Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Tag

Hope III   1 comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24 (LBWLW) or Isaiah 65:17-25 (LW)

Psalm 95:1-7a (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (LBWLW) or 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a, 13 (LW)

Matthew 25:31-46 (LBWLW) or Mathew 25:1-13 (LW)

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Almighty and everlasting God,

whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son,

whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation;

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united under the glorious and gentle rule

of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30

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Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son, we pray,

that he may lead home his bride, the Church,

that we with all the redeemed may enter into your eternal kingdom;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 94

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I wrote about Matthew 25:31-46 in the previous post in this series and about Matthew 25:1-13 here.

We–you, O reader, and I–have arrived at the end of Year A of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship Lectionary (1973).

This journey concludes on divine judgment and mercy, ever in balance and beyond human comprehension.  Much of this divine judgment and mercy exists in the context of impending apocalypse, in certain readings.  Maintaining hope can prove challenging to maintain during difficult times, but that is another motif.  Apocalypse offers hope for God’s order on Earth.

  1. We read of YHWH as the Good Shepherd (in contrast to bad shepherds–Kings of Israel and Judah) in Ezekiel 34, during the Babylonian Exile.
  2. Third Isaiah (in Isaiah 65) offered comfort to people who had expected to leave the Babylonian Exile and to return to a verdant paradise.  Instead, they returned to their ancestral homeland, which was neither verdant nor a paradise.
  3. Psalm 130 exists in the shadow of death–the depths of Sheol.
  4. Even the crucifixion of Jesus became a means of bestowing hope (1 Corinthians 15).

So, may we all cling to hope in God.  The lectionary omits the parts of Psalm 95 that recall the faithlessness in the desert after the Exodus.  No, we read the beginning of Psalm 95; we read an invitation to trust in the faithfulness of God and to worship sovereign YHWH.  We read that we are the sheep of YHWH’s pasture (see Ezekiel 34, too).

We are sheep prone to stray prone to stray.  We have a Good Shepherd, fortunately.

If You keep account of sins, O LORD,

Lord, who will survive?

Yours is the power to forgive

so that You may be held in awe.

–Psalm 130:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Hope always exists in God.  So, are we mere mortals willing to embrace that hope?

As I type these words, I know the struggle to maintain hope.  For the last few years, current events have mostly driven me to despair.  Know, O reader, that when I write about trusting and hoping in God, I write to myself as much as I write to you.  I am no spiritual giant; I do not have it all figured out.  Not even spiritual giants have it all figured out; they know this.  They also grasp that no mere mortal can ever figure everything out anyway.

God has figured everything out.  That must suffice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post

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Forgiveness, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter Von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Genesis 50:15-21

Psalm 103:1-13

Romans 14:5-9

Matthew 18:21-35

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O God, you declare your almighty power

chiefly in showing mercy and pity. 

Grant us the fullness of your grace,

that, pursuing what you have promised,

we may share your heavenly glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O God, without whose blessing we are not able to please you,

mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit

may in all things direct and govern our hearts;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 80

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Years ago, I read a news story about forgiveness.  A man had broken into a church building and stolen some equipment.  Police officers had arrested him.  The pastor of that congregation testified on the man’s behalf at the trial and urged leniency.  The judge agreed.  The thief, reformed, joined that church.

The Church is in the forgiveness business when it acts as it should.  Donatism (in both the original, narrow, and the contemporary, broader definitions of that term) resists forgiving.  Life in Christian community entails much mutual forbearance and forgiveness, thereby fostering unity.  In the context of last week’s Gospel reading, however, forbearance and forgiveness does not entail tolerating the intolerable.  If, for example, someone is a domestic abuser, no church or person should overlook that offense.  The Golden Rule requires siding with the victim(s).  Yet, getting away from extreme cases and embracing the spirit of the best of Calvinism, the theological category of Matters Indifferent becomes useful.  Whether or not one does X is a Matter Indifferent; the difference is minor and of no moral importance.

