Archive for the ‘Greed’ Tag

Divine Judgment Against Phoenicia   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING EZEKIEL, PART XIII

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

Ezekiel 26:1-28:26

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

I have written about oracles against Phoenicia in Amos 1:9-10 and Isaiah 23:1-18.

As in Ezekiel 25, the charge of rejoicing over the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) applies against Tyre and Sidon, the two main cities of Phoenicia, and to the rest of Phoenicia.

Tyre, located on an island, was a Mediterranean port city and a center of commerce.  Tyre had a monopoly on trade within its zone of commercial influence, which spread as far west as Spain.  The city also allied itself with Egypt, and thereby survived a siege (586-573 B.C.E.) by the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  That siege ended with the city’s surrender, contrary to the prediction of conquest (26:8f).  Tyre knew how to enrich itself, but was foolish (28:4-5).

These oracles use imagery of the geography and commerce to pronounce doom upon Phoenicia.

Do not trust in status and wealth, we read.  Do not be arrogant:

Because you are haughty of heart,

you say, “I am a god!

I sit on a god’s throne

in the heart of the sea!

But you are a man, not a god;

yet you pretend

you are a god at heart!

–Ezekiel 28:26, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The warnings against the commercial centers and major cities of Phoenicia remain relevant.  Wealth and status continue to be popular idols for many people and peoples.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LYMAN BEECHER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, AND ABOLITIONIST; HIS DAUGHTER, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, U.S. NOVELIST, HYMN WRITER, AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HER BROTHER, HENRY WARD BEECHER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, AND ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONIO ROSMINI, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS, AND JOHN MASON NEALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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

Posted July 1, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Amos 1, Ezekiel 25, Ezekiel 26, Ezekiel 27, Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 23

Tagged with ,

Divine Judgment Against Moab   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING JEREMIAH, PART XXVIII

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

Jeremiah 48:1-47

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

Moab, east of the Dead Sea, was one of the traditional and bitter enemies of the Hebrews (Judges 3:12-30; Numbers 22; Deuteronomy 2:8-9; 2 Kings 3:4, et cetera).  The Moabites, allies of the Assyrian Empire, fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in the middle of the sixth century B.C.E.

Since I started this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read oracles against Moab in Amos 2:1-3 and Isaiah 15:1-16:13.

The oracle against Moab in Ezekiel 25:8-11 awaits me, in due time.

The oracle in Jeremiah 48 contains certain references that require explanation:

  1. Place names in Moab abound.
  2. Verse 7 mentions Chemosh, the head of the Moabite pantheon (Numbers 21:29).
  3. Verses 11 and 12 mention Moabite wine, renowned for its quality.  Here the wine functions as a metaphor for complacency.
  4. Verse 18 refers to the capital, Dibon, built on a height.  This verse personifies Dibon as a confident ruler.

Moab, once powerful and confident, became debased.  It became a laughingstock (verse 26) and a horror to its neighbors (verse 39).  It, poetically, swam in vomit (verse 26).  Yet, at the end of the oracle.  God announced the restoration of the fortunes of Moab “in the days to come” (verse 47).  The promised restoration may have had nothing to do with Moabite kinship to the Israelites (Genesis 19:37-38); Jeremiah 46:25-26 predicted a restoration of Egyptian fortunes, too.

Archaeology tells us that Moab, mostly depopulated in the 500s B.C.E., was a place where nomads wandered for centuries.  Archaeology also tells us that sedentary life became feasible in Moab in the last few centuries B.C.E.

The themes of trusting in power and false gods, not in YHWH, are tropes in Hebrew prophetic literature.  These are themes that apply to people and peoples in 2021, too.  The identities of the false gods vary widely–from imagined deities to the Almighty Dollar.  Idolatry is no match for the sovereignty of God, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF DAVID LOW DODGE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BUSINESSMAN AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS J. UPLEGGER, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; “OLD MAN MISSIONARY”

THE FEAST OF FRANK LAUBACH, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

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

Jeremiah’s Sermon in the Temple, With His Trial and Death Sentence   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Jeremiah, Salisbury Cathedral

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING JEREMIAH, PART V

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

Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Jeremiah 26:1-24

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

Jeremiah 7:1-20:18 consists of oracles primarily from the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of Jehoiakim (born Eliakim) of Judah.  For more about Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42.

The Assyrian Empire had consumed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. then the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.  In 612 B.C.E., the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire.  In 608 B.C.E., Judah was struck between two powerful neighbors–Egypt and Babylonia, themselves enemies.  After the death of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in combat against Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (r. 610-595 B.C.E.), Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Neco II had appointed the next King of Judah, Jehoahaz, also known as Jeconiah and Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38).  Jehoahaz had reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E. before Neco II had replaced him with another son of Josiah and taken him into captivity in Egypt.  Neco II had also appointed Eliakim and changed his name to Jehoiakim in 608 B.C.E.  He served as an Egyptian vassal until 605 B.C.E., when he became a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal.

Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic career speaking difficult truths to a nation under foreign domination.  This context was extremely politically dangerous.

This sermon is thematically consistent with Hosea 6:4-6; Micah 3:9-12; and Amos 2:4-6.  It is also thematically consistent with many other passages of Hebrew scripture.  The link between idolatry and social injustice (especially economic injustice) is clear.  Sacred rituals, even those the Law of Moses mandates, are not talismans.  The joining of lived collective piety and justice on one hand and sacred ritual on the other hand is imperative.  The combination of social injustice and sacred ritual makes a mockery of sacred ritual.

Mend your ways and your actions,

Jeremiah preached at the Temple.  Then he unpacked that statement:

…if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will I [YHWH] let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time.  See, you are relying on illusions that are of no avail….

–Jeremiah 7:5-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Pay attention to 7:11, O reader:

Do you consider this House, which bears My name, to be a den of thieves?  As for Me, I have been watching–declares the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is an allusion in Jesus’s mouth during the Temple Incident/the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; and Luke 19:46.  Notice that Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the First Temple.

Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  The Temple Sermon of Jeremiah is a case in point.  We return to it and read of its aftermath in Jeremiah 26:1-24.

Idols abound.  They may be tangible or intangible.  If an activity, idea, or object functions as an idol for someone, it is an idol for that person.  Money is one of the more common idols.  Greed contributes greatly to economic injustice, and corruption is one of the major causes of institutionalized poverty.  Obliviousness to participation in the violation of God’s moral commandments, including mutuality, will not shield us from the consequences of those sins any more than keeping sacred rituals will do so.

Circa 608 B.C.E. God was still holding out the possibility of repentance, prompting the cancellation of divine punishment, according to Jeremiah 26:3.  This contradicts other passages from the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books composed or begun prior to the Book of Jeremiah.  Perhaps one reason for the contradiction is the addition of later material to the early Hebrew prophetic books, as late as the Babylonian Exile.  I suppose that maintaining the hard line of the time for repentance having passed was difficult to maintain after the Fall of Babylon (539 B.C.E.).

The priests and prophets said to all the people, “This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

–Jeremiah 26:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah prophesied against a government and a population under foreign domination.  There was no separation of religion and state either.  The prophet worked in a dangerous milieu.

Jeremiah had allies, though.  Some cited the example of Micah, who had issued a dire prophesy (Micah 3:12) and had not received a death sentence.  Fortunately for Jeremiah, the court’s sentence remained unfulfilled.  Ahikam, a high-ranking royal official (2 Kings 22:12), saved him.  Ahikam was also the father of Gedaliah, the assassinated governor of Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1-41:18).

Uriah ben Shemiah, from Kiriath-jearim, was not as fortunate as Jeremiah was.  Uriah, also prophesying in the name of YHWH, said what Jeremiah proclaimed.  Uriah fled to Egypt for safety because King Jehoiakim wanted him dead.  Royal agents found Uriah in Egypt and returned him to Judah, to die.

One may legitimately wonder why God protected Jeremiah from threats to his life yet did not spare faithful Uriah ben Shemaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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

Unpacking Habakkuk 2:4–Sayings About Tyrants   Leave a comment

Above:  Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING HABAKKUK, PART IV

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

Habakkuk 2:5-20

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

Denunciations of tyrants and tyranny remain germane, unfortunately.

Habakkuk 2:5-20 unpacks 2:4, the text on which I fixated in the previous post in this series.  Certain aspects of 2:5-20 do not translate well into English; others do.

First, the commandment to trust in God, not in wealth, pervades the Old and New Testaments.  We read it in Habakkuk 2:5f.  The issue is attachment to wealth, not wealth itself.  This point is also prominent in Luke 12:15; Mark 10:17-27; and 1 Timothy 6:10.  In Habakkuk 2:7, the same Hebrew word means both “debtors” and “creditors.”  Debtor nations can become creditor nations, and the other way around.

Second, the theology of divine retribution, prominent in the Bible (notably in Nahum, which I recently finished reading) informs Habakkuk 2:8f.  What comes around, goes around.  Through divine retribution, something beautiful happens:

But the earth shall be filled

with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory,

just as the water covers the sea.

–Habakkuk 2:14, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This divine glory contrasts with the corrupt, sinful human glory of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and other earthly powers (2:16).  God is sovereign.  Idolatry, in all its forms, is foolish.

In the original context, Habakkuk 2:5-20 applied to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Reinterpretation of these verses probably commenced immediately after the fall of that empire to the Persians and the Medes in 539 B.C.E.

