Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 11’ Tag

Comfort My People   Leave a comment

Above:  Sheep and Shepherd, by Anton Mauve

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 40:1-11

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Isaiah 40 flows thematically from Isaiah 34 and 35.

My soundtrack for Isaiah 40:1-11 comes courtesy of Handel‘s Messiah.  Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I proceed with the rest of this post.

Just as the commissioning of First Isaiah does not open First Isaiah (It occurs in Isaiah 6.), the commissioning of Second Isaiah occurs three chapters in.  Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Isaiah.  Second Isaiah’s commission is to be a comforter, we read.  This contrasts with the mission of Ezekiel, the previous prophet.  One may recall that God called Ezekiel to be a watchman (Ezekiel 2:1-3:11) to a rebellious people who would not listen to him.  The Book of Ezekiel contains oracles of consolation, though.  The expectation in Second Isaiah, however, is that people will listen.

Again, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  The time for mercy and deliverance is at hand, we read.

The reference to the royal road in the wilderness (40:3-5) calls back to other passages of scripture.  The Divine Presence, having departed Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezekiel 8-11), will travel with returning exiles, we read.  (See Ezekiel 43:1-5, too.)  The highway in the desert is also a motif in Isaiah 35:8-10.

YHWH is the good shepherd in Isaiah 40:10-11, protecting the sheep from enemies.  One may recall that YHWH is also the good shepherd in Ezekiel 34:11-31; Psalm 23; and Psalm 78.  Perhaps one recalls that Lamentations 3:1-20 depicts YHWH as a bad shepherd, and that this raging voice against YHWH indicates just one opinion in that chapter.

Rage against God is predictable, especially after a terrible event or during a time of crisis and distress.  Many people blame God for doing what God has not done.  God is a convenient scapegoat.  Many people also misunderstand God.  This is predictable, too.  God is so much greater than and different from we mere mortals, after all.  The extent to which we can understand God is limited.  So be it.

The nature of God is the topic of the next post in this series.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA, AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORGE NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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The Vision of the Temple and the Return of the Divine Presence to Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XVIII

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Ezekiel 40:1-48:35

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The last section of the Book of Ezekiel (40-48) contains a long vision of the return of the Divine Presence/Glory to the (Second) Temple and a transformed Judea.  One may recall that Ezekiel 1-7 and 9-11 concern themselves with the destruction of the (First) Temple and the departure of the Divine Presence to Jewish exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  One may recall the end of the previous chapter:

I will no longer hide my face from them once I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel–oracle of the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 39:29, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The vision that opens Ezekiel 40 provides a date–in terms of the Gregorian Calendar, April 28, 573 B.C.E.  The plethora of details regarding the future Temple (dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) can prompt the glazing over of many eyes.  Therefore, I focus on themes:

  1. Many of these details differ from those of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 25-30 and 35-40), the First Temple (1 Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 3-4), and the actual Second Temple.  This is a matter upon which certain detail-oriented Jewish exegetes have fixated, to argue that Ezekiel 40:1-43:12 describes the (future) Third Temple.  However, if one does not interpret the description in 40:1-43:12 as a set of blue prints, one may recognize a description of a divinely reordered sacred space that sets the standard for the envisioned society.
  2. The separation of the sacred from the profane is complete (42:20), as in the separation of priests from non-priests (42:1-14).
  3. With the completion of the Temple, God returns to dwell in Jerusalem (43:1-12).  God’s chariot throne (Ezekiel 1-2 and 8-11) recurs.  The divine enthronement ritual resembles that of Marduk, the chief deity of the Babylonian pantheon.  God even takes over the rites of pagan deities.
  4. In 43:10-12, Ezekiel functions as the new Moses, delivering divine law to the people.
  5. Chapter 44 pertains to the roles of Levites and Zadokite priests.  One may recall that the Zadokite priests were Levitical priests who traced their ancestry back to the priesthood during the time of the Kings of Israel (pre-division) and Judah (post-division).  The chapter specifies the different functions of the Levites and the Zadokite priests.  In the new order, the rules will be different than they were during the monarchical period, we read.
  6. Consistent, with the ethos of ritual purity and impurity, God dwells among the among the people yet is remote.  Getting too close to God can prove hazardous to one’s health, especially if one is ritually impure.
  7. God is the source of life (Ezekiel 47).  Practically, even the Dead Sea becomes fresh water (47:8) because of the river of life flowing from beneath the Temple.
  8. The priests are superior to kings, called princes in the new divine order (Ezekiel 45).  The king enforces justice.  He, for example, mandates uniform weights and measures to prevent the cheating of customers.  (See Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Amos 8:5-6; Hosea 12:7; Micah 6:10-11).  Justice is a defining characteristic of God’s new order.
  9. God is central in the final vision in the Book of Ezekiel.  Each tribe–except Levi–receives an equal strip of land.  Equitability is the rule, with some interesting reversals from the past order.  For example, the descendants of Rachel and Leah, wives of Jacob, get closer to the sacred area (48:7, 23).  Within equitability, a hierarchy exists.  The purpose of that hierarchy is to protect the sanctity of the divine dwelling in the middle of the sacred area (48:14).  The priests and the Levites dwell in the central, divine allotment.
  10. Jerusalem belongs to everyone, not any one tribe (48:19).  God dwells there, after all.