In Matthew 18:21-35 and elsewhere in the canonical Gospels, the link between forgiving others and receiving forgiveness from God is plain.  The standard one applies to others is the standard God will apply to one.  In other words, we will reap what we have sown.  This is consistent with the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses; one suffers the fate one would have had inflicted on the innocent party, falsely accused.

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) insisted that the parts of the Bible he understood the best were the ones that bothered him the most.

I resemble that remark.  I know the difficulty of forgiving others–for offenses far less severe than Joseph’s brothers had committed against him.  Yet I also understand the plain meaning of certain verses in the Gospel of Matthew regarding the importance of forgiveness.

Another issue related to forgiveness is forgiving oneself for offenses, real or imagined.  I know this difficulty, too.  Read Genesis 50:15-21 again, O reader.  Do you get the sense that the brothers had not forgiven themselves?  Do you get the sense that they were projecting onto Joseph?

Matthew 18:22 calls back to Genesis 4:24 in the Septuagint.  “Seventy-seven” means limitless.  Jesus still calls us to forgive each other limitless times.  Forgiveness may not necessarily negate punishment, but it will improve human relationships.  At a minimum, when one forgives, one helps oneself by cutting loose spiritual baggage.  We also need to forgive ourselves limitless times.  All this is possible with grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDER OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF SAINT-BRIEUC

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Adapted from this post

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The Healing of a Crippled Beggar, with Its Aftermath   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LVI

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Acts 3:1-4:31

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A cliché tells us that no good deed goes unpunished.  If the world were not so!

Jesus had clashed with religious authorities.  The time for some of his Apostles–Sts. Simon Peter and John, in this case–to do so had arrived.  St. Simon Peter, who had often spoken before thinking, had eaten his spiritual Wheaties.

Two major themes stand out in my mind as I ponder Acts 3:1-4:31:

  1. Acts 3:17 includes the Lucan motif that those who had rejected and crucified Jesus had done so in ignorance.  See Luke 23:34, also, O reader.
  2. Acts 4:18f, in which the commandments of God override human orders to the contrary, belies strict law-and-order arguments that quote the Bible.  Acts 4:18f is not the only such passage in the Bible, but it is the one in the section of scripture for this post.  We will return to this matter in Acts 5.

My politics regarding the strict law-and-order, my-country-right-or-wrong argument are plain.  Neither anarchy nor totalitarianism allow freedom.  Disobeying some governments is a moral obligation.  Yet, on many other occasions, obeying governments is moral.  Everything depends on the circumstances.  The timeless principle at work is the Golden Rule.

We all know less than we imagine we do.  For example, we may think we know what we are doing when do not.  Or we may know partially.  Luke 23:34 has the crucified Jesus intercede for those who had put him on the cross and for those who had consented to this action:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I have recorded my mixed thoughts regarding the extent of this ignorance in Luke 23:34.  I have not arrived at a consistent position yet.

Sometimes we do not know what we are doing.  However, sometimes we do.  And sometimes we know somewhat.  I cannot always tell which situation is which.

Nevertheless, I know something, however, slight, regarding sins of ignorance:  We all commit them, individually and collectively.  And we all–individually and collectively–stand before God in need of forgiveness.  May we–collectively and individually–forgive each other, as we–individually and collectively–need forgiveness.  And may God forgive us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYERS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY LULL, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, THEOLOGIAN, AND ECUMENIST

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The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Baptism of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART VII

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Luke 3:21-38

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Christological orthodoxy holds that Jesus was sinless.  I affirm this doctrine.  Consider also, O reader, that St. John the Baptist offered baptism for repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Why, therefore, did Jesus get baptized by St. John the Baptist?  In the Gospel of Luke, the baptism of Christ functioned as a ritual of succession.  Jesus was the successor of St. John the Baptist.

