Archive for the ‘Habakkuk 1’ Tag

Introduction to Haggai-First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART I

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Haggai 1-2

Zechariah 1-8

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The Book of Haggai consists of two chapters, four oracles, and thirty-eight verses.

The Book of Zechariah consists of two sections–First Zechariah (chapters 1-8) and Second Zechariah (chapters 9-14).  Haggai and First Zechariah share a background and setting. Also, the chronology of Haggai-First Zechariah starts in Haggai, continues in First Zechariah, returns to Haggai, then resumes in First Zechariah.

Jerusalem, 520-518 B.C.E.  Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.) was the King of the Persian Empire.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had fallen in 539 B.C.E.  The Babylonian Exile had ended in 538 B.C.E.  The rebuilding of Jerusalem was underway, slowly.  The standard of living there was bad yet improving, slowly.  The construction of the Second Temple had started then paused indefinitely.

Names interest me.  “Haggai,” derived from the Hebrew stem for “to make a pilgrimage feast,” means “festal.”  Not surprisingly, the Temple is central to the prophetic book bearing this name.  “Zechariah” means “YHWH remembers.”  One may want to keep that in mind while reading First Zechariah.

The Temple is central to Haggai-First Zechariah.  The prophecies of certain Hebrew prophets do not reflect this bias; see Amos (5:18-25) and First Isaiah (1:12-16), set before the Babylonian Exile, O reader.  Also consult Third Isaiah (66:1), from after the Babylonian Exile.  Diversity of opinions exists in the corpus of canonized Hebrew prophecy.  So be it.

I will unpack another theme as write posts to succeed this one.  As I have established in this long-term project of reading and blogging about the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, some Hebrew prophecies contradict historical, documented, objective reality.  This is not a matter of legitimate dispute; “alternative facts” are not valid.  The Haggai-First Zechariah provides some examples of this pattern.  When predictions do not come true, some people become discouraged, understandably.  I, as a student of history, take note of the prophecy and the reality.  The facts are what they are, and speak for themselves.  In the face of the contradiction between reality and prophecy, some people should become discouraged.

John J. Collins, writing in The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), offers some food for thought:

Hope should not be focused on specific predictions.  The faith of Habakkuk was secure because it was a faith in ultimate justice and did not depend on specific events coming to pass within a short space of time.  Haggai’s more specific prediction gives rise to problems.

–RG404

I know this problem from elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic literature.  The prediction of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-8; Jeremiah 46:2-28; Ezekiel 29-32) contradicts the the historical record, which indicates that, in 525 B.C.E., Egypt fell to the Persian Empire, which had previously conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  If the prophecies were, in contrast, of the fall of Egypt to a great, unnamed empire from the east, there would be no problem, though.

Yet, as Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel wrote, prophets were people, not microphones.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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Divine Judgment on Bad Kings and False Prophets   Leave a comment

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIV

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Jeremiah 23:1-40

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I like wordplay.  The Hebrew Bible is replete with it.  In Jeremiah 23, for example, puns on the Hebrew root letters resh and ayin move from ro’in (“shepherds,” in verses 1-4) to ra’ah (“evil,” in verses 11, 12, 14, 17, 22), mere’im (“evildoers,” in verse 14), and re’im (“each other,” in verses 27, 30, 35).  Also, in verses 5-6, we find a pun on the name of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah.  “Zedekiah” means “YHWH is justice.'”  The true branch of David’s line, however, will be “The LORD our justice.” we read.  This text tells us that Zedekiah did not live up to his regnal name.

The imagery of kings as shepherds exists in Ezekiel 34, also.

The promise of a messianic royal branch, in reference to an ideal ruler, occurs also in Isaiah 11:1 and Zechariah 3:8.  This promise contradicts facts from the historical record.

As with other parts of the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 23 contains layers of authorship.  Verses 7-8, repeated nearly verbatim from Jeremiah 16:14-15, probably date to a period after Jeremiah–most likely during or after the Babylonian Exile.