After all the divine judgment in the Book of Ezekiel, divine mercy is the final word.  We read that God will act decisively and put the world right.  Then all will be wonderful.  We who live in 2021 wait for that day as much as Ezekiel and his generation did.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Ezekiel.  I invite you to remain by my side, so to speak, as I move along to Second Isaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GEORGE NICHOLS AND RICHARD YAXLEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1589; SAINT HUMPHREY PRITCHARD, WELSH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589; AND SAINT THOMAS BELSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589

THE FEAST OF GEORGES BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NEIBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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Ezekiel’s Vision of the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VI

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:23

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:13, the product of more than one person, contains some unusual editorial choices and odd shifts of attention.  I mention that matter to get it out of the way, so that nobody can legitimately claim that I do not know it.  Now that I have gotten that matter out of the way, I focus on themes, details, and the application thereof.

The figurer who looked like a man (or fire, depending on translation) in 8:2 is the divine Presence, Ezekiel’s guide.  This figure recurs in 40:3f.

The date of the vision in 8:1-11:13 is September 592 B.C.E.

Idolatry recurs as a sin of the people of Judah.

We read that, contrary to what many people think, God has not abandoned Judah–yet–and does see what people are doing (9:9).

Above:  Ezekiel’s Vision, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Chapter 10 reads like a redux of Chapter 1, with some differences.

God departs Judah in Chapter 11.

We read of the divine promise of restoration and cleansing of exiles already in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  We read that those still in Judah are doomed (11:41-21).  We read that God has moved to the exiles in Babylon (11:23).

Ezekiel 11:21 cautions that divine renewal of the exiles is not automatic; it requires human vigilance.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 is thematically similar to Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26.  We read that, in an ideal future, by divine action, disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, as well as in the Revelation to John, divine faithfulness is never in doubt, from the author’s perspective.  Also, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Creative destruction by God makes way for the establishment for the new, divine order.  In Christian terms, God must destroy the old, corrupt order before the fully-realized Kingdom of God can become visible on the Earth, from a human perspective.  As C. H. Dodd reminds me from the printed page and his grave, the Kingdom of God is; it does not come.  Yet, from a human point of view, certain events make its presence more palpable than it used to be.

Another idea, frequently repeated in the Bible–especially Hebrew prophetic books–is that human sins have consequences.  We human beings condemn ourselves.  We leave God.  We are the faithless ones.  We are arrogant; we do not stand in awe of God.  We read what he have sown.

Yet grace remains.  As the great Southern Baptist theologian Will Campbell said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

And our only hope is in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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The Superscription of the Book of Ezekiel   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART I

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Ezekiel 1:1-3

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In 597 B.C.E., Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces invaded Judah.  King Jehoiachin‘s brief reign ended.  His uncle Mattaniah came to the throne as King Zedekiah.  Jehoiachin and many others–members of the Judean elite–became exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The first wave of the Babylonian Exile had begun.