Three major germane points interest me:

  1. The opening of heaven (a motif in apocalyptic literature) at the baptism of Jesus signaled that he was the Messiah and that he fulfillment of Israel’s eschatological expectations was at hand.
  2. The descent of the Holy Spirit in a physical form, like a dove, was crucial, too.  In ancient Near Eastern thought, doves symbolized virtue.  They, worthy of sacrificing to God, symbolized the divine presence in this story.
  3. The Holy Spirit descended in a similar form upon the Apostles at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

The genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38) traces Christ’s family tree back to the mythical Adam (and Eve).  The theological importance of this detail is two-fold:

  1. To point to the universality of the Gospel, and
  2. To affirm that Jesus was the Son of God.  The numbers are symbolic, not historical.  We read sequences of seven generations.  The new age begins with Jesus in Luke 3.

Theologically, the genealogy of Jesus is important, regardless of the difficulties one faces in establishing its historical accuracy….Jesus stands within the history of the covenant with Israel; yet, the story of his life has significance for all people.  Jesus is the Son of God who entered human history to declare the arrival of God’s reign in human history, to call together a new community and to redeem humanity.  Read in this way, the genealogy, like the birth narratives, is a gospel in miniature.

–R. Alan Culpepper, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (1995), 95-96

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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The Forerunner   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART VI

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Luke 3:1-20

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In what we call 533 C.E., (which started as 1286 A.U.C.), St. Dionysius Exiguus created the dating system we know as B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E.  In so doing, he rewrote the Christian calendar and made life easier for historians and archaeologists.  In antiquity, however, dating was relative, as in Luke 3:1.  Establishing a precise range of dates for what follows Luke 3:1 has proven impossible because relative dating was inexact and competing calendars coexisted.  According to the Roman Calendar, Luke 3:1 established the setting of chapter 3 as being between August 19, 28 C.E. and August 18, 29 C.E.  However, according to the Syrian manner of calculating time, the timeframe was between September-October 27 C.E. and September-October 28 C.E.  To complicate matters further, assuming that the birth of Jesus occurred closer to 6 B.C.E. than to 4 B.C.E., Jesus would have been in his middle thirties during Luke 3.  However, Luke 3:23 defined Christ’s age as “about thirty years old.”

Keeping track of time can be complicated.

St. John the Baptist was in full prophetic mode, condemning social injustice, calling out unrepentant sinners, and resembling Elijah.  St. John was also baptizing for repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  This baptism was related to the ritual bath in Judaism.

A few thoughts regarding St. John the Baptist come to my mind:

  1. His teaching included themes Jesus used in his teaching.  How much of an influence was St. John the Baptist on Jesus?  Had Jesus been a disciple of St. John the Baptist?  Or did the two men simply draw from the same influences?
  2. If St. John the Baptist had told people he was the Messiah, he would have had a messianic following.
  3. St. John’s advice to tax collectors, if followed, put them out of business.  Tax collectors lived on the excess funds they collected.
  4. St. John’s preaching led to him becoming a political prisoner.  Herod Antipas had violated the Law of Moses by marrying Herodias, his half-niece and the ex-wife of his half-brother.

St. John the Baptist was humble.  He knew who he was and whose he was.  St. John had an assigned part to play in life.  He played it faithfully.  St. John was humble, not mousy.  His courage led to his incarceration and execution.  He was more than inconvenient to Herod Antipas.

“Humble” derives from the Latin humilis, meaning “lowly” and related to “earth” (humus).  To be humble is to be down to earth, literally, “close to the ground.”  I explain this for the sake of clarity.  When two people use the same word yet define it differently, they talk past each other.

An old joke tells us that How I Achieved Humility is a short book.  I do not lie to you, O reader; I know about intellectual arrogance firsthand, from inside my skull.  My intellectual arrogance is the fruit of being better informed and more widely read than most of the people around me most of the time while growing up.  I recall that most people around me most of the time while I grew up treated me as the smartest person in the room.  Regardless of the objective verdict on that supposition, I prefer the company of people whom I understand know more than I do and who have read more widely than I have.  I have questions, too.

I regard arrogance with empathy.  How many geniuses have been humble?  I do not profess to be a genius, but I grasp that they are intellectually superior to most people and tend, predictably, to be arrogant.  How are they supposed to be otherwise?

