Archive for the ‘Handel’s Messiah’ Tag

Comfort My People   Leave a comment

Above:  Sheep and Shepherd, by Anton Mauve

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 40:1-11

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Isaiah 40 flows thematically from Isaiah 34 and 35.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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There is Hope Yet   1 comment

Above:  A Shepherd

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Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[And He said to me,]–per 2:1

And you, mortal, heed what I say to you:  Do not be rebellious like that rebellious breed.  Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

As I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a written scroll.  He unrolled it before me, and it was inscribed on the front and the back; on it were written lamentations, dirges, and woes.

He said me,

Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.

So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat, as He said to me,

Mortal, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll that I give you.

I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey.

Then He said to me,

Mortal, go to the House of Israel and repeat My very words to them…..

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The unifying theme for this day is hope.  In Ezekiel, God commissions the prophet to preach to a rebellious people.  The people might be rebellious, but they are not beyond repentance and forgiveness.  There is hope yet.  And the lost sheep is valuable to the shepherd.  There is hope yet.

In Handel’s Messiah, in the chorus, “For we, like sheep, have gone astray,” the voice parts wander and roam at the word “astray.”  It is a nice touch in that oratorio.  When we, as individuals, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  When we, as groups of various sizes, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  It is not too late to return.

The reading from Ezekiel does contain a fascinating detail, one worth exploring here.  The words of God were “lamentations, dirges, and woes,” yet Ezekiel reports that they “tasted as sweet as honey.”  My mind turns from this point to Psalm 19:9-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:9-11 complements Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 nicely.

We might not understand the decrees of God.  And, if we do, we might find them (or at least some of them) shocking and uncomfortable.  If so, may we become like Ezekiel, who considered them “as sweet as honey.”  Then, by words and deeds, may we proclaim the means of repentance and forgiveness to others.  There is hope yet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRANCISCANS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 4, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/

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