Ezekiel ben Buzi was one of these captives and exiles.  Ezekiel, a priest in the community beside the Chebar Canal (next to the city of Nippur, southeast of the city of Babylon), received his commission as a prophet on the fifth day of Tammuz (on the Gregorian Calendar, in June), 593 B.C.E.  He prophesied until 571 B.C.E.

Robert Alter describes Ezekiel as

surely the strangest of all the prophets

and as

an extreme case.

The Hebrew Bible, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1049

The prophet, whose name meant, “God strengthens,” was, by modern standards, misogynistic, as in Chapters 16 and 23.  He was not unique–certainly not in the company of Biblical authors.  According to Alter, especially in the context of Chapter 16:

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.  The states of disturbance exhibited in his writing led him to a series of remarkable visionary experiences, at least several of which would be deeply inscribed in the Western imagination, engendering profound experiences in later poetry and in mystical literature.  At the same time, there is much in these visions that reminds us of the dangerous dark side of prophecy.  To announce authoritatively that the words one speaks are the words of God is an audacious act.  Inevitably, what is reported as divine speech reaches us through the refracting prism of the prophet’s sensibility and psychology, and the words and images represented as God’s urgent message may be sometimes distorted in eerie ways.

–1051-1052

Biblical scholars from a variety of times, theological orientations, and geographical origins have commented on Ezekiel’s pathological psychology.  The prophet may not have been well-adjusted.  “Touched by the gods” has been an expression for a long time, and for a good reason.

However much one accepts that much or most of the Book of Ezekiel comes from the prophet, a textual difficulty remains.  The book includes evidence of subsequent editing after the Babylonian Exile.  Any given passage, in its final form, may have more to do with Ezra or some other editor than with Ezekiel.  Or that passage may be entirely from Ezeki8el.  Or the editorial touch may be light.

I acknowledge these matters as I commit to my primary purpose in this Hebrew prophetic reading project:  to read these passages in context and to ponder what they say to the world today.  The ancient message, grounded in particular circumstances, continues to speak.

“The hand of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:3) symbolizes divine power.

The Book of Ezekiel breaks down into three sections:

  1. Chapters 1-24, in their original form, date to between the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This section divides into two subsections.  Chapters 1-11 contain visions of divine presence and departure.  Chapters 12-24 offer a rationale for and anticipate the destruction of Jerusalem.
  2. Chapters 25-32 contain oracles against the nations.  The arrangement of these oracles is not chronological.  Such a collection of oracles is also a feature of other prophetic writings, as in Amos 1:3-2:3; Isaiah 13:1-23:19; Jeremiah 46:1-51:64.
  3. Chapters 33-48 contain oracles from after the Fall of Jerusalem.  This section breaks down into two subsections.  Chapters 33-39 offer a rationale for and anticipate the transformation of the LORD’s people.  Chapters 40-48 contain visions of the LORD’s return to the Second Temple (not yet built; dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) in a transformed land.

Tova Ganzel wrote, in the introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014):

Because of the central themes of the Temple, acts of leadership, sins of the people, and divine theophanies appear in both the predestruction and postdestruction oracles (1.3, 13-15, 22-24; 8.2-3; 10.11, 22-23; 40.1-2; 43.1-5), Ezekiel’s oracles merit both sequential and topical study.

–1034

I will study the Book of Ezekiel in a combination of sequential and topical organization of posts.

Major lectionaries ignore most of the Book of Ezekiel.  The Roman Catholic lectionaries for weekdays, Sundays, and major feast days omit Chapters 3-8, 11, 13-15, 19-23, 25-27, 29-42, 44-46, and 48 entirely. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) lists the Book of Ezekiel only five times:

  1. 34:11-16, 20-24 for Christ the King Sunday, Year A;
  2. 36:24-27 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C;
  3. 37:1-14 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C; the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A; and (as an alternative reading), for the Day of Pentecost, Year B.