False prophets abounded.  Some prophesied in the name of Baal Peor; they led people astray.  Other prophets claimed to speak on behalf of God; they led people into violations of the covenant.  The people and the false prophets paid a high price.  In more wordplay, massa (“burden”) meant a message from God (also in Deuteronomy 1:12; Jeremiah 17:24, 27; Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Malachi 1:1; Isaiah 22:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1), as well as a judgment from God.  The language of the “burden of the LORD,” as an oracle, was more common in reference to Gentile nations than to Israel and Judah.  In Jeremiah 23, the population that had requested an oracle received a judgment instead.

A difficult and germane question remains unanswered:  Without the benefit of hindsight, how can one discern who is a false prophet?  Each of us may correctly classify some figures as false prophets and wrongly categorize others, based on a belief system.  In hindsight, identifying false prophets is easier than doing so in real time.  If, for example, a self-proclaimed prophet predicts that Jesus will return by a certain date, one may reasonably classify him or her as a false prophet.  One may be certain, however, if that date comes and goes without the Second Coming having occurred.  On a mundane level, someone may offer a pronouncement that may be difficult to evaluate on the true prophet-false prophet scale in real time.  This person may even be a false prophet while imagining himself or herself to be a true prophet.  I accept Jeremiah as a true prophet, with the benefit of hindsight and faith.  Yet I admit that, had I lived when he was prophesying, I may have thought he was crazy.

May rulers be good and prophets be true.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Habakkuk’s Second Complaint, with God’s Response   1 comment

Above:  Habakkuk and God

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HABAKKUK, PART III

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Habakkuk 1:12-2:4

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Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence

while the wicked devour those more just than ourselves?

–Habakkuk 1:13b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That is an excellent question for God in any time and place.

The context of the prophet Habakkuk was probably after 605 B.C.E. yet before the first Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian invasion of Judah in 598/597 B.C.E.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was notoriously cruel.  This, was, unfortunately, a characteristic common to many Mesopotamian empires in antiquity.

“The righteous will live by faith” is a familiar line that should never be trite.  Sadly, many people reduce it to triteness.  It is a line, originally from Habakkuk 2:4, and quoted in Romans 1:17, in the context of justification with God.  The line occurs, originally, in the context of God’s reply (2:2-4) to the second complaint of the prophet.

The LORD answered me and said:

Write the prophecy down,

Inscribe it clearly on tablets,

So that it can be read easily.

For there is yet a prophecy for a set term,

A truthful witness for a time that will come.

Even if it tarries, wait for it still;

For it will surely come, without delay:

Lo, his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright,

But the righteous man is rewarded with life

For his fidelity.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Robert Alter’s translation of Habakkuk 2:4 follows:

Look, the spirit within him is callous, not upright,

but the righteous man lives through his faithfulness.

The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019)

The translation of Habakkuk 2:4, according to The Revised English Bible (1989) follows:

The reckless will lack an assured future,

while the righteous will live by being faithful.

Habakkuk 2:4, in The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011), reads:

See, the rash have no integrity;

but the just one who is righteous because of faith shall live.

The variety in translations opens up a sense of shades of meaning in the Hebrew text.  Does a righteous person–man, whatever–receive life as a reward for fidelity to God or survive extreme hardship by being faithful to God?  Also, the varying translations of the first part of 2:4 interest me.  Lacking integrity, being puffed up, and being callous sound different than having no future.  Perhaps they have no future because they are puffed up and are callous.  The translation in The Revised English Bible (1989) reminds me of why I frequently add that version to the stack of translations I consult on Bible study projects.  The Revised English Bible (1989) maintains a high literary quality and is often idiosyncratic and not literal.  Yet captures the meanings of texts.

In the original context, the faithful Jews of Judah seemed to have no future.  The future seemed to belong to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  God said that reality was the other way around.  God told Habakkuk that the divine schedule was not the prophet’s schedule.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a faithful Jew living late in the Babylonian Exile.  Imagine that you were, as in Psalm 137, sitting by the waters of Babylon and singing songs of Zion.  Imagine that you had never lived in Zion.  How might Habakkuk 2:4 have sounded to you?  How might you have responded to it?