Foibles of human psychology aside, we are all “but dust” (to quote the Book of Psalms) before God.  Humility before God is crucial.  Our greatest accomplishments are microscopic in God’s eyes.  The mythology in Genesis 11:1-9 tells us that God had to “come down” (v. 5) to see the great city and the Tower of Babel.  One may imagine, in literary terms, God squinting in Heaven then coming down to get a good look.  Lest we–collectively and individually–think we are all that and a bag of potato chips compared to God, we err.  Yet we are the apples of God’s eyes because of grace.

May we be good apples for God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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The Seventh Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Astarte Syriaca, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XI

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Zechariah 5:5-11

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The seventh vision (Zechariah 5:5-11) raises eyebrows.  The tub, with a capacity of 23 liters (21 quarts) is too small to hold the woman, but it does, somehow.  The woman represents wickedness, soon transported to Babylonia, where she/it will get a shrine.  The text names the land of Shinar, the site of the mythical Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

I object to misogyny as much as the next self-respecting liberal.  Unfortunately, misogyny is a staple of some parts of the Bible and of much misinterpretation of certain Biblical texts.  Other details are more productive to explore in this post, however.

The shipping away of wickedness in a container echoes Leviticus 16, with the driving out of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement.  The woman is not a scapegoat, though. No, she is a goddess–probably Astarte, the alleged wife of YHWH.  Putting these two pieces of the puzzle together, we realize that this text is about laying aside both idolatry and guilt for past sins.  Populations and individuals cannot move forward into a better future until they have acknowledged their uncomfortable, painful pasts and vowed to do better.  Learning and applying the germane lessons of the past are crucial and within human power.  The ability to forgive comes from God, who models that behavior.  Yet truth must precede forgiveness.

The burden of guilt is heavy.  I know the burden of survivor’s guilt.  One part of my psyche tells me that I could and should have done more.  Another aspect of my psyche tells me that I did as well as I could with what I had and as best I knew.  That part of my psyche tells me that I did a good job for a long time.  These two aspects of my psyche argue inside my cranium.

Also, forgiving oneself can be more difficult than forgiving others.  Forgiving others can also be a hard task, of course.

The population First Zechariah originally addressed needed to forgive themselves and their ancestors.  The only way forward was through truth and the acknowledgment of it, followed by forgiveness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Jerusalem of the Future and the Present, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Trees Near the Dead Sea

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01756

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 3:1-4:6

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Deportation and the consequences thereof constitute the backdrop of Isaiah 3:1-4:1.  Attentive readers of the Hebrew Bible may recall that Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian authorities began deportations for Judean elites before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  These deported elites had exploited the poor.  These elites had been arrogant and disregarded social justice.  Yet the societal collapse after deportation of leaders was devastating; it was worse than the widespread social injustice from prior to deportation.

This section of First Isaiah cannot end on that gloomy note, can it?  It does not.  Isaiah 4:2-6, from a later period, promises a new beginning–the purification of Jerusalem.  Who is the promised “branch of the LORD?” in 4:2?  (Other translations include “the LORD’s shoot” and “the radiance of the LORD.”)  The answer(s) to that question vary over time.

  1. The branch/shoot/radiance of YHWH may be the Messiah, a king of the Davidic Dynasty.  If so, the most likely historical figure may be King Hezekiah, probably the promised king in Isaiah 7, too.
  2. Study Bibles I consult disagree with each other whether the “fruit” or “splendor” of the land (4:2) is consistent with royal messianic expectations.  The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), says no.  However, The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), says yes.
  3. The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), and The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) favor this prophecy being one fulfilled in antiquity, within the lifetime of First Isaiah.  The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), does not anticipate the long-term fulfillment of prophecy, either.
  4. Robert Alter, in his three-volume The Hebrew Bible (2019), argues that “the LORD’s shoot” is “the people of Israel to be redeemed after a period of devastation and tribulation that will leave a saving remnant” (Prophets, 634).  The Oxford Study Bible (1992) concurs:  “The plant and the fruit are the survivors of the remnant” (705).
  5. However, The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), identifies the survivors as refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

Biblical interpretation can become complicated.  This is especially the case when one reads a text from one period and place and perhaps altered in a subsequent period, to fit new circumstances.  Therefore, all of the above (or some of) the interpretations I have listed may be plausible, in different contexts.