I understand the benefits and limitations of lectionaries.  Any lectionary–even a narrow, one-year cycle with two readings and a Psalm each Sunday–is superior to ministers focusing on their favorite passages of scripture Sunday after Sunday.  The orderly reading of scripture in communal worship has virtues.  Lectionaries also help people to read the Bible in conversation with itself.  Nevertheless, the parts of the Book of Ezekiel that even three-year cycles overlook are worth hearing and reading, in private, alone, in a study group, and in the context of worship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Good and Bad Figs, and the Cup of God’s Wrath   3 comments

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XV

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Jeremiah 24:2-25:38

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Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  Chapter 21, for example, is set circa 586 B.C.E., at the end of the reign (597-586 B.C.E.) of King Zedekiah.  Chapter 24 opens earlier, circa 597 B.C.E., also during the reign of Zedekiah, after the brief reign (597 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah.  Furthermore, Chapter 25 opens in the fourth year (605 B.C.E.) of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim.

The good figs in Chapter 24 represent the faithful remnant of Judah–exiles of 597 B.C.E.–that would eventually return to the ancestral homeland after the Babylonian Exile.  They would also return to God.  The bad, inedible figs, however, represent those, who, between 597 and 586 B.C.E., remained in Judah or fled to Egypt, and were destined for annihilation.  In Jeremiah 24 and Ezekiel 11:6, the exiles of 597 B.C.E. were the only recipients of the divine promise of future restoration.  They alone were covenant people of God.

By 605 B.C.E., Jeremiah had been prophesying for twenty-three years. He had been faithful to God, the people had not.  They would face destruction, therefore, Jeremiah decreed yet again.

And those nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  When the seventy years are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their sins–declares the LORD–and I will make it a desolation for all time.

–Jeremiah 25:11-12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Let us consider some historical dates and perform some arithmetic, O reader.

  1. Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian domination started in 605 B.C.E.
  2. The first Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian deportation of Judean exiles occurred in 597 B.C.E.
  3. The Fall of Jerusalem and the more famous deportation occurred in 586 B.C.E.
  4. The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire fell in 539 B.C.E.
  5. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes permitted Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, starting in 538 B.C.E.
  6. 605 – 539 = 67.
  7. 597 – 538 = 59.
  8. 586 – 538 = 48.

Seventy is a round and symbolic number.  It means, in Mesopotamian terms, a long duration.  In Zechariah 1:12 and 7:5, seventy is the number of years between the destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.E.) and the dedication of the Second Temple (516 B.C.E.).  This reinterpretation in Zechariah addresses the despair of the returned exiles in Haggai 1 and 2.

The reinterpretation of Biblical prophecies within the Bible itself is a recurring theme.  Other examples include all those exuberant visions of what the the Holy Land would be like after the Babylonian Exile.  The Biblical record indicates, however, that those visions did not come true, and disappointment was commonplace among returned exiles.  Therefore, we read interpretations of those prophecies to apply them to a then-future time (and perhaps a still-future time).  This practice of reinterpreting prophecies that, objectively and literally, did not come to pass, is consistent with the practice of adding to Hebrew prophetic books as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  Hope is one of the basic human needs.

But first, there was more divine judgment to ponder.  All twenty-six nations of the world known to Jeremiah were to drink the poisoned wine of the wrath of God then to suffer the sword of divine punishment.

The text minces no words:

In that day, the earth shall be strewn with the slain of the LORD from one end to the other.  They shall not be mourned, or gathered and buried; they shall become dung upon the face of the earth.

–Jeremiah 25:33, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Jeremiah 25:30, God’s residence is in heaven, not the Temple in Jerusalem (Joel 4:16; Amos 1:2).  This detail may be significant, given expressions of divine displeasure with Judah in the Book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 25 concludes on a terrifying and vivid poetic account of divine wrath and sovereignty (verses 34-38).  God is in control of the world.  The King of Babylon is God’s vassal, although he does not know it.  (See Jeremiah 27:6, also.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Faithful Servants of God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

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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Ecclesiastes 1:2-18 or Ezekiel 11:14-20

Psalm 3

Galatians 2:1-13

Matthew 4:12-25

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If one begins to read Ecclesiastes and gives up quickly, one might mistake the theme of the book to be that all is futility and vanity.  One might ask,

Why bother doing anything?