Imagine also, O reader, that you were a faithful Jew (perhaps the same one) years later, having returned to your ancestral homeland?  How might you have related to Habakkuk 2:4 then?

Waiting for God can be extremely challenging in a variety of circumstances–not just worst-case scenarios.  Waiting for God requires trust in God.  That can come only via trust in grace.  One may desire to trust God; that is a good start.  Trusting God and walking in healthy relationship with God requires divine assistance.  It is available.  How many of us see it and do not recognize it?  And how many of us never even see it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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Habakkuk’s First Complaint, with God’s Response   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HABAKKUK, PART II

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Habakkuk 1:2-11

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The divine commandment for social justice and righteousness, as well as the ubiquity of their opposites, are major themes in Hebrew prophetic literature.  One may readily identify with the first complaint in one’s context.

Why do you let me see iniquity?

why do you simply gaze at evil?

–1:3a, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The theology of God’s response may prove startling.  This reply understands the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian defeat of the Egyptian forces at Carchemish (605 B.C.E.) as a divine answer to the prophet’s complaint.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian troops, described in animalistic terms, will eventually target Judah as punishment for its sins, we read.

When one asks God for an answer, one may receive an unexpected and potentially disturbing reply.  This particular answer is consistent with divine sovereignty over all the nations.  God’s ways may appall us sometimes, but they work toward a just purpose.

1:11 is difficult to translate, hence a variety of renderings.  Do the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians ascribe their might to their gods, or do they make their strength their god?  Either way, the text indicates the lack of Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian recognition of YHWH and the sovereignty thereof.  This hints at the ultimate fate of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, that this tool of God’s plan will become a target of that plan, too.

As much as I affirm that God is love and is inclined more toward mercy than judgment, I also push back against all attempts to downplay the unsettling and appalling (from a human perspective) strangeness of God.  God refuses to fit into any theological category or metaphorical box.  Easy answers to difficult questions can never suffice.  These easy answers may soothe one’s ego and make one feel good.  They may support the delusion that one knows how the world works, and why.  Yet these easy answers cannot, by definition, suffice if one seeks an honest reply.

Do we want to receive an honest answer from God?  Or do we want a comfortable lie?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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Posted June 5, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Habakkuk

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The Superscription of the Book of Habakkuk   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HABAKKUK, PART I

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Habakkuk 1:1

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The situation for Judah had become worse since the days of the prophet Nahum, shortly before the Fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.E.).  King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 22:1-23:30; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27; 1 Esdras 1:1-33; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:1-6) had died in combat against Pharaoh Neco II (r. 610-595 B.C.E.).  The Egyptian leader had sought to establish power in Syria; Judah was between Egypt and Syria.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had terminated Neco II’s plans for Syria.

In the wake of King Josiah’s death, Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Pharaoh Neco II had chosen the next two Kings of Judah.  Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38) had reigned for about three months before becoming a prisoner in Egypt.  Then Neco II had appointed Eliakim and renamed him Jehoiakim (r. 608-598 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42).  Jehoiakim was always a vassal while King of Judah.  After being the vassal of Neco II of Egypt for about three years, he became a vassal of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 605 B.C.E.  He died a prisoner in that empire.

Two more Kings of Judah reigned; both were vassals of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46) reigned for about three months before going into exile in that empire.  The last King of Judah was Zedekiah, born Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58).  He reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  The last events he saw before Chaldean soldiers blinded him were the executions of his sons.

The Book of Habakkuk exists within the context of three years–605, 598/597, and 586 B.C.E.–and two Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian invasions of Judah.  The book, in its original form, dates to closer to 605 and 598/597 B.C.E. than 586 B.C.E.

The superscription tells us almost nothing about the prophet.  “Habakkuk” derives from an Arabic word meaning “dwarf.”  He may have been a cultic prophet.  The superscription does not even reveal the name(s) of the King(s) of Judah when Habakkuk prophesied.

The Book of Habakkuk contains fifty-six verses in three chapters.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) gives short shrift to the book, assigning only eight verses once every third years.  Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 is one of two options for the Old Testament reading on Proper 26, Year C.  The lectionary includes:

the righteous live by their faith

(2:4b), taken out of textual context.