At least one point is not ambiguous, O reader:  divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine forgiveness may not prevent punishment, but grace is the last word for those who repent and return to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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A Collection of Speeches: The Wickedness of Judah, and the Degenerate City   Leave a comment

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART II

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Isaiah 1:2-31

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G. H. D. Kilpatrick, author of the exposition on Isaiah 1-39 in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 5 (1956), described Isaiah 1 as

The Heart of Isaiah’s Message.

Kilpatrick began:

Here is a tremendous indictment of an apostate nation.  The charge is the blindness, the insensitivity, the brutish stupidity of a people steeped in sin.  The prophet is against them.  In a sense the chapter is an epitome of Isaiah’s whole message and ministry.  In this series of oracles he proceeds from accusation to judgment, and on to the divine promise of mercy in terms of repentance and obedience.  Throughout the book the changes are rung on these themes.

–165

As I reread this chapter for the umpteenth time, I noticed themes that populated the (contemporary) Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, too.  I noticed these themes readily because I have blogged my way through them before starting First Isaiah.  I noticed legal charges of having abandoned the covenant.  I noticed the allegation of idolatry–prostitution, metaphorically.  I noticed the condemnation of corruption and social justice, especially that of the economic variety.  I noticed the pronouncement that sacred rituals do not protect one from the consequences of impiety.  I noticed the call to repentance and the possibility of forgiveness.

Chronology is not the organizing principle of the Book of Isaiah.  No, the commission of the prophet is in Chapter 6, for example.  Chapter 1 contains short speeches that summarize themes First Isaiah unpacks in subsequent chapters.

The text provides many options for where I may dwell in this post.  I choose verses 27 and 28.  The translation in Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (2019), is close to the standard English-language rendering:

Zion shall be redeemed through justice,

and those who turn back in her, through righteousness.

But the rebels and offenders together are shattered,

and those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

However, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) offers a somewhat different translation:

Zion shall be saved in the judgment;

Her repentant ones, in the retribution.

But rebels and sinners shall be crushed,

And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

These verses date to either the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  (As I wrote regarding the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, the final versions of early prophetic writings date to the time after the Babylonian Exile.)  Differences in Hebrew meter and the concept of Zion’s slavery relative to the surrounding material point to later origin.  That may or may not prove interesting, but there it is.

I noticed that righteousness and justice are related concepts.  This has long constituted old news to me, but I delighted to see another instance of it in Isaiah 1.

That justice and righteousness are related establishes a high standard.  Many people mistake human vendettas for justice.  Many people mistake torture for justice.  Many people are oblivious to or forget Deuteronomy 32:35, in the voice of God:

Vengeance is mine and recompense,

for the time they lose their footing;

Because the day of their disaster is at hand

and their doom is rushing upon them.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

When we set out to take revenge, we embark on a path we ought to leave alone.  God knows better than we do.

I also noticed the difference between the translations of verse 27.  I noticed that TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) had “judgment” for “justice” and “retribution” for “righteousness.”  Yet the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), read:

Having been punished, Zion will again know justice and faithfulness.  A new name is given to the reformed Jerusalem; c.f. 62:2-4; Ezekiel 48:35.

–769

The promised salvation will stem only from divine justice and righteousness, not the virtue of Israel.  The destruction of rebels and sinners, however, will stem from their lack of virtue.  For the meantime, Zion, as a faith reality, not a political entity, contains the good and the wicked.  Likewise, in the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the wheat and the weeds will grow together in the field until the harvest time.  God will judge at the harvest time.  In the meantime, attempting to remove weeds may result in the removal of some wheat, also.

May we–you, O reader, and I–strike a proper balance, by grace.  May we understand correctly the difference between good and evil.  May we understand correctly the difference between that which is sinful and that which is not.  May we understand correctly the difference between justice and injustice.  When appropriate, may we speak out, and do so in the right way.  And may we understand correctly the difference between our tasks and God’s tasks.