If, however, one keeps reading and pays attention, one will arrive at the précis of the book, present at its conclusion, in 12:13-14:  The duty of a human being is to stand in awe of God and keep divine commandments, for God is the judge of everything, whether good or evil.

That ethic is consistent with Ezekiel 11:14-20 and Psalm 3.  Fidelity to God does not ensure a life full of ease, wine, ad roses, but it is one’s duty.  It is the duty to which Jesus, who called his Apostles, continues to call people and for which the Holy Spirit continues to equip the saints.

Sometimes, however, in the name of obeying God, well-meaning people establish or maintain barriers to would-be faithful people who are different.  This segue brings me to the reading from Galatians and to the question of circumcising Gentile male converts to Christianity.  On one level it is a matter of a commandment as old as the time of Abraham.  On another level it is a question of identity.  On yet another level it is, for many, a matter of obedience to God.

For St. Paul the Apostle it was a stumbling block to Gentiles.  He was correct.  Fortunately, St. Paul won that debate.

Fidelity to God is supposed to help others come to God, not to make that more difficult than it is already.  May we who follow Christ never be guilty of standing between God and other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Limitless Goodness   1 comment

Icon of Ezekiel

Above:   Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Monday)

Ezekiel 39:21-40:4 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 43:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 141 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 23:37-24:14 (Wednesday)

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But my eyes are turned to you, Lord GOD;

in you I take refuge;

do not strip me of my life.

–Psalm 141:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Matthew is apocalyptic and Psalm 141 is also bleak.  These texts come from difficult times.  Oppressed people pray for God to destroy their enemies.  The textual context in Matthew is the impending crucifixion of Jesus.  From the perspective of the composition of the Gospel itself, however, there is wrestling with fading expectations of Christ’s imminent Second Coming.  One also detects echoes of reality for Matthew’s audience, contending with persecution (or the threat thereof) and conflict with non-Christian Jews.

We read of mercy following judgment in Ezekiel 11, 39, 40, and 43.  Punishment for societal sins will ensue, but so will restoration.  In the end, God’s Presence returns to Jerusalem, which it departed in Chapters 10 and 11.

Those sins included not only idolatry but judicial corruption and economic injustice, which, of course, hurt the poor the most.  Not seeking the common good violated the Law of Moses.  Seeking the common good defined the assigned readings from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians.

“Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds up.  No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.

–1 Corinthians 10:23-24, The New American Bible (1991)

We also read, in the context of how we treat each other:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for that Spirit is the seal with which you were marked for the day of final liberation.

–Ephesians 4:30, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Those are fine guiding principles.  Some of the details in their vicinity in the texts might not apply to your circumstances, O reader, but such lists are not comprehensive and some examples are specific to cultures and settings.  Timeless principles transcend circumstances and invite us to apply them when and where we are.  May we live them in love of God and our fellow human beings, daring even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48).  That is a difficult standard to meet, but it is possible via grace.

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

–Matthew 5:48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Optimism and Pessimism   1 comment

Temple at Jerusalem

Above:   The Temple at Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 10:1-19

Psalm 98

Luke 17:20-37

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Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

–Psalm 98:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 98 is the most optimistic reading for this day.  In Ezekiel 10 (carried over into Chapter 11) the Presence of Yahweh departs from Jerusalem, leaving it open to invasion and destruction by foreigners.  The divine Presence remains absent until Ezekiel 43.  In Luke 17:21 the Kingdom of God is present yet persecution and generally dark, eschatological times are en route.  On the other hand, in Luke 18, Jesus encourages his followers to continue praying and never to lose heart.  There is a way through the difficult times while living or dead, and always faithful to God.