I invite you, O reader, to join me as I read all of the Book of Habakkuk, in historical and textual context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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Private and Public Morality   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-14

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Titus 1:1-16

Luke 18:31-43

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Three ideas intertwine to the point of becoming inseparable in these assigned readings:  trusting God, having good public morality, and having good private morality.  Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Leaders receive particular attention in the readings from Habakkuk and Titus.  Injustice–social, economic injustice, to be precise–is rife while corrupt rulers pile up what is not properly theirs.  Furthermore, for a bishop (in the case of the reading from Titus) to teach properly, the home life cannot contradict spoken orthodoxy.

The Law of Moses forbids exploitation.  This teaching informs Judeo-Christian orthodox morality all the way from both Testaments to current times.  Yet many professing, conventionally devout Jews and Christians somehow justify exploitation.  Fortunately, many other Jews and Christians condemn exploitation in words and deeds.  Their witness is consistent with the Law, the prophets, and Jesus.

Jesus died at the hands of an unjust system of a violent empire.  It dominated with fear and intimidation.  Jesus, however, exposed that empire for what it was by being better than it was.

Can we see that?  Can we also see the link between public and private morality, as well as the connection between them and trusting in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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The Issue of the Choppiness of Pericopes in the Revised Common Lectionary   Leave a comment

2-thessalonians

Above:  The Second Reading for Proper 26, Year C

Scanned from the Bulletin for St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 30, 2016

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) (1992) is a wonderful resource for preaching and Bible study.  With its three-year cycle it covers about one-fourth of the Bible (the Protestant Bible, that is, I suppose).  Certainly the RCL covers more of scripture than does its immediate predecessor, the Common Lectionary (1983) and any of a number of one-year and two-year lectionaries the RCL has replaced in a variety of denominations.  Furthermore, as a number of clergymen and clergywomen have said, the RCL requires them to address passages of the Bible on which they might not have preached otherwise.  Another advantage of reading scripture via a lectionary, the RCL in particular, is that it helps one read passages of scripture in the context of each other.  Scripture is, after all, one context in which to read scripture properly.

Sometimes the RCL chops up passages of scripture, skipping over certain verses.  On some occasions this does not change the meaning or flavor of the pericope; the cut might serve the purpose of sparing the lector of having to read polysyllabic names that have no effect on the point of the lesson, as in Nehemiah 8:4.  Sometimes the cuts create an awkward composite reading yet do not change the meaning of the passage.  For example, the First Reading (Track One) for Proper 26, Year C, is Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, skipping over God’s reply to the prophet and most of the prophet’s answer to God in the first chapter.  The main reason for this kind of cut seems to be time.  Besides, a good homilist can summarize the cut material, so that omission is fine.  I do, however, object to other cuts.

Consider, O reader, 1 Thessalonians 1.  The verses from it assigned for reading on Proper 26, Year C, are 1-4 and 11-12.  This fact makes me more interested in verses 5-10 than I might be otherwise.  In The Revised English Bible (1989) verses 1-4 read:

From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends, we are always bound to thank God for you, and it is right that we should, because your faith keeps on increasing and the love you all have for each other grows ever greater.  Indeed we boast about you among the churches of God, because your faith remains so steadfast under all the persecutions and troubles you endure.

Verses 5-10 read:

This points to the justice of God’s judgement; you will be proved worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.  It is just that God should balance the account by sending affliction to those who afflict you, and relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in blazing fire.  Then he will mete out punishment to those who refuse to acknowledge God and who will not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, cut off from the presence of the Lord, and the splendor of his might, when on the great day he comes to reveal his glory among his own and his majesty among all believers; and therefore among you, since you believed the testimony we brought you.

Verses 11-12, the end of the chapter, read:

With this in mind we pray for you always, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and that his power may bring to fulfilment every good purpose and every act inspired by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Omitting verses 5-10 removes the crucial link between verses 1-4 and verses 11-12.  It also changes the tone of the reading, dropping the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  I understand that the question of the balance of judgment and mercy in God can be uncomfortable for many people, but that question does recur in both the Old and New Testaments.  I do not pretend to have arrived at answer other than “only God knows.”  So be it.