Tyrants succeed because other people empower them.  Tyrants fail because of insufficient support.  The fully-realized Kingdom of God is antithetical to tyranny.  Yet the history of the Christian Church is replete with official ecclesiastical support for tyrants and would-be tyrants.  One may recognize support for fascist dictators, military juntas, and those who who seek to subvert representative government from the ancient past to the present day.  And the condemnations Habakkuk 2:5-20 leveled against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire apply to certain governments, public officials, and private citizens in 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 5:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

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 BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

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

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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

Posted June 6, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1 Timothy 6, Habakkuk 2, Luke 12, Mark 10

Tagged with , ,

Oracles of Divine Punishment, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Siege of Jerusalem, 586 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING MICAH, PART IV

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

Micah 3:1-12

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

Leaders, by definition, have followers.  Those who think they may be leaders can test this hypothesis easily; they can turn around and see if they have followers.

Continuing with the thread of divine judgment for exploiting the poor and working against the common good, we come to Micah 3.  We read condemnations of kings and other rulers, who have maintained destructive policies.  When the Assyrians (or later on, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians) come, we read, these rulers will cry out to God.  God will not answer them because of the evil they have committed.  They have forsaken the covenant, with its mandate of social justice, including economic justice.

One who reads the Hebrew Bible closely enough and long enough should know about false prophets, whom kings kept on the payroll.  These false prophets are targets in Micah 3:5-8.  These prophets, the Hebrew text indicates, are:

like beastly creditors or snakes that bite the flesh off Israel with their teeth.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 1198

The language of beastly behavior, used to describe leaders (3:1-3) exists also in 3:5-8.  In 3:5, the Hebrew verb nashakh (“to bite”) puns on the noun nahash (“snake”).  In other contexts, nashakh means “to charge interest.”  Charging interest carries negative connotations in Habakkuk 2:7 and Deuteronomy 23:20.

A population with predators for leaders is in an extremely difficult situation.  One may think also of Ezekiel 34, the promise is that God, the Good Shepherd, will take the place of bad kings, bad shepherds.  (Does Ezekiel 34 synchronize with Micah 2:12-13?)  In Micah 3:12, however, the news is different and frightening:

Assuredly, because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field,

And Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins,

And the Temple Mount

A shrine in the woods.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oracles of Divine Punishment, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING MICAH, PART III

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

Micah 2:1-13

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

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

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

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

But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

The Greek text can also mean:

But woe to you who are rich,

for you are receiving your consolation.

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Threefold Summons to Hear the Word of the Lord, with Three Woes   Leave a comment

Above:  Orion

Image in the Public Domain

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

READING AMOS, PART IV

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

Amos 3:1-6:14

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

Evening Prayer, Rite II, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), opens with a range of options of opening sentences from the Bible.  One of these is:

Seek him who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth:  The Lord is his name.

–115

It sounds rather pleasant, does it not?  Consider the full passage, O reader:

The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,

who turns darkness into dawn,

and darkens day into night;

Who summons the waters of the sea,

and pours them out upon the surface of the earth;

Who makes destruction fall suddenly upon the stronghold

and brings ruin upon the fortress,

the LORD is his name.

–Amos 5:8-9, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Two lines not omitted change the complexion of those two verses, do they not?  Oh, well.

Amos 3:1-6:14 is replete with poetic images.  Instead of explaining references this time, I cut to the chase:

  1. Worship at Bethel was inferior to worship at Jerusalem.
  2. In the context of Amos 2:6-16, this worship at Bethel mocked God because of the ubiquitous violation of the ethical core of the Law of Moses.
  3. The people either knew better or should have known better.
  4. Divine judgment was about to befall the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  5. In the context of subsequent editing of the original text of the Book of Amos, the (southern) Kingdom of Judah was also guilty, even though it had the Temple at Jerusalem.

If the derogatory term “social justice warrior” had existed at the time of the prophet Amos, many people would have dismissed him as being one.  The imperative of social justice–especially economic justice–and the ubiquity of social injustice–especially economic injustice–pervades the book.  The Bible, by count of verses, says more about about greed, wealth, and economic exploitation than about sexual practices.  One would not know this, based on the reversal of priorities in the preaching (if not the bedrooms) of certain ministers, some of them extremely wealthy televangelists who practice conspicuous consumption and espouse conservative political agendas.

They should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Book of Amos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMILITY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMITESS AND ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA RITA LÓPES DE SOUZA BRITO, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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

Identity in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), Richard Knab

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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

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)

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

Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand

the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil;

and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only true God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 216

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

Proverbs 16:1-9

Psalm 107:1-16

Acts 19:21-41

Luke 14:1-14

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

The teachings and commandments of God may fall on deaf ears for many reasons.  One reason is that they constitute either a real or a perceived threat.  They may threaten ego or economic status, for example.