The tone of these readings, taken together, fits the time of the church year well.  In the Revised Common Lectionary and several other lectionaries the selected portions of scripture become increasingly apocalyptic during the last few weeks before Advent and into that season.  Some Confessional Lutheran bodies even go so far as to label the last four Sundays of the Season after Pentecost the End Time Season.

May we remember that out of the creative destruction in Revelation 4-20 comes a new creation in Chapters 21 and 22.  Hope in God is real and well-founded, for God will win in the end.

That is a reason for optimism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Listening to the Holy Spirit   1 comment

Pentecost Dove May 24, 2015

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Source = St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, May 24, 2015

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 48 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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We reflect on your faithful love, God,

in your temple!

Both your name and your praise, God,

are over the whole wide world.

–Psalm 48:9-10a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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I teach a Sunday School class in my parish.  We adults discuss the assigned readings for each Sunday.  I recall that, one day, one of the lections was 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter in which the form of love is agape–selfless and unconditional love.  I mentioned that St. Paul the Apostle addressed that text to a splintered congregation that quarreled within itself and with him.  A member of the class noted that, if it were not for that troubled church, we would not have certain lovely and meaningful passages of scripture today.

That excellent point, in its original form, applies to the lection from 1 Corinthians 2 and, in an altered form, to the readings from Joel and Ezekiel.  A feuding congregation provided the context for a meditation on having a spiritual mindset.  The Babylonian Exile set the stage for a lovely message from God regarding certain people with hearts of stone:

Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

–Ezekiel 11:20b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As for those who refuse to repent–change their minds, turn around–however,

I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 11:21b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, in the wake of natural disaster and repentance new grain, wine, and oil will abound in Joel 2.  Divine mercy will follow divine judgment for those who repent.  That reading from Joel 2 leads into one of my favorite passages:

After that,

I will pour out My spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy;

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

I will even pour out My spirit

Upon male and female slaves in those days.

–Joel 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a devotion for the first two days after the day of Pentecost.  The assigned readings fit the occasions well, for they remind us of the necessity of having a spiritual mindset if we are able to perceive spiritual matters properly then act accordingly.  The Holy Spirit speaks often and in many ways.  Are we listening?  And are we willing to act faithfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-pentecost-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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In Pursuit   1 comment

Moravian Logo

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:1-25 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 20:39-44 (Friday)

Ezekiel 28:25-26 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Revelation 5:1-10 (Thursday)

Revelation 6:1-7:4 (Friday)

Luke 12:29-32 (Saturday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for many long years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Psalm 23 is a familiar passage.  Perhaps familiarity breeds not contempt so much as it encourages turning on the automatic pilot when reading or hearing it.

O yes, I know this passage well,

we who are immersed in scripture might say to ourselves before we stop paying attention.  But how well do we really know the text?

Psalm 23 might have originated during the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  Imagine, O reader, Judean exiles pondering their foreign environs and hoping for a return to their ancestral homeland, of which they have only heard.  Or imagine exiles who have returned coming to terms with the fact that realities of life in that homeland fall short of fond hopes and prophetic promises.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life

–Psalm 23:6a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

takes on a certain meaning then.  The enemies do not pursue; not “goodness and steadfast love” do–or will.  That is a timeless hope.

The themes of judgment, mercy, exile, and return run through these days’ readings.  Exile comes, persists for decades, and ends.  Restoration (by God, via human agents thereof) follows.  God expects us to live in ways that glorify Him, but we fall sort of that standard often.  Furthermore, obeying God in this life does not guarantee a peaceful, safe, and prosperous life.  Neither does disobeying God in this life guarantee the opposite result.  Yet there is the question of the afterlife.  Furthermore, for the divine order to come into its own, God must destroy its sinful, human predecessor.

Frequently good news for the oppressed constitutes catastrophic news for their oppressors who, ironically, hurt themselves by engaging in the work of oppression.  Thus oppression creates both victims and oppressors, but only only victims.  We humans are often the victims of our own bad decisions, thus we are frequently simultaneously victims and oppressors.  This need not be the case, for we can, by grace, walk the path of righteousness more often than not.  Enemies might still pursue us, as they did Jesus, but so will divine goodness and steadfast love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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