires, and rulers.  That, at least, is the point of the tale of Daniel in the lions’ den shares with the pericope from Matthew 17.  There God provided the money for a tax payable to the Roman Empire.  The display of divine power in both stories was the unmistakable.

To trust God in mundane circumstances can prove difficult.  To do so in dire and extreme circumstances might seem impossible or nearly so.  Yet the latter context is when grace becomes more obvious.  Grace is always present, of course, but it is like a lamp in a room; the light is more obvious in the darkness.  That has been my experience.  Deliverance did not arrive immediately, but at least I had excellent company while I waited.  And that company, present before darkness fell, remained with me.  And I have been more conscious of it since then.  Trusting God has become much easier for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR MACARTHUR, COFOUNDER OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-24-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God’s Big Circles   1 comment

18662v

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008678931/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 60:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is

many-sided.

That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hearing and Doing   1 comment

Above:  Darius I of Persia

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezra 6:1-8, 12-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written:

Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of God in Jerusalem:  ’Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high.  Let it be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone.  The expenses shall be paid by the palace.  And the gold and the silver vessels of the House of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Jerusalem where it belongs; you shall deposit in in the House of God.’

“Now you, Tannenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.  Allow the work of this House of God to go on; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this House of God:  the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped….And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem.  I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.  So the elders of the Jews progressed with the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lamps, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They appointed the priests in their courses and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to the prescription in the Book of Moses.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some dates will prove useful in comprehending the material from Ezra.  So, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), here they are:

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

“Artaxerxes” is Artaxerxes I, in case you were wondering.

Cyrus II had authorized the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem, but politics stopped the process.  The Assyrians had settled other peoples in Judea, and some of the descendants of these ethnic groups obstructed the effort.  The logjam ended during the reign of Darius I.  Thank goodness for archivists!

There is a plethora of Christian theological writing regarding the will(s) of God and the ability of humans to interfere with it/them.  One of the more accessible works on this subject is The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead.  As I have lived, read, and pondered, I have concluded that Weatherhead is correct:  the ultimate will of God will come to pass, regardless of what we mere mortals do.  That said, we have the power, through the abuse of our free will, to derail more than one divine path to fulfilling that ultimate will.  In other words, we can stand in the way of God’s Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C.  Yet, sooner or later, one way or another, God’s ultimate will is going to come to pass.

We function as obstructions when we fail to be both hearers and doers of God’s word and ultimate will.  Yet, when we hear then do, we act as faithful members of the household of God.  Is not that much better than being stubborn, spiteful, and petty?

So, why are we stubborn, spiteful, and petty?  Some of us might not realize what we are doing.  These are those who are so caught up in themselves that they cannot see the detrimental effects of their actions upon others.  Still others of us, if we do know what we are doing, might have distorted values systems which glorify stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness.  Then there are those who try to do the right thing, as they understand it, but get it wrong.  These are not bad people who wake up each day and plot their disobedience.  But perhaps cultural blinders prevent them from seeing clearly.  And, of course, all of us are prone to stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness from time to time.  Stubbornness, in the service of a good cause, is persistence, a virtue.  So context matters here.

Sometimes, then, we hear and try to do,  but fail.  Other times we hear and do not try to obey.  Still other times he hear but misunderstand.  And sometimes we do not hear at all, so we cannot obey in such circumstances.  Sometimes instructions from God seem quite clear with the aid of hindsight and tradition.  Yet other times traditions distort those instructions.  What are to do?  How can we know how to discern between correct and distorted messages?

This is not a simple matter, and I have not encountered a burning bush in my life.  I have opinions, many of which I voice on this weblog and others within my blog network.  Yet I try to maintain proper theological humility; I can be wrong.  I stand by my opinions today, but I might change some of them by next year.  I am fallible.

So I try to remain open to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit, to confirm when I am correct and tell me when I am not.  The best I can do is the best I can do.  It is not enough, but it does not have to be, for God is all-powerful.  And, even in my worst moments, the worst I can do is delay the fulfillment of the ultimate will of God.  At best, however, I will be part of the fulfillment of that will.  But God will’s is going to come to fruition, with or without me.  I prefer to be part of the solution, not the problem.  By grace, I will succeed more often than not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF GRAHAM GREENE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/week-of-proper-20-tuesday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++