Omitting uncomfortable verses is a pattern in the RCL, which does not omit all of them.  All one has to do to notice this pattern of avoiding reading certain verses is to pay attention to the RCL’s treatment of the Book of Psalms.  The RCL avoids some Psalms entirely and omits certain uncomfortable passages in others.  The emotions in the Psalms are frequently raw and not Christlike.  This fact might make one uncomfortable speaking, chanting, or singing certain lines in Christian worship.  Nevertheless, the RCL does include all of Psalm 137, even the part about dashing the heads of the children of enemies against a rock.  In contrast, I note that the Common Lectionary (1983) omits the final, vengeful verses of Psalm 137.

I have noticed these omissions more than I used to since I began to teach an adult Sunday School class just over a year ago.  For slightly more than a year I have studied the assigned readings ahead of time so I can lead a discussion of them between the morning services.  More than once I have extended readings in class and led a discussion of pericopes as I have thought they should have been, that is, not chopped up, cut, and pasted.

As much as I affirm the RCL as a useful tool, I also recognize its limitations.  There is, of course, the three-quarters of the (Protestant, I presume) Bible it does not cover.  According to my reading regarding lectionaries, a seven-year cycle would cover just about all of the (Protestant, I presume) material.  How many congregations and homilists are ready for Years A. B, C, D, E, F, and G?  And how much of Leviticus does one what to hear read aloud in church on Sunday mornings?  The main limitation of the RCL is one pastors can fix easily; they can extend readings and restore omitted verses.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WOLFGANG OF REGENSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

THE FEAST OF THE REFORMATION

THE VIGIL FOR THE EVE OF ALL SAINTS’ DAY

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Overcoming the World   1 comment

Figs

Above:   Figs

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:5-17 (Monday)

Habakkuk 2:5-11 (Tuesday)

Habakkuk 2:12-20 (Wednesday)

Psalm 3 (All Days)

James 1:2-11 (Monday)

1 John 5:1-5, 13-21 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Wednesday)

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LORD, how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

How many there are who say of me,

“There is no help for him in his God.”

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me;

you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

–Psalm 3:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Earthly fortunes and military conquests are temporary, even if some are long-term.  Whatever material and financial assets we own, we cannot take them with us after we die.  History records that the Persian Empire conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and that the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire.  Furthermore, we know that successor empires of the Macedonian Empire competed with each other and fell to conquests in time.

There is God, whom no earthly power can conquer or come close to defeating.  We read at the end of John 16, shortly before the torture and execution of Jesus, these words placed in his mouth:

In the world you will have suffering.  But take heart!  I have conquered the world.

–Verse 3:3b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We know by faith that Roman officials killed Jesus, but that a resurrection followed a few days later.  We also read the following in 1 John 5:

For to love God is to keep his commandments; and these are not burdensome, because every child of God overcomes the world.  Now, the victory by which the world is overcome is our faith, for who is victor over the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

–Verses 3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the Biblical sense to believe in God is to trust in God.  Affirming a theological proposition intellectually is much easier than internalizing it and acting on it.  To settle for the former (mere intellectual assent) is to be like the barren fig tree of Mark 11.  Yes, the text of Mark 11 indicates that Jesus cursed a fig tree out of fig season, but out of season a healthy fig tree exhibits evidence of the ability to bear figs in season.  Furthermore, the context of Mark 11:12-14, 20-24, set during Holy Week and bookending the cleansing of the Temple, indicates that the story of the cursed fig tree pertains to Jesus’s displeasure with the management and operation of the Temple.