If I am going to err, I prefer to do so on the side of kindness, not harshness.  I would rather be too gentle than mean.  I prefer to strike the proper balance in each circumstances, of course.  Yet maybe my Southern training takes over and tells me not to create a needless scene.  I prefer to practice personal diplomacy, even when doing so entails telling white lies.  “No, that dress does not make you look fat,” except it does.  I also know enough to have some idea of what I do not know.  God knows more than I do, and I do not bring people to God by behaving obnoxiously in God’s name.

Nevertheless, as anyone who has read my weblogs sufficiently ought to know, I do not always shy away from writing what I really think.  I am capable of being blunt, too.  There is a time for diplomacy, just as there is a time for bluntness.  Yet there is never any moral justification for not leaving vengeance to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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Being Good Soil IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Protector of all that trust in thee,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;

that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal,

that we finally lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 188

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Isaiah 12

Psalm 25

Acts 9:1-18

Mark 4:1-20

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Isaiah 12 flows directly from Chapter 11.  The first words of Isaiah 12 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) are,

In that day….

To understand what day that is, one must back up into Isaiah 11.  “That day” is the ideal, peaceful future that will follow “the Day of the Lord.”  In Christian terms, one would describe “that day” as the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, “that day” also refers to the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  This text describes a time in our future.  Isaiah 12 praises God, who was faithful, is faithful, will continue to be faithful, and dwells among us.

Psalm 25 and Acts 9:1-18 add repentance to our stable of topics.  Divine forgiveness of sins, another related topic, exists also in Isaiah 12.

We read the familiar “Parable of the Sower” in Mark 4.  I prefer another title, “Parable of the Four Soils,” which I read in a commentary.  The parable seems more concerned with the soils than with the sower and the seeds.  The parable invites each one of us to ask,

What kind of soil am I?

What kind of soil are you, O reader?  Do you have shallow faith that cannot endure trouble or persecution?  Do the cares of the world strangle you faith, as it may be?  Does faith never take root in you?  Or do you have deep faith?  Depending on your answer, O reader, you may have another reason to repent and to seek forgiveness.

We mere mortals need not wait until the time of the fully realized Kingdom of God for God to dwell among us.  God is always present and accessible.  The Quakers are correct; each of us has an Inner Light.  Many of us seem not to know that, though.  Others know about their Inner Light and ignore it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Donatism of a Sort, Part III   Leave a comment

Above: St. Augustine Arguing with Donatists, by Charles-André van Loo

Image in the Public Domain

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For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

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Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 32

Ephesians 2:13-22

Mark 15:1-39

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The imagery in Lamentations 3 (usually about going into the Babylonian Exile) and Psalm 32 (really about confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and returning to God) fits with the suffering of Jesus in Mark 15:1-39.  One result of that suffering, we read in Ephesians 2:13-22, is the breaking down of hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus is the peace, we read.  He is the means of reconciliation, we read.

I got the memo; I read Ephesians 2:13-22.  I also marked, learned, and inwardly digested the text.  However, many people, including a plethora of my fellow Christians, have not read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested Ephesians 2:13-22.  Anti-Semitism has been a sin within the Church since the founding of the Church.

Likewise, among Gentiles, erecting and maintaining walls of hostility has been a long-standing practice.  Donatism (in the broad sense of that word) has been around for a very long time.

As Edmond Browning, a previous Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, insisted, there are 

no outsiders

in Christ.  Many professing Christians have yet to receive that menu.  According to doctrinal purity tests from my right, I am impure–a heretic, probably one damned to Hell.  My alleged offenses, according to some who have spoken to me in person and/or sent emails, include thinking too much and asking too many questions.

Salvation is not a matter of winning Theological Twenty Questions.  Salvation is not a matter of knowledge, as in Gnosticism.  Orthodoxy in theology is not a saving work.  Salvation is a matter of grace.  This grace is at work in Single Predestination and in free will.  We have free will because of grace, after all.

And Donatism is not a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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