Ephesus was the site of a temple to Artemis.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Ephesian silversmiths had a vested interest in the continuation of the cult of Artemis, obviously.

Above:  The Ruins of the Temple of Artemis

Image Source = Google Earth

Relativizing commandments was a common practice in Second Temple Judaism.   Whenever practical considerations brushed up against provisions of the Law of Moses, selective violations of that Law may have occurred.  Saving lives was a frequently-cited justification for violating Sabbath laws, for example.  Christ’s healings on the Sabbath exceeded saving lives.  His Sabbath healings threatened perceptions of righteousness.

Christ’s subsequent teaching in Luke 14 threatened egos, too.

This seems like a good time to quote Proverbs 9:

Better a little with righteousness

Than a large income with injustice.

A man may plot out his course,

But it is the LORD who directs his steps.

–Verses 8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Wealth and human ego may be the two most popular idols.  I am uncertain which one of the two is more popular than the other.

Properly, a Christian’s identity relies on Jesus, not any other factor.  This is a lesson I grasp intellectually yet not psychologically.  Knowing what to do is the first step in accomplishing it.  Knowing what to do is also easier than accomplishing it.  I am working on this matter, by grace.

Perhaps you, O reader, are also struggling with the issue of proper Christian identity.  If so, do not give up.  Hang in there and trust God.  If, however, you do not have this problem, you have received a great blessing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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

Idolatry, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Luggage Icon

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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

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)

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

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church;

and because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor,

preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 212

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

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 1

Acts 16:19-40

Matthew 6:24-34

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

Do we–collectively and individually–trust in God?  Or do we trust in idols?

As St. Augustine of Hippo told us very long ago, sin is disordered love.  Idolatry–one sin in particular–is loving God less than we–or one–should, and loving something or someone more than we–or one–should.  Wealth (Matthew 6:24) is morally neutral.  However, an unhealthy attachment to it is not.  Attachments to imaginary deities constitute another variety of idolatry.

St. Lydia of Thyatira, introduced in Acts 16:14 and present in today’s assigned portion of Acts, offers an example of how to be wealthy without idolizing wealth.  The narrative tells us that she received the Gospel gratefully, then that she extended hospitality to St. Paul the Apostle and St. Silas.  Acts 16:40 records that St. Lydia hosted the evangelists, who

saw and encouraged the brothers….

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Each of us needs a daily idolatry check, for each one of us as at least one spiritually unhealthy attachment.  Letting go may prove psychologically challenging.  So be it.  Carrying around too much luggage is burdensome.  It is a self-imposed burden.  By grace, we can let go of that luggage and find our full freedom in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMANN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF LOUISE CECILIA FLEMING, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTALATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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

Wealth as an Idol   1 comment

Above:  Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

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

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

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

Genesis 8:1-13 or Acts 26:1, 9-23, 27-29, 31-32

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-18

Revelation 3:14-22

John 8:31-47

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

Laodicea was a wealthy city, a center of the refining of gold, the manufacture of garments, and the manufacture of a popular salve for eyes.  The church in that city was also wealthy, not on Christ.  Jesus said to keep his commandments.  St. Paul the Apostle relied on Christ.

As I have written many times, deeds reveal creeds.  To quote Proverbs, as a man thinks, he is.  And as one thinks, one does.  God is like what God had done and does, in Jewish theology.  Likewise, we are like what we have done and do.

Are we like the Laodicean congregation?  Are we lukewarm?  Are we comfortable, resting on our own laurels and means?  Do we have the luxury of being that way?  (FYI:  “We” can refer either to congregations or to individuals.)

Wealth is not the problem.  No, wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to wealth are not morally neutral.  To the extent that a person or a congregation may rely on wealth, not God, one makes wealth an idol.

There was once a man who owned a large tract of land.  He enjoyed boasting about how much land he owned.  One day, the landowner was bragging to another man:

I can get in my truck early in the morning and start driving around the edge of my property.  Late in the day, I haven’t gotten home yet.

The other man replied,

I used to have a truck like that, too.

The Bible burst the proverbial balloons of those who trust in their wealth, not in God.  Aside from Revelation 3:14-22, one may think readily of the Gospel of Luke and various Hebrew prophets, for example.  One may also quote 1 Timothy 6:10 (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls to any number of fatal wounds.

One may also quote Luke 6, in which the poor are blessed (verse 20), but the rich are having their consolation now (verse 24).

Wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to it are not.  May we always trust in God and acknowledge our duties to one another, in mutuality, under God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF EDGAR J. GOODSPEED, U.S. BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

THE FEAST OF W. SIBLEY TOWNER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/devotion-for-proper-16-year-d-humes/

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