May we who claim to follow Jesus bear good fruits and otherwise show year-round evidence of our spiritual vitality in Christ.  May we trust in Jesus and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-22-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Hope, Free Will, and Doom   1 comment

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Above:  Sycamore Grove, Glen El Capitan, California, June 1899

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994024767/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-D43-T01-1370

Photograph by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942)

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:14 and Psalm 119:137-144

or 

Isaiah 1:10-18 and Psalm 32:1-8

then 

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Luke 19:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 26, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/proper-26-year-a/

Proper 26, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Habakkuk 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/proper-22-year-c/

Isaiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twelfth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/proper-14-year-c/

2 Thessalonians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/week-of-proper-16-monday-year-2/

Luke 19:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-third-and-forty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

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Oppressors afflict the godly and the merely innocent.  Courts are corrupt, kings and emperors are insensitive, and/or the homeland is occupied.  This is an unjust reality.  And what will God do about it?

The omitted portion of 1 Thessalonians 1 gives one answer:  God will repay the oppressors with affliction.  Sometimes this is the merciful answer to the pleas of the afflicted, for many oppressors will not cease from oppressing otherwise.  I with that this were not true.  I wish that more people would recognize the error of their ways and amend them—repent.  But I am realist.

Many pains are in store for the wicked:

but whoever trusts in the Lord is surrounded by steadfast love.

–Psalm 32:11, New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

But others will repent.  Zacchaeus, once a tax thief for the Roman Empire, did just that.  Leviticus 6:1-5 required Zacchaeus to repay the principal amount of the fraud plus twenty percent.  Instead he repaid four times the principal amount of the fraud.  That action was consistent with Exodus 22:1, which required replacing one stolen then slaughtered sheep with four sheep.  Zacchaeus did more than the Law of Moses required of him.  Yes, he had less money afterward, but he regained something much more valuable—his reputation in the community.  He was restored to society.  And it happened because he was willing and Jesus sought him out.  We humans need to be willing to do the right thing.  Grace can finish what free will begins.

Sometimes I think that God wants to see evidence of good will and initiative from us and that these are enough to satisfy God.  We are weak, distracted easily, and fooled with little effort, but God can make much out of a little good will and even the slightest bit of initiative.  They are at least positive indications—sparks from which fires can grow.  But they depend upon a proper sense of right and wrong—morality.  An immoral act is one which a person commits even though he or she knows it is wrong.  An amoral act is one which a person with no sense of morality commits.  Zaccheaeus was immoral (mostly) until he decided to become moral (mostly).  And grace met him where he was.

There is hope for many of the people we might consider beyond the scope of redemption and restoration.  God is present to extend such hope, and you, O reader, might be an agent of such hope to someone.  If you are or are to be so, please be that—for the sake of that one and those whom he or she will affect.  Unfortunately, some will, by free will, refuse that hope.  That is one element of the dark side of free will.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/proper-26-year-c/

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Increased Faith   1 comment

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Above:  A Drawing of a Mulberry Tree, 1919 or 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2008009491/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-28990

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The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:1-6 and Lamentations 3:19-26 (as a canticle) or Psalm 137

or 

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 37:1-10

then 

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 22, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Proper 22, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Lamentations 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/proper-8-year-b/

Habakkuk 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-2/

2 Timothy 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-ninth-fortieth-and-forty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

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The readings from Habakkuk and Lamentations speak of suffering because of sins.  Thus they reflect a major theological theme of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Yet, amid widespread apostasy, faithful people remain.  And sometimes the faithful suffer because of their piety.  There is more than one cause for suffering.

“Faith” is a word with more than one meaning in the Bible.  In some instances it indicates an intellectual assent to a proposition or to propositions.  Thus, in the Letter of James, where this is the definition, works must accompany faith.  For the Apostle Paul, however, faith was inherently active, so works were already part of the formula and faith sufficed for justification to God.  The Letter to the Hebrews contains a third understanding, one in which faith is

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

–11:1, New Revised Standard Version

There it is a valid way of knowing that which we can neither confirm nor debunk by another means.

Faith, in Luke 17:5f, follows the Pauline definition.  It must do so, for the Gospels exist to, among other things, encourage discipleship–following Jesus.  The request for increased levels of faith is a prayer to be able to obey God and follow Jesus better.

That is a proper spiritual gift to seek to increase.  It can enable one to survive suffering and hardship falling prey to anger and resentment, thereby poisoning one’s soul.  No, may we avoid poisoning our souls, by faith.  And may we have more of it, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/proper-22-year-